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2.0 Introduction

Morphology refers to a sub-discipline of linguistics which deals with the study of the
formation and forms of words in a given language, but the term morphology also can
be used to indicate that part of the grammar of a language. In modern linguistics, the
word morphology is used to refer to the study of the internal structure of words.

Matthews (1974), the study showed that Morphology is the branch of grammar that
deals with the internal structure of words, as cited in (Kiras, G. A. 2001). Other
definitions of morphology may be argued by some linguists, they claimed that
morphology is the study of meaningful parts of words (Mc Carthy, 1991). For instance,
the English word "girls", has two meaningful units which are: "girl" and the plural
marker "-s". These units, called morphemes, which are considered as the smallest units
of morphological analysis (Kiras, G. A. 2001).

Generally, morphology is that sub-discipline of linguistics which focuses on the study

of words, their internal structure and the systematic form-meaning correspondences
between words. Morphology is also interested in how users of a language comprehend
complex words and how they invent new words. Moreover, it is concerned with lexical
studies as the patterns examined by morphology are used to coin new lexical items.
Furthermore, Morphology is the study of the form and structure of words in a language,
including derivation, inflection, and the formation of compounds.

The present chapter takes into account both inflectional and derivational aspects of
Arabic morphology. It deals with how the morphology of Arabic works to create new
words by combining root morphemes with pattern and vocalism morphemes. A
classification of words types is added in order to explain how Arabic (simple,
compound, and complex) words are formed, through the derivational processes.
Moreover, it covers a discussion about linear and nonlinear operations in Arabic and
relating them to inflectional and derivational morphology of Arabic. It is important to
mention that morphology and grammar of Arabic are complex. This point is clarified

under the discussion about traditional Arabic morphology ṡarf. Furthermore, the

morphology of Arabic with reference to modern linguistics is discussed in this chapter.

An account about morphology and lexical growth is included. The theoretical
framework below about the morphology of Arabic, in this chapter, is intended to help
the reader better comprehension how derivational and inflectional morphology of
Arabic work as described in the chapters three and four.

2.1 Traditional Arabic Morphology (ṡarf)

The study of morphology (ṡarf, which is the closest term to morphology), begins so

far as records go, with Sibawah's al-Kitaab (1974), and continues into the present. This
section of the present chapter aims to look at the morphology of Arabic from the
perspectives of both traditional and modern grammarians and linguists. The work of
Sibawayh with a number of other works, such as (Jurjani Muqtaṡid, 1982; zajjaji jumal
1984; Astrabadhi Sharħ n.d. etc.) are devoted to the study of words (ṡarf;
Morphology). Some works were devoted to particular morphological problems, like
(Al-FarraɁ al-muthakkar wa al-MuɁannath, 1975), where other works were devoted
to morphology in general, like (Mumtiʢ; Sharħ al-Muluwkiy).

Ibn Jinni undoubtlessly was the most important morphologist. He was the author of two
significant works on Arabic morphology, namely sirr ṡinaaʢat al-iʢraab (1985) and al-
Munṡif (1954), each one of them was over 800 pages long. First one contained a
phonetic description of Arabic phonemes and summarized the morphological processes

they underwent. The basis of ṡarf being the identification of the root which is usually

consonantal, and non-root consonants or added elements (zaaɁid; as called in Arabic).

The radicals of the root are represented by the template (pattern) /fʢl/. For instance, the
verb ‫ تضرب‬/taḍrib/ meaning "you hit" would have the canonical form /tfʢl/. Where /ḍrb/
is the basic root, and /t-/ is non-basic prefix (Ibn al-Sarraj Muwjaz, 1965; 27).

However, the form of the root/added elements does not show short vowels while in
binaaɁ "to build a structure", wazn "measure", short vowels are represented to form a
total morphological form. The wazn "measure" of /taḍribu/, for example, would be
represented as /tafʢilu/. Thus, the distinction between root and non-root elements is
intuitively clear.

