Arabic Morphology Term Paper

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Arabic Morphology

Morph = form or shape, ology = study of Language comprises of words and words have meanings. Meanings give value to words hence they must be given attention in body of knowledge. This is the reason; a study of foundation of meaning is developed. This foundation is called morpheme which is the basic and the smallest entity containing meaning or function in language. This whole study is known as Morphology (Kuthy, 2002).

What Are Morphemes?

It must be noted with concern that word is not the unit of meaning in language. It is because; a word may contain multiple words in meaning (Kuthy, 2002). Below are a few examples when words contain obvious, difficult and medium meanings.

a. obvious: dinnertime, homework, moonlight, classroom

difficult: tenth, walks, dog's, flipped

c. medium: quickly, fearless, fishing, momentary

Morpheme is the most basic element of meaning. If above mentioned words are carefully reviews, it becomes evident that each word contains at least 2 morphemes. For example, the word dinnertime is combination of dinner and time, each one was its meaning to itself. When combined, they become one word and give another meaning, means the time of dinner.

Basic Concept of Word Structure

Joining morphemes is a science and the different are not combined without any rule or pattern. The variable of order of joining morphemes, their number and the type; all play an important role in formation of words. For instance, redo is comprised of re and do. Similarly, "swims" is made up of swim and s. Morphologists take into consideration all the mentioned factors as part of their competence in their subject. The structure can be hierarchically drawn (Kuthy, 2002).

Classification Of Morphemes

Free And Bound Morphemes

Morpheme can either be free or bound. Free morpheme is the root in language. It is a complete word by itself and does not divide into multiple morphemes.

On the other hand, a bound morpheme is the one which is used in multi-morphemic word. It can also be known as affixes. Depending upon its position, it becomes suffix, prefix or infix (Kuthy, 2002).

(2) a. prefixes: un-happy, re-write, pre-view

b. suffixes: writ-ing, quick-ly, neighbor-hood

c. infixes: (very rare in English) speech-o-meter

As mentioned earlier, free morpheme is a root and is used as a complete word. There are cases when additional morpheme is added with the root to give it a new meaning, in this case, the root becomes a stem. The added word can be prefix, suffix etc. In general, all the words that are roots are considered stems if they can be combined with other morpheme, even though in their present state or form, they are acting like root. For example, the word carrot is a root, however, it can be made carrots with addition of s, and hence carrot is also a stem. There are certain words which are not stems at all as any words cannot be added to them. An example is of, or, I etc. (Kuthy, 2002).

There are two sub-categories of bound morphemes; derivational and inflectional.

Derivational Morphemes

As the term shows, derivational morphemes derive words from the other words and lead to creation of new words. An example is incomplete (in + complete), completeness (complete + ness) etc. Sometimes, the words are added and the new words become part of another part of speech.

(3) a. part of speech: us-able (V ! A), trouble-some (N ! A), judg-ment (V ! N)

b. meaning: dis-comfort, ex-boyfriend

c. both: use-less (V ! A) are not required by syntax, are not very productive: dis-like, *dis-hate, usually occur before inflectional suffixes: work-er-s can be either suffixes or preffixes (in english) (Kuthy, 2002).

Inflectional Morphemes

Inflectional morphemes do not change the sense of word, rather adds to the meaning of word in the same sense. The word remains in the same part of speech as it was previously. As example is addition of s to make plural or er to increase degree of state, e.g. dog to dogs and warm to warmer. In English language, they are used only as suffix and are appended at the end of the word (Kuthy, 2002). They are syntax requirements and productive in sentences. They are limited in number, in English they are eight; -s, -ed, -ing, - en, -s, -'s, -er, -est.

Cranberry Morphemes

In "cranberry," the cran is a bound root rather than an affix and this is why it is known as cranberry morpheme. These cranberry morphemes do not have a steady and linked meaning (Kuthy, 2002).

Cranberry, boysenberry

Permit, commit, and submit

Receive, perceive, and conceive (Kuthy, 2002)

Content and Function Morphemes

Function and content are two types of morphemes. A semantic content is a part of content morpheme; it opposes the performance of grammatical function. Like for instance, car, -un, -able. While on the other hand, function morpheme is completely based on grammatical function and syntactic agreement. It should be noted that D/I morphemes (derivational/inflectional distinction) are all bound while functional and content morphemes may exist in free form as well. Preposition can be taken as a good example of function morpheme (free) (Kuthy, 2002). "And" and "-s" are dierent names for D/I morphemes (Kuthy, 2002).

