Elabbas Benmamoun

Elabbas Benmamoun

Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


Abbas Benmamoun is the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Linguistics. In his role at Duke as Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement, he provides leadership, guidance, and oversight of University-wide strategies and programs to support faculty excellence. The office oversees faculty and leadership development programs and partners with Duke schools, departments, and other academic programs to advance faculty careers and enhance faculty success at Duke.

Benmamoun earned his BA from the Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, master’s degree from University College London, and Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. He served on the faculty and administration of the University of Illinois and the faculty of the University of Wisconsin and the University of London’s School of Oriental & African Studies. Benmamoun’s research focuses on the comparative syntax and morphology of natural language and heritage languages, particularly on issues of language maintenance and loss within immigrant communities. His publications include The Feature Structure of Functional Categories: A Comparative Study of Arabic Dialects (Oxford University Press), Arabic Syntax (Cambridge University Press), and The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Linguistics (Routledge).

Benmamoun’s research has specifically focused on the following broad areas: (i) the syntax of functional categories, particularly tense, agreement, negation, and coordination, (ii) the nature of lexical and morphological relations, particularly the issue of whether lexical relations in Arabic (and Semitic languages) that have been characterized as based on a root and pattern mapping can be better analyzed as stem based derivations, akin to familiar patterns in many languages from various linguistic families,  and (iii) the nature of the interface of the morphology and syntax of natural language.

In the last few years, this research agenda has expanded to include heritage languages with focus on the Arab varieties spoken by second generation Arab Americans. In a series of collaborative projects and publications, Benmamoun and his colleagues explore morphological, morphosyntactic, and syntactic aspects of heritage languages, and contrast heritage speakers with native speakers and second language learners.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of Southern California 1992

Selected Grants

Faculty Leadership Development Initiative awarded by Duke Endowment (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2020

Benmamoun, E., and R. Bassiouney. Introduction. 2017, pp. 1–8. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781315147062. Full Text

Aoun, J. E., et al. The syntax of Arabic. Vol. 9780521650175, 2009, pp. 1–247. Scopus, doi:10.1017/CBO9780511691775. Full Text

Parkinson, Dilworth B., and Elabbas Benmamoun. Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XIII-XIV Papers from the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Annual Symposia on Arabic Linguistics. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2002.

Lappin, Shalom, and Elabbas Benmamoun. Fragments Studies in Ellipsis and Gapping. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Benmamoun, Elabbas. Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics 12. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1999.

Benmamoun, E., and A. Albirini. “Is learning a standard variety similar to learning a new language?: Evidence from heritage speakers of Arabic.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition, vol. 40, no. 1, Mar. 2018, pp. 31–61. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S0272263116000383. Full Text

Albirini, A., and E. Benmamoun. “Factors affecting the retention of sentential negation in heritage Egyptian Arabic.” Bilingualism, vol. 18, no. 3, Jan. 2015, pp. 470–89. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S1366728914000066. Full Text

Albirini, A., and E. Benmamoun. “Concatenative and nonconcatenative plural formation in L1, L2, and heritage speakers of Arabic.” Modern Language Journal, vol. 98, no. 3, Sept. 2014, pp. 854–71. Scopus, doi:10.1111/modl.12126. Full Text

Benmamoun, E., et al. “Arabic plurals and root and pattern morphology in Palestinian and Egyptian heritage speakers.” Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, vol. 4, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 89–123. Scopus, doi:10.1075/lab.4.1.04ben. Full Text

Albirini, A., and E. Benmamoun. “Aspects of second-language transfer in the oral production of Egyptian and Palestinian heritage speakers.” International Journal of Bilingualism, vol. 18, no. 3, Jan. 2014, pp. 244–73. Scopus, doi:10.1177/1367006912441729. Full Text

Benmamoun, E., et al. “Defining an "ideal" heritage speaker: Theoretical and methodological challenges Reply to peer commentaries.” Theoretical Linguistics, vol. 39, no. 3–4, Nov. 2013, pp. 259–94. Scopus, doi:10.1515/tl-2013-0018. Full Text

Benmamoun, E., et al. “Heritage languages and their speakers: Opportunities and challenges for linguistics.” Theoretical Linguistics, vol. 39, no. 3–4, Nov. 2013, pp. 129–81. Scopus, doi:10.1515/tl-2013-0009. Full Text

Albirini, A., et al. “Gender and number agreement in the oral production of Arabic Heritage speakers.” Bilingualism, vol. 16, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 1–18. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S1366728912000132. Full Text

Benmamoun, E., et al. “The Location of Sentential Negation in Arabic Varieties.” Brill’S Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics, vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 83–116. Scopus, doi:10.1163/18776930-00501003. Full Text

Albirini, A., et al. “Grammatical features of Egyptian and Palestinian Arabic heritage speakers' oral production.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition, vol. 33, no. 2, June 2011, pp. 273–303. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S0272263110000768. Full Text


Shosted, R. K., et al. “Using magnetic resonance to image the pharynx during Arabic speech: Static and dynamic aspects.” 13th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association 2012, Interspeech 2012, vol. 3, 2012, pp. 2179–82.

Hasegawa-Johnson, M., et al. “On the definition of theword "Segmental".” Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Speech Prosody, Sp 2012, vol. 1, 2012, pp. 159–62.

Benmamoun, E. “Agreement asymmetries and the PF interface.” Research in Afroasiatic Grammar, edited by J. Lecarme et al., vol. 202, JOHN BENJAMINS B V PUBL, 2000, pp. 23–40.

Benmamoun, E., et al. “Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XI - Papers from the Eleventh Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics - Introduction.” Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics Xi, edited by E. Benmamoun et al., vol. 167, JOHN BENJAMINS B V PUBL, 1998, pp. 1–6.