However, in some other cases the distinction is not as clear as this. There are some
methods used to make a distinction between the basic consonants of the root and those
are added (see Ibn Jinni Munṡif, 1954: I. 13-17 for typology; Sarraj Muwjaz, 1965;
144). One of the most obvious criteria used for distinction is meant. Generally, Arabic
verbs of the form C1aC2C2aC3 with double medial C2 have a meaning of
"transitivization, intensification" (Ibn Jinni Xaṡaaʔiṡ, 1952; Sibawayhi al-Kitaab, 1974:
II. 247 f.; Mubarrad Muqtaḍab: II. 102 f.).

The distinction between root and non-root consonants is considered as the fundamental
base for the classification of morphological forms. The derivational system of Arabic
is very rich, where many word forms with different meanings can be derived from a
single root. For instance, ‫ ضرب‬/ḍaraba/ "he hit", ‫ضرب‬
َّ /ḍarraba/ "he hit much" , ‫ض ُِرب‬
/ḍuriba/ "he was hit", ‫ ضرب‬/ḍarb/ "hitting", ‫ ضارب‬/ḍaarib/ "hitter", ‫ مضروب‬/maḍruub/
"hit, beaten", ‫ ِمضرب‬/miḍrab/ "smaal racket" etc. All these words are potentially
paralleled by similar forms based on other roots. For example, ‫ ضرب‬/ḍaraba/ template
/faʢala/ is paralleled by ‫ قرأ‬/qaraʔa/ "he read", ‫ أكل‬/ʔakala/ "he ate", and many other ones,
like ‫ مضروب‬/maḍruub/ template /mafʢuul/ are ‫ مقتول‬/maqtuul/ "killed", ‫ مكتوب‬/maktuub/
"written", like ‫ ضارب‬/ḍaarib/ template /faaʢil/ are ‫ قاتل‬/qaatil/ "killer", ‫ كاتب‬/kaatib/
"writer", and so on.

In linguistic terminology, the word ṡarf means "morphologization", taṡriif is a related

term that literally means "change; distribution; drainage', in the context of Arabic
morphology taṡriif of a root is to characterize which of the potential patterns, both basic

and derived, the root can be distributed into. According to Booij et al. "ṡarf and taṡriif

refers to the total range of morphological forms in their constituents, and also to the
process by which the various forms are derived" (2000, p. 68).

Another term ʔiʃtiqaaq is basically used to describe the process of actual derivation of
one form from another. ʔiʃtiqaaq generally implied a directed derivational process, this
makes it differs from taṡriif. For example, a less basic form can be derived from a more
basic one in ʔiʃtiqaaq, it is important here to mention that basic and less basic form
refers to a hierarchy of categories within lexical forms wazn (Booij et al. 2000). Hence,
Ibn ʢuṡfuur (sharħ: I, 53 f.) states that an adjective can be derived from a noun, but not
vice versa, that is because an adjective is less basic form.

Ibn ʢuṡfuur (Mumtiʢ, 1955: I. 31) did suggest extending the term taṡriif to refer to
"stem formation", including the positioning of vowels, because there was no term to
describe the formation of lexical form from a consonantal root. For instance,‫ضرب‬
/ḍaraba/ "he hit" from the root consonants ‫ ضرب‬/ḍ-r-b/. For many Arab grammarians,
deriving a noun from the verb or vice versa is a controversial issue (Anbari ʔinṡaaf: 235

Tarkiib is one final aspect related to compounding. This process is considered as

unproductive in traditional Arabic morphology, although it conquers special attention.
For example, from /sabʢata/ "seven" and /ʢaʃara/ "ten" is formed the compound /sabʢata
ʢaʃara/ "seventeen", in which the first number of the compound /sabʢata/ ends
invariably in –a, whereas a free standing word it variable for case (accusative, genitive,

Sibawayhi's al-Kitaab (1974) "the book" includes a great discussion about the
inflectional processes in the form of Arabic used in the medieval age. Generally Arabic
nouns are inflected as accusative /-a/, genitive /-i/, nominative /-u/ and take the
indefinite -n marker, for example, ‫ ولد‬/walad-u-n/ "boy-NOM-DEFINITE". These nouns
are called munṡarif "fully declinable" while others do not take indefinite marker /-n/.
Hence, do not have distinct accusative and genitive forms, like ‫ أصغر‬/ʔaṡḡara/ "smaller-
(DEF)-ACC". Such nouns are called ḡyr munṡarif "partially declinable".

