Linguist’s Research Sparks Passion at AURAK

February 26, 2018,

The School of Graduate Studies and Research of The American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) honored Assistant Professor of Languages and Literature, Dr. Imed Louhichi, for his research concerning the effects the grammatical structure of native language on learning a second language, in a Faculty Research Colloquium.

Dr. Imed holds an M.A in Applied Linguistics and a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Sussex, England. His general research interests include Linguistic Categorization and Linguistic Relativity. Dr. Louhichi is specifically interested in identifying the differences in the lexicalization patterns and the thinking-for-speaking behavior of English native speakers and Arabic speakers – especially those differences that maybe profitably applied to English language teaching.

Professor Bilal Akash, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, opened the event by introducing Dr. Imed, who launched into his lecture, “On the Influence of L1 and L2 Learning: Evidence from the use of ‘from,’ ‘off,’ and ‘out of’” with the promise, “…you will never look at ‘from,’ ‘off,’ and ‘out of’ the same.”

Linguistic Relativity Proponents (Slobin 2000, Levinson 2003) claim that the grammatical categories of a language influence the way its speakers ‘conceive of’ and ‘talk about’ SPACE. Based on the narrative behavior of Arabic speakers, English speakers, and ‘advanced’ speakers of English whose first language is Arabic (L2), showing that a semantic domain like MOTION is conceptualized differently in English and Arabic. While Arabic speakers use the preposition min ‘from’ as a generic spatial term to express the various onset points of a MOTION EVENT, English utilizes three different prepositions for this purpose. As such, ‘out of’ describes motion that starts from the inner-boundary of a three-dimensional space, ‘off’ from the outer-boundary, and ‘from’ describes everything else. The various uses of these spatial terms suggest they are in complementary distribution in English. Crucially, this division of labor has not surfaced in the L2 narratives, suggesting that L1 linguistic habits are too strong to change. These findings are theoretically significant in that they corroborate the relativistic thesis. They are also pedagogically instructive in that they explain why the expression. This research will have a heavy impact on designing curriculum for teaching a second language and translating texts from one language to another.

Animated, academic discourse emitted through the halls as faculty enthusiastically debated various aspects of Dr. Imed’s research in the question and answer session held after the lecture. Dr. Philipp Dorstewitz, Associate Professor of Philosophy, was among the faculty members that participated in the fervent debates:

“It is great to have a glimpse into a neighboring discipline and methodology.  The lecture was wonderful and very technical.  An otherwise boring topic was brought to life.”

Dr. Imed felt positive and honored about the colloquium.  He enjoyed chatting about a subject he researched with colleagues to gain feedback.  “It is good to be passionate about something. When you are handed a token for your efforts, it makes things worthwhile.”