Arabic: Inflection and Perfect Imperfect

Topics: Inflection, Arabic language, Grammatical number Pages: 4 (911 words) Published: June 9, 2010
The Arabic language is the official language of over two - hundred million speakers world - wide. It is spoken throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. It is also spoken in many Muslim countries due to its religious affiliation with Islam. It is classified as an Afro-Asiatic or Central Semitic language, which has twenty-seven regional specific varieties. For the purpose of my essay, I have chosen to analyze the Classical form. The purpose of this essay is to examine some examples of the verbal morphology of Arabic and to discuss the inflectional and derivational processes involved. The verbal system of Arabic can be more easily predicted than it’s noun system. It has two main verbal forms: the perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense accounts for completed actions of the past and the imperfect includes any incomplete actions of the present or future. Affixes to the verb indicate person, gender, and number. In both the perfect and imperfect, these aspects are represented by suffixes, with the exception of the use of prefixes representing person in the imperfect tense. The following table clearly illustrates this:

Table 1. Person, Number, and Gender Affixes of the Verb
3rd person
masc. sing. /-a//ya/u-/
fem. sing. /-at//ta/u-/
masc. pl. /-u//ya/u- -u-/
fem. pl. /-na//ya/u- -na/
masc. dual /-a//ya/u- -a-/
fem. dual /-ata//ta/u- -a-/

2nd person
masc. sing. /-ta//ta/u-/
fem. sing. /-ti//ta/u- - i-/
masc. pl. /-tum//ta/u- -u-/
fem. pl. /-tunna//ta/u- -na/
dual /-tuma//ta/u- -a-/

1st person
sing. /tu//?a/u-/
pl. /-na //na/u-/

(Source: Bateson, p.25)

Mode is also indicated through verbal affixation. This occurs only with the imperfect, where suffixes represent the indicative, subjunctive, and imperative (also called jussive) modes.
The normal sentence word...

References: Bateson, Mary Catherine. Arabic Language Handbook. Washington, DC:
Georgetown University Press, 2003.
Ethnologue: Languages of the World. March 1, 2007
Fischer, Wolfdietrich. A Grammar of Classical Arabic. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2002.
Spencer, Andrew. Morphological Theory. Cambridge, M.A: Blackwell Publishers
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