Dr. Azeddine Bouchikhi, executive director of the ACRPS Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language project in Doha, delivered the weekly ACRPS seminar on February 28, 2018. The linguist centered his lecture on the topic, “Mapping the Field of Linguistic Knowledge and Perspectives”.

Bouchikhi began his lecture by asserting the importance of this topic. A widespread understanding of linguistics in academic spaces still ranges from narrow, pure specialization to a very broad understanding that encompasses almost the entire discipline. This understanding does not serve the full potential of the field, nor allow the researcher to fully invest in its multitude of scientific, methodological and experimental prospects. Bouchikhi shed light on two fundamental issues. He first stressed the importance of mapping knowledge in the field of linguistics, and secondly the presented a project that draws up cognitive maps of humanities and the social sciences that benefit their students and researchers at two levels. The first level shows how to effectively transfer academic knowledge to students, and the second shows how to develop this knowledge by focusing on their interactions and crossing disciplines within these maps.

He then proceeded to provide possible linguistic maps from different perspectives. He explained that a map of linguistic knowledge could be drawn from the angle of the research topic, whereby language is an experimental, realistic phenomenon. As in the work of F. De Saussure, Z. Harris, L. Bloomfield, R Jakobson (representing the Prague circle) M. Halliday (representing the Copenhagen circle), and Martin A. Martinet, the French functional school. Linguistic Competence is also a subject of research with language a performative phenomenon. One of the pioneers of this current is Noam Chomsky in the theory of Generative grammar theory, along with Bresnen and Kaplan in Lexical-Functional Grammar, Simon C. Dick in Functional Grammar Theory, and Hengeveld  and MacKenzie in Functional Discourse grammar.

The second map of linguistic knowledge presented by Dr. Bouchiki stemmed from a “Levels of Adequacy” perspective. This hierarchy is made up of three levels: Observational Adequacy; Descriptive Adequacy; and Explanatory Adequacy. Linguistic knowledge, from this perspective is thus split into different descriptive groups: Structural Linguistics; Distributive Linguistics; Functional Linguistics; Generative Linguistics; and Cognitive Linguistics.

Coming to the third map, Bouchikhi indicated the possibility of presenting linguistic knowledge according to its different approaches. The psychological approach to linguistic phenomena represents all the linguistic theories that connect the language and the mind. The mathematical approach does not see a fundamental distinction between natural and artificial languages or between language and linguistic knowledge.

From the nature of the approach adopted, it is possible to distinguish between the modular approach and the non-modular approach. The first considers language one of the modules of the human mind, structure and principles of which are independent and interact with other modules. This is reflected in the construction of grammatical models, such as Generative Grammar. The non-modal approach includes other grammatical models, such as Cognitive Grammar.

The fourth map introduces linguistic knowledge from the methodological perspective. It is possible to distinguish between the non-functional approach, which stems from the function of language as the expression of thought, and supposes that the linguistic structure is independent of use and function. The functional approach posits that the basic function of language is communication. Hence, the structure of the language is a reflection of this function and governed by it, as in functional grammar generally.

Bouchikhi’s fifth map presents linguistic knowledge from the perspective of prevalence of representation in different grammar sets. These include syntactic grammar, cognitive grammar, functional grammar, generative grammar, morphology, functional syntax and so forth. The linguist concluded a linguistic knowledge map from theoretical and practical perspectives. He called for the establishment of maps of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences, providing Arab researchers with a database of each discipline, of the theories and concepts within them, and a definition of the relationships between these fields. The lecture was followed by extensive discussion with audience participation.