Arabic Language

The grammatical system in Arabic is based on a root-and-pattern structure, which comprises of 10,000 roots (Ali, 1998). Thus, Arabic is considered as a heavily inflected language. Wehr-Cowan, the standard Arabic dictionary enlists alphabetically roost like drs () and ktb (). Root tends to be the most basic verb form which can be categorized as triliteral, quadrilateral or rarely pentaliteral. A finite set of roots along with the addition of affixes (prefixes, suffixes, and infixes) or diacritics1 are used in deriving words. Fixed pattern templates are then applied for the derivation of derivational and inflectional forms of a word. From the theoretical perspective, a single root can result in seven hundreds of Arabic words. Arabic morphology is defined by traditional Arabic grammarians to be linked with patterns associated with basic root f31 (, "to do")- where f,3 and 1 are wildcards present in regular expressions. The first consonant is represented by the letter f (," pronounced fa") and is also referred as radical at times. The second and third consonants are represented by the letter 3 (, "pronounced ain") and the letter l (, "pronounced lam") respectively. Formation of additional patterns is done by the addition of suffixes to the basic root f31 (, "to do"). The pattern Af31 is formed by the placement of the letter Alef () as a prefix to the basic root f31 (,"to do"). This pattern is then used in forming words like arjl (,"legs"), anhr (,"rivers") and asqf (,"ceilings"). Yf3l (), Mf3Wl (), Af3Al (), MfA3l (), etc. represent a few examples pertaining to the word patterns (Goweder, 2004).

The example here represents the use of patterns in forming words. Yktb (, "he writes or he is writing") is the verb formed by mapping the consonants linked to the triliteral root ktb () to the yf31() pattern, where the slots for root consonant are represented by letters f (), 3 (), and l () present in the second, third and fourth positions respectively. The process of the formation of the verb Yktb (, "he writes or he is writing") by the matching of the root ktb () to the pattern yf31() is represented in figure 1. It also illustrates the process of prefix or suffix addition for the formation of a word (Goweder, 2004).

Singular, dual and plural are a part of the Arabic number system. Plurals are categorized in two ways and are referred as the regular plurals, which are the so-called sound plurals and irregular plurals which are referred as the so-called broken plurals. Appropriate suffixation as depicted in English language (e.g. hand hands) is used in forming sound plurals. The suffix oun () is added in nominative cases for the formation of sound masculine plural, while the suffix een () is used the accusative & genitive cases. The addition of the suffix at () to the singular word is used in producing the sound feminine plural (Goweder, 2004).

Triliteral roots usually apply the phenomenon of Irregular or broken plurals, which are formed by the alteration of the singular as depicted in English language by the example (Tooth teeth). The application of several different patterns is used in all cases which alter long vowels like Alef (), Waw (), Yeh (), and Alef-Maqsura (), present outside or within the consonant framework (Cowan, 1958). Generally, several adjectives and nouns have broken plurals (Haywood and Nahmad, 1976).

Several studies revolving around broken plurals have been presented due to the complexity of Arabic morphology (McCarthy and Prince, 1990b; Kiraz, 1996a; Idrissi, 1997). Despite being highly successful, these studies have major shortcomings pertaining to information retrieval. The drawbacks are due to the assumption of completely vowelized words. Apart from religious texts like books of school children, poetry, and the Holy Quran, published Arabic text does not comprise of…

Sources Used in Document:


Abdah, D.A. (1979). Frequent words in Arabic. Riyad University, Saudi Arabia (in Arabic).

Abuleil, Saleem and Evens, Martha W. (1998). "Discovering Lexical Information by Tagging Arabic Newspaper Text." Computational Approaches to Semitic Languages, Proceedings of the Workshop.

Ali, N. (1988). "Computers and the Arabic Language." Cairo, Egypt: Al-khat Publishing Press, Ta'reep. Al-Kharashi, I. And Evens,

Anshen, F., & Aronoff, M. (1999). Using dictionaries to study the mental lexicon. Brain and Language, 68, 16 -- 26.

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