Different sub-classes of partially declined nouns are distinguished by Sibawayh in his

great book al-Kitaab. First, formally as nouns with feminine suffix -aaʔ, nouns that
resemble verbs, etc., then he distinguishes them notionally as (place names, tribal
names, loan words), then derivationally (ʢadl, compounds). Keys (analogy) are used in
Sibawayh's description. For example, whatever resemble a verb is not fully inflected
because verbs lack genitive case as well as lack the indefinite /-n/. For instance, ‫أصغر‬
/ʔaṡḡara/ formally resembles the verb ‫ ألهم‬/ʔalhama/ "to inspire" in its CVCCVC
construction, this resemblance is said to account for the lack of full inflection in
nominals of this type (Booij et al., 2000).

Over a century later Sarraj begins a discussion about the same facts in his book (ʔuṡuul,
1985: II.79 f.). Nine marked features were identified by him: formal
similarity/resemblance to adjective, verbs, definiteness, feminine, plurality, compound,

irregular derivation, the suffix /-aan/. According to Booij et al. (2000, p. 73) "the
presence in a nominal of the marked features is said to cause the lack of full inflection".
Sarraj provides detailed discussion of the nine marked characteristics. Names of cities,
like /Makkah/ "Mecca", are not covered by the nine marked features, though they are
not fully inflected. Sarraj added a long appendix in order to list all these nominals that
are not accounted for by other rules. He resorts to adopt Sibawayh's method of listing
the cases one by one.

2.2 Morphology of Arabic in Modern Linguistics

The root-pattern system of Semitic morphology, particularly as discussed in classical

Arabic, Has been a preferred subject of modern linguists. The central role that Semitic
root-pattern morphology played in the development of autosegmental phonology and
morphology, has attracted a great deal of attention for it in recent years, particularly
through John McCarthy's work. Such studies have a great role to improve our ability in
representing these processes in an accurate and obvious manner.

Three authors who have dealt with Arabic morphology are cited here in order to clarify
how their views are divergent. Luis Massignon (a French Orientalist of the first half of
the twentieth century) is the first one who stands outside of the modernist linguistic
tradition.The second is Carl Brockelmann who is the only comparative Semiticist. The
third is a renowned and widely read morphologist and phonologist, Stephen Anderson.

Massignon (1954) is the author of the inaugural essay in the first article of the French
journal Arabica, he concentrated, in the article, on Arabic morphology which is the
most interesting subject in Arabic as he found. Massignon chooses to concentrate on
those aspects of Arabic morphology that are seen through the mysticism and the prism
of Sufism, perhaps because of his own specialty (Islamic mysticism). He finds that these
areas have things that can support his view of the culture and language. Thus, he makes
them notable, ignoring other common aspects of the language. The occurrence of these
features is further boosted by the manner in which Arabic is estranged from European
languages, by contrasting the "primitive" Arabic or Semitic structures to those
"civilized" Hellenistic ones (Eisele & Bisele, 2002).

Three aspects of the culture of the Arabic language are discussed by Massignon,
namely: orthography, triliteral roots, and case vowels. In discussing triliteral root that

he terms it as "the etymological triliteralism of roots", he focuses on the "semantic
value" of roots.

