The Feature Structure of Functional Categories: A Comparative Study of Arabic Dialects

The Feature Structure of Functional Categories: A Comparative Study of Arabic Dialects

The Feature Structure of Functional Categories: A Comparative Study of Arabic Dialects

The Feature Structure of Functional Categories: A Comparative Study of Arabic Dialects

Synopsis

Focusing on the relation between functional categories and lexical and phrasal categories in Arabic dialects, Benmamoun proposes that universally functional categories are specified for categorial features which determine their relation with lexical categories. Language variation is attributed to differences with respect to the categorial feature specifications of functional categories and how they interact with lexical categories. The book brings new insights to issues related to the syntax of functional categories, the relation between syntax and the morpho-phonological component, and comparative syntax.

Excerpt

This chapter introduces the morphology of verbs in matrix clauses in Egyptian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, and Standard Arabic. I will describe in sufficient detail the morphology of the past, present, and future tenses and the imperatives in the three dialects. The aim is to identify the different elements that can occupy the tense projection and their morpho-syntactic properties. In the course of the description, I discuss some of the prevailing assumptions about the morphology of tense and aspect in Arabic, particularly the autosegmental account, and suggest alternative analyses where necessary. The detailed description of tense in the three dialects will set the scene for the next two chapters, 3 and 4, which explore the formal features and the syntactic distribution of the various elements in the tense projection (TP).

2.1 Verb Morphology in Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, and Egyptian Arabic

In Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, and Egyptian Arabic, verbs occur in two main morphological forms, imperfective and the perfective. Morphologically, the main difference between the two forms is in the realization of their agreement features. In the imperfective, agreement features are realized by both prefixes and suffixes. The prefixes carry mainly person, except in the first person plural in Standard Arabic, where number is also realized on the prefix, while the suffixes carry mainly number (Benmamoun 1992, 1993; Noyer 1992). By contrast, gender is carried by number if the latter is phonologically realized as is the case in the plural; otherwise it is realized on the person prefix, except in the second person singular feminine, where it is realized by a suffix. In the perfective, by contrast, all the agreement morphology is realized by suffixes.

2.1.1 Standard Arabic

As already pointed out, the perfective form is exclusively suffixal. The verb consists of the stem (the root and its vowel melody) and an agreement suffix. The complete paradigm is given in the table in (1).

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