The Syntactic Basis of Arabic Word Classification

The Syntactic Basis of Arabic Word Classification THE SYNTACTIC BASIS OF ARABIC WORD CLASSIFICATION* BY JONATHAN OWENS 1. Introduction MoNC the most famous tenets of Arabic grammar is the division Aof words into verbs, nouns and particles. What is perhaps given less attention is the fact that the Arabic grammarians defined each of these according to criteria from all levels of linguistic analysis- phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic/pragmatic. Of these perhaps the two most important are the morphological and syntactic. In this paper I will show the importance of syntactic analysis in the definition of the three basic word classes. That syntactic criteria are important can be seen if one examines Ibn Malik's (in his Alfiyya) definitions of nouns, verbs and particles (as discussed briefly in Weiss 1976). Nouns have the genitive case, nunation (tanwin), the definite article, the vocative and occur as subjects. Verbs are distinguished by the suffixes -t and -i (feminine) and the energetic nun, while particles are what are left over. One point that is apparent on this list is that many of the criteria admit of significant exceptions. (1) Nouns: genitive case and nunation. Any noun which is un- inflected (gayr mutamakkin, mabnl) such as demonstratives, and relative, personal, and Arabica Brill

The Syntactic Basis of Arabic Word Classification

Arabica , Volume 36 (2): 211 – Jan 1, 1989

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© 1989 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
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