Carl Brockelmann who was a comparative Semiticist views the root and pattern
morphology in a very narrow fashion in his study of the comparative grammar of
Semitic languages (Brockelmann, 1908):

"The root is only an abstraction which nevertheless renders good service by

arranging vocabulary in a systematic fashion, like the traditional orders of the
alphabet. But just as this (alphabetical) order is not only impractical for
scientific phonetics but would be an obstacle to it, it is likewise the case that
(the concept of the root) is unusable for morphology. Morphology must rather
start from forms of words which have led a real existence. The analysis of the
means of expression leads us finally to certain fundamental simple forms that
we call bases. . . . It is the same in Semitic: perhaps these bases are altogether
older than the categories of noun and verb" (p. 286-287, quoted in Eisele &
Bisele, 2002).

Therefore, Brockelmann, in his historical analysis of Semitic, deemphasizes the role of

the root and pattern, preferring to focus on "bases" that exist as independent words.
While Ernest Renan (a French Orientalist) tended to emphasize and extend the notion
of root in Semitics and the view of Brockelmann may have been responding to Ernest's
view as Troupeau (1984) proposed.

Stephen Anderson is a present-day linguist, has specialized in theoretical studies of

morphology. Anderson's description of Arabic in (Anderson, 1985) explains how
linguists view Arabic today. Anderson, in his study of Arabic in contrast with
Kawakw'ala, proposed that Arabic word formation involves a limited set of processes
which apply to a limited type of non-derived forms, while Kawakw'ala word formation
involves a large set of stem modification processes that apply to any stem.

Anderson concentrates on the verbal derivation of classical Arabic. He states that there
are 35 distinct patterns in nominal derivation, but he does not make obvious what
patterns he refers to. Thus, this observation is difficult to assess.

Anderson marginalizes affixal process almost to the point of obliviousness "of course,
the Semitic languages also employ a limited amount of affixation and these affixes can

be added to derived forms, but they are primarily inflectional in their use" (quoted in
Eisele & Bisele, 2002). Furthermore, Anderson amplifies the degree to which Arabic is
root-pattern dependant.

Arabic and Semitic have also attracted Structuralist linguists who showed their interest
to study Arabic and Semitic morphology especially following World War II.
Greenberg (1950) and Cantineau (1950) influenced the development of later studies
toward emphasizing the role of the root - pattern system over other processes. Perhaps
one of the most prominent and significant contributions to modern Semitic linguistic is
Greenberg's paper. Greenberg conducted a study, based on the scattered observations
of Semitic grammarians (Arab and Hebrew) concerning opposition between the
consonants of a root. He utilizes a statistical method regarding the study of the verbal
roots in Semitic. Greenberg states that there were no Proto-Semitic roots with identical
first and second consonants, but the restriction with identical first and third consonants
was less rigid.

Cantineau, unlike Greenberg, deals with root and pattern system as the primary basis
of Arabic morphology. According to Cantineau (1950, p. 124) "This double system
profoundly characterizes Semitic languages. It is to be remarked that derivation by
suffix or prefix is rather rarely employed". The view of Cantineau can be found in many
structuralist analyses as the dominant view, particularly in the fifties.

Fleisch (1956) and (1961) provides a discussion about the "estrangement" of Arabic. It
is to explain how Arabic differs from European languages (particularly French). For
Fleisch the root and pattern system is the source of all vocabulary in Arabic.

". . . The great mass of Arabic vocabulary comes from a root of three consonants . . the
root ktb which carries the general idea of 'writing' one has kataba, kutiba, kuutiba,
etc." (Fleisch, 1956, p. 23; 1961, p. 249).

Schramm is an American structuralist who has an influential work, Schramm (1962),

in the framework of American structuralism. He deals with the derivation of Arabic
verbal stems, employing a morphophonemic rule analysis. Schramm, unlike the others,
does not try to convince the readers about the uniqueness and the strangeness of Arabic.
On the other hand, he generalizes the role of root and pattern system extremely, via

deriving each stem independently from a root, and by prioritizing roots and consonants
(with their derivations), then vocalic patterns and their distribution.

