Mohamed Amin


This study investigates the difficulty order of relative clause structures in Arabic second language acquisition by checking the applicability of NPAH to predict such order using data taken from the Arabic Learner Corpus (ALC). In order to examine the hypothesis, quantitative methodology is used to determine the hierarchies of frequency and accuracy of RC structures used in non-native learners’ written and spoken production, and to determine whether L1 transfer affects acquisition order or not. Results reveal that the hierarchy of frequency is different from the hierarchy of accuracy, and both are different from the order suggested in NPAH. Findings support the significant role of language-specific characteristics in deciding the order of acquisition. Findings also support the common reported results, indicating that subject relative clauses structure is more accessible than direct object relative clauses. Regarding research, these findings suggest focusing on distinguishing features of individual languages and the effect of these features in the acquisition order of syntactic structures. Regarding pedagogy, results suggest that the different order of acquisition of subject relative clauses and direct object relative clauses can be used in evaluating learners’ proficiency levels.


Applied Linguistics Department

Degree Name

MA in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language

Graduation Date


Submission Date

January 2017

First Advisor

El Essawi, Raghda

Committee Member 1

Taha, Zeinab

Committee Member 2

Abou El Seoud, Dalal


143 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


The author retains all rights with regard to copyright. The author certifies that written permission from the owner(s) of third-party copyrighted matter included in the thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study has been obtained. The author further certifies that IRB approval has been obtained for this thesis, or that IRB approval is not necessary for this thesis. Insofar as this thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study is an educational record as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 USC 1232g), the author has granted consent to disclosure of it to anyone who requests a copy. The author has granted the American University in Cairo or its agents a non-exclusive license to archive this thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study, and to make it accessible, in whole or in part, in all forms of media, now or hereafter known.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


I would first like to express my sincere gratitude to my advisor professor Raghda El Essawi, the director of Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language M.A. Program at the American University in Cairo. She consistently allowed this paper to be my own work, but steered me in the right direction whenever she thought I needed it. Her guidance helped me through the stages of conducting the research and writing of this thesis. I was really lucky to have a great supervisor like Dr. El Essawi. I’m most grateful to my thesis committee: Professor Zeinab Taha, associated professor at the Department of Applied Linguistics, American University in Cairo, and professor Dalal Aboul Seoud, chair of the department of Arabic language instruction, American University in Cairo for their precious comments and advices, which helped widen my research from various perspectives. I would also like to acknowledge the Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University that provided me the opportunity to join their Arabic program as an intern and gave access to the laboratory and research facilities. My sincere thanks also go to Dr. Hossam Ahmed, lecturer in Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University for all the help and support he provided me. I would also like to thank Dr. Soren Wichmann, lecturer in Leiden University, Centre of Linguistics, and Dr. Maria Parafita Couto, lecturer in Leiden University, Centre of Linguistics for their generous help and consultations. I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to all professors in the Department of Applied Linguistics, who gave me the most wonderful learning experience in my life: Dr. Atta Gebril, the great scholar and lecturer, who consistently provided us with all his knowledge and expertise; Dr. Ashraf Abdou, one of the best instructors and persons I’ve ever met; and Dr. Reem Bassiouny, a great lecturer and instructor. A very special gratitude goes to Mrs. Mariam Salah Eddin, not only for being my great English teacher, but also for being a great and kind person. Finally, sincere thanks go to Dr. Ayman Eddakrouri, Ms. Sara Tarek, and Ms. Sara Aboul Goukh for their co-operation and assistance.