Semantic and Syntactic Anomalies of Arabic-transliterated Compound Shop Names in Saudi Arabia

Semantic anomalies, syntactic anomalies, word order errors, definite article errors, compound shop names, transliterated shop names, shop naming practices, accuracy judgment test, semantic and syntactic test, compound shop name test.


January 3, 2023


This study aims to explore the denotative meaning of compound shop names in Saudi Arabia, and identify the types of semantic and syntactic anomalies in the Arabic transliterations of English compound shop names. A corpus of compound shop names was collected from 12 major cities in a Saudi Mall Directory. After eliminating international shop names, pure Arabic shop names, single-word and duplicate shop names, a sample of 168 compound shop names consisting of locally-coined English shop names and mixed shop names was subjected to further analysis. In addition, a sample of students majoring in languages and translation took a compound shop name test where they had to judge the semantic and syntactic accuracy and acceptance of compound shop names. Results showed that 69% of the Arabic transliterations of the compound shop nouns in the sample have syntactic and/or semantic anomalies. 22% have syntactic anomalies as opposed 14% semantic anomalies and 23% have both semantic and syntactic anomalies combined. Some compound shop names are meaningless because the two elements of the compound are incongruous (Operation Falafel اوبريشن فلافل; Rude Shake (روود شيك. Others have faulty word order (Mama Batata  ماما بطاطا ; قوركان شيف) ; faulty use of the definite article ((المنيو دونتس; use of constituents in the compound with the same meaning from two foreign languages )THE BEAU WOW); the English plural /-s/ is added to the Arabic word ملهم in Max Molhams ماكس ملهمز; splitting words into syllables or two parts ) اكس و ريزAccessories(;  كلاي ماكس(Climax); combining two words and spelling them as one lexeme شرمبشاك)). Responses to the judgment test of the semantic and syntactic anomalies in shop names showed that the students could identify more semantic than syntactic anomalies (90% vs 80% respectively). They had difficulty understanding ماكس ملهمز- قوركان شيف - أوبريشن فلافل- شرمبشاك –ماما بطاطا that have both semantic and syntactic anomalies. They found them unacceptable and difficult to comprehend. The study gives some recommendations for translating rather than transliterating English compound shop names to overcome the semantic and syntactic anomalies.