2.3 Morphology of Arabic (an overview)

Morphology is related to the Rules, process, and organization regarding meaningful

units of language, whether they are parts of words like the various kinds of affixes or
words themselves. Those meaningful units at the word level can be referred as
morphemes. There are some basic respects make Arabic morphology differs from
English morphology (Ryding, 2005). Indeed, Arabic and all the languages that belong
to Semitic family have had a fundamental impact on the development of specific
notions in theoretical morphology (Ryding, 2005; Aronoff, 1994).

There are two major issues that theories of word structure, usually focus on, the first
issue is inflectional morphology (how words interact with syntax), like marking for
categories such as number, gender, tense, and case. The second one is lexical or
derivational morphology. An advanced analyzes of Arabic morphology had been
developed by Arab grammarians, early in the eighth and ninth centuries AD, which is
different from modern Western theories. However, it is interrelated with them in
interesting ways.

Inflectional morphology presents how words inflect or vary in order to exhibit

grammatical categories, such as present/past tense or singular/plural. Lexical or
Derivational morphology is related with principles governing word formation, such as
analysis of the English words "faithful" or "unfaithfulness" which are derived from the
base word "faith". However, in the case of Arabic, the confines between inflection and
derivation are not as clear-cut as in English, that is because of the different principles
used in Arabic morphology, as mentioned above, and because the Arabic morphological
theory deals with the elements of word structure from a different perspective.
According to Ryding (2005):

"The two major categories of grammatical analysis in Arabic are ṡarf and

naHw, which are often translated as morphology and syntax, respectively.

However, the boundary between them is not the same boundary as in Western

grammatical theory. The category of ṡarf covers many areas of derivational

morphology (e.g., the ten forms of the verb) and some inflectional morphology
(e.g., the past tense paradigm); but it does not include the study of the case and
mood. A further category of Arabic grammatical analysis, ishtiqaaq, is often
translated as ‘etymology’ but actually deals more with Arabic derivational
morphology".(P. 45)

When talking about morphology of Arabic, there are two main contrary theories. The
morpheme-based theory, that is advocated by Cantineau (1950a, 1950b); McCarthy
(1981), they claim that the derivations are based on the process of mapping out roots in
patterns (Mahfoudhi, 2007). For example, the word ‫ صاحب‬/saħib/ "friend; companion"
is made of the root {s-ħ-b} which bears the core meaning "companionship; friendship",
and the pattern {CaCiC} that has the syntactic meaning (perfective, active). However,
the classical theory builds on the roots and patterns as Cantineau adopted in his work.
McCarthy suggests that the pattern should be analyzed into three morphemes which are
represented on separate tiers, namely (Goldsmith 1976):

(i) the skeleton made of vocalic and consonantal slots;

(ii) affixal consonants, if any;

(iii) vowels.

On the other hand, the stem-based theory (Ratcliffe1997; Benmamoun 1999) that
argues that the derivations are stem-based. The stem/word-based theory agrees with the
doctrines of the full-listing hypothesis of lexical processing (Butterworth 1983), which
supposes that words are represented and accessed as a whole unit. While the morpheme-
based theory is harmony with both the double-access hypothesis (Caramazza et al.,
1988) and decompositional hypothesis (Taft,1981), which state that some complex
words may be accessed and represented as separate morphemes (Mahfoudhi, 2007).

2. 3.1 Root

In general, a root is a word which is not connected to affixes (both prefixes or suffixes),
and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents. A root is a unit of meaning (morpheme)
which is the primary lexical unit of a word, that bears the essential aspects of semantic
content. Almost, all languages contain content words that may consist only of root

According to Ryding (2005, p. 47), Professor Wallace Erwin defines a root as:

"a relatively invariable discontinuous bound morpheme, represented by two to

five phonemes, typically three consonants in a certain order, which interlocks
with a pattern to form a stem and which has lexical meaning".

The root morpheme is discontinuous that is because vowels are inserted in between the
consonants of a root, for instance, ‫ درس‬/d-r-s/. Nevertheless, the consonants of a root
must always be presented in the same order: first /d/, then /r/, then /s/. Arabic root
usually consists of three radicals (letters, consonants) such as ‫ علم‬/ʢ-l-m/, /k-t-b/, and
‫ لعب‬/l-ʢ-b/, which in fact constitute “by far the largest part of the language” as Haywood
and Nahmad noted (1962, p. 261). Arabic root can also be biliteral (two-consonant),
quadrilateral (four-consonants), like ‫ برهن‬/b-r-h-n/ and ‫ ترجم‬/t-r-j-m/, and quinquiliteral
(five-consonant roots), like /b-r-n-m-j/, which cannot normally form verbs (Haywood,

As mentioned above, a root contains lexical meaning, that is because it carries the idea
of a real-world reference. In (2005) Ryding proposed that "It is useful to think of a
lexical root as denoting a semantic field because it is within that field that actual words
come into existence, each one crystallizing into a specific lexical item" (p. 47- 48).
According to Kouloughli (1994, 60), around 6500 lexical roots are found in Arabic in
a dictionary of 50,000 lexical items.

2.3.2 Pattern

Patterns can be defined as the set molds of words that roots can be integrated into. The
root radicals located inside the patterns are words. A pattern also carries meaning,
similar to how affixes do so. The root ‫ فعل‬/f-ʢ-l/ is usually utilized to model patterns,
each radical of the root represents a letter of the word, then, together with vocalism
create a meaningful word.

According to professor Wallace Erwin "a pattern is abound and in many cases,
discontinuous morpheme consisting of one or more vowels and slots for root phonemes
(radicals), which either alone or in combination with one to three derivational affixes,
interlocks with a root to form a stem, and which generally has grammatical meaning".
(Ryding, 2005, p. 48). Table 2.1 explains how patterns can carry meaning:

inserted Pattern Base
Meaning Pronunciation Pattern Root
into meaning meaning

Player /laaʢib/ ‫ال ِعب‬ The ‫فا ِعل‬ Play ‫ب‬-‫ع‬-‫ل‬

(doer) /faaʢil/
The ‫فا ِعل‬
Killer /qaatil/ ‫قاتِل‬ (doer) /faaʢil/ Kill ‫ل‬-‫ت‬-‫ق‬
Name of ‫مفعل‬
Restaurant /maṭʢam/ ‫مطعم‬ place /mafʢal/ Feeding ‫م‬-‫ع‬-‫ط‬
Name of ‫مفعل‬
Factory /maṡnaʢ/ ‫مصنع‬ place /mafʢal/ Making ‫ع‬-‫ن‬-‫ص‬
Table: 2.1 A pattern in Arabic as a discontinuous morpheme

A pattern is a discontinuous morpheme as mentioned in the definition above because it

scatters itself among the root radicals, as shown in figure 2.1: ‫ الحزامان‬/alħizamaan/.
Derivational affixes cover the use of consonants which mark grammatical functions,
for instance, the prefix ma- for a noun of place and the derivational prefix mu- for many

prefix stem suffix

Radical 1 Radical 2 Radical 3

Figure: 2.1 The word ‫الحزامان‬Alħizamaan meaning the two belts. The root letters are
ħ, z, and m. The pattern is Root1+i+Root2+a+Root3.

Arabic pattern-formation includes the following consonants: /s/ (siin), /m/ (miim), /t/
(taaʔ), /n/ (nuun), /w/ (waaw), /y/ (yaaʔ), and /ʔ/ (hamza). All these can be used as
affixes (prefixes, infixes, and suffixes). Doubling of consonants or gemination is one
further component of patterning. Therefore, components that are included in the MSA
pattern-formation are six vowels, three short: /a/, /i/, /u/; three long: /aa/, /ii/, and /uu/;
seven consonants which are /m/, /n/, /t/, /s/, /w/, /ʔ/, /y/, the invented word ‫سألتمونيها‬
/saʔaltumuuniihaa/ "you (pl.) asked mee it" is used for remembering Arabic

morphological components; in addition to the process of doubling or gemination
(Ryding, 2005).

Patterns denote language-internal (grammatical) information, thus, they have

grammatical meaning rather than lexical meaning. Such feature enables them to classify
word classes or word types: adjectives, verbs, and nouns. Patterns can also specify very
specific information about subclasses of these categories. They can easily be identified
as (noun of place, to name a few, noun of the instrument, verbal noun, or active
participle), as shown in Table 2.1. Patterns are fewer than roots in Arabic because they
denote limited intralinguistic information. According to Heintz, "The number of
patterns in Arabic is finite and relatively small; there are about 30 patterns (if variations
in short vowels are ignored)" (2010, p. 6).

2.4 Derivational Morphology of Arabic: Root-pattern system

Arabic morphology is different from morphology English or other Indo-European

languages, that is because it is widely based on discontinuous. Such system exhibits an
elegant and rigid logic because "it consists of a system of consonant roots interlock with
patterns of vowels (and sometimes certain other consonants) to form words, or word
stems" (Ryding, 2005). It is important to mention that such type of operation can be
found in English also. If we look for the English words 'sing', 'sang', 'sung', 'song', we
can clearly observe that their meaning has to do with vocal music, in which different
vowels are inserted into the vowel slot in the consonant sequence (s-ng), by this
operation many English words can be coined such as the instances above. Hence, such
type of operation is not something odd in English. The consonant sequence (s-ng)
represents the concept of an Arabic consonantal root while the affixes and vowels
would represent the concept of Arabic pattern.

The letter sequence ‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/ is a very common and useful instance for illustrating the
morphological processes, which is adopted for the study of Heintz (2010). This
sequence is a root, which can be a series of three or sometimes four radicals that
signifies some wide collection of lexical items. This collectorsitem of a given root may
be related, but may also differ broadly.

McCarthy (1981) and other scholars proposed that root, pattern, and vocalism are three
different morphemes, a root must be combined with the two other morphemes which

are a pattern and a vocalism in order to form a word. Thus, a root itself cannot be
considered as a fully-formed word; that is because of two reasons: its meaning is highly
ambiguous and it has no part of speech. For example:

When the root‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/, which is the first morpheme, is combined with the pattern‫فعل‬
/fʢl/, that is the second morpheme. The letters of the pattern ‫ فعل‬/fʢl/ represent the
radicals of the root ‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/ whereas 'f' represents the first radical /ʃ/, 'ʢ' represents the
second radical /h/, and 'l' represents /r/. The stem ‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/ is realized by the combination
of root and pattern. The third morpheme which is vocalism is essential both for giving
specific grammatical properties of the word and for its pronunciation. When the stem
‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/, which is the result of the root and pattern combination, is combined with
vocalism /a-a-a/, together form /ʃahara/ which is now a fully-formed word has a
dictionary-defined meaning "famous, notorious". Grammatically, it is a verb in the
perfect tense, agrees with the subject which is 3rd person, singular and masculine.

 The word /ʃahara/, can be analyzed as consisting of three morphemes:

Root: ʃ h r
Pattern: f ʢ l
Vocalism: a a a
Figure: 2.2 The combination of [root: /ʃhr/ + pattern: /fʢl/ + vocalism: /a-a-a/] produces the
word /ʃahara/.

Root: /ʃhr/ Pattern: {fʢl} Vocalism:/a-a-a/

Combination stage


Figure: 2.3 The combination of [root: /ʃhr/ + pattern: /fʢl/ + vocalism: /a-a-a/] produces the
word /ʃahara/.

Arabic has approximately 14 paradigms, which are integral to the morphological
processes of Arabic, and each one of them has its own pattern and set of vocalisms. The
paradigm sets the meaning and the shape of the word (some paradigms insert
consonants in the stream other than the root letters).

