Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Inflectional Morphology in Arabic and English: A Contrastive Study

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Inflectional Morphology in Arabic and English: A Contrastive Study

Article excerpt


This paper investigates Arabic and English inflectional morphology with a view to identifying the similarities and differences between them. The differences between the two languages might be the main reason for making errors by Arab EFL learners. Predicting the sources of such errors might help both teachers and learners to overcome these problems. By identifying the morphological differences between the two languages, teachers will determine how and what to teach, on the one hand, and students will know how and what to focus on when learning the target language, on the other.

Keywords: inflectional morphology, modern standard Arabic, contrastive analysis

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

1.1 Inflectional Morphology

Inflectional affixes are those which are affixed to words to indicate grammatical function. Spencer, (1991, p. 21) points out "Inflectional operations leave untouched the syntactic category of the base, but they too add extra elements. These are elements of meaning (for example, tense, aspect, mood, negation and so on) and also grammatical function." The grammatical function of a word in a sentence manifests itself clearly in terms of either word inflectional ending as in Arabic or word position in a sentence as in English. It has been pointed out by (Thakur, 1997, p. 86) that "The syntactic relationship that a word has with the other words in the sentence manifests itself in its inflectional endings and not in the place that it occupies in relation to the other words in that sentence." Arabic language is one of the inflectional languages, whereas, English shows only a few features of these languages.

1.2 Modern Standard Arabic

There is a little difference between Classical Arabic (CA) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). The former is the language of the Holy Quran and the latter is currently used in the Arab world. Ryding, (2005, p. 4) says "In terms of linguistic structure, CA and MSA are largely but not completely similar." Though, there are different dialects of Arabic that are spread all over the Arab countries, the official language that is used by all of them is MSA. It is the language of literature, media and education.

1.3 Contrastive Analysis (CA)

Fisiak (1981, p. 1) defines CA as a linguistic discipline that is concerned with comparing two or more systems of languages to determine similarities and differences between them. Interlingual errors made by students usually stem from mother tongue interference. CA helps teachers predict these errors and present some remedial solutions to these problems before they occur.

1.4 Objectives of the Study

This study includes both comparing and contrasting Arabic and English inflectional morphology to find out similarities and differences between them. It is hoped that this study will provide some solutions to the linguistic problems that Arab EFL learners face due to the differences between the two languages in terms of inflectional morphology. Both teachers and students will be acquainted with these problems and plan for their solutions.

1.5 Limitation of the Study

This study is limited to Arabic and English inflectional morphology. However, its theoretical findings and results will help not only teachers and EFL Arab learners, but also syllabus designers to reconsider areas of difficulty that cause problems to students in inflectional morphology.

1.6 Methodology

This study is largely a theoretical study. Different books on Standard Arabic and English morphology and syntax have been utilized. Then, a descriptive method has been used to describe the data using the principles of contrastive linguistics.

2. Arabic Words

Arabic words consist of one or more morphemes. Unlike English, the morphemes in Arabic content words are discontinuous. Watson, (2002, p. 3) points out "One of the main distinguishing features of Semitic languages is their root-and-pattern morphology. …

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