By combining the root ‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/ with the pattern of paradigm III, ‫ فاعل‬/faʢl/, instead of
the pattern ‫ فعل‬/fʢl/, the letter alif is inserted between the first and the second radicals
of the root to derive the stem ‫ شاهر‬/ʃahr/. By combining this stem with the same
vocalism as before, the word /Sahara/ is formed, which is in the perfect tense and means
"rented on a monthly basis". Another instance, can be cited if the same root ‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/
combines with the pattern of paradigm VIII, ‫ افتعل‬/ʔiftʢl/, and the same vocalism used
in the example above, ‫ اشتهر‬/ʔiʃtahara/ is created that means "to be wild spread, well-
known, famous".

We can find that some patterns have a predictable semantic effect on the word. For
example, the stems that are formed from paradigm II are often caused or transitive, like
the word ‫ فهم‬/fahama/ "to understand" in paradigm I becomes ‫ فهم‬/fahhama/ "make
someone understand something" in paradigm II. Stems formed with paradigm V tend
to have a reflexive meaning: the same instance becomes ‫ تفهم‬/tafahhama/ "perceive,
apprehend, realize" in paradigm V.

Vocalisms can also change the word either derivationally or inflectionally. For
example, the vocalism /a-u/ is used to create stems in the imperfect tense. When this
vocalism combined with the root ‫ شهر‬/ʃhr/ and the pattern ‫ فعل‬/fʢl/, the stem ‫هر‬
ُ ‫ ش‬/ʃharu/
which is in the imperfect tense and with the meaning "to make famous" is produced.
This stem must be combined with inflectional affixes to specify the person, gender, and
number of the verb to be a grammatical word. For example, the prefix )‫ (ت‬/ta-/ is added
to the stem to derive the third person singular feminine form ‫ تشه ُر‬/taʃharu/. Some other
vocalism can also specify meanings of the word. Such as in the word ‫ ُمشاهر‬/muʃahar/
with the meaning "monthly salary", which is produced by the pattern and the vocalism
combination ‫ ُمفاعل‬/mufaaʢal/, the active participle of paradigm III.

The Table 2.2 reproduces the entries for the root ‫ قتل‬/qtl/ as given in the Hans Wehr
Dictionary of modern written Arabic and Al-Ma'any Arabic-English Dictionary, is
added for further discussion about the ways in which a single root can be transformed

into many different words. The table includes information about vocalisms,
pronunciations, and patterns.

stem pattern vocalism pronunciation meaning

‫قتل‬ I, ‫فعل‬, [fʢl] a-a /qatala/ To kill, to murder

‫قاتل‬ III, ‫فاعل‬, [faaʢal] a-a /qaatala/ To fight, to combat

‫اقتتل‬ VIII, ‫افتعل‬, [ʔiftʢl] a-a /ʔiqtatala/ Battled, encounter in a

dual, struggle with or

‫قتيل‬ II, ‫فعيل‬, [fʢiil] a-ii /qatiil/ Someone who killed;

murdered; assassinated

‫اقتتال‬ VIII, ‫افتعال‬, [ʔiftʢaal] i-aa /ʔiqtitaal/ Fighting, struggle,

battle, a combat.

‫مقاتلة‬ III, ‫مفاعلة‬, [mfaaʢlah] u-i /muqaatilah/ Combatants, fighting

forces, combat plane.

‫مستقتل‬ ‫مستفعل‬, [mstfʢl] u-a-i /mustafʢil/ Heroic, death defying

‫مقتول‬ I, ‫مفعول‬, [mfʢuul] a /maqtu:l/ battle; combat;


‫مقتل‬ II, ‫مفعل‬, [mfʢʢl] u-a-a /muqattal/ experienced, practiced,

tried, tested.

‫مقتتل‬ ‫مفتعل‬, [mftʢl] u-a-a /muqtatal/ Battlefield, battle


‫مقتلة‬ ‫مفعله‬, [mfʢlh] a-a-a /maqtalah/ Butchery, carnage,


‫تقتيل‬ II, ‫تفعيل‬, [tfʢiil] i /taqtiil/ Slaughter, massacre,

butchery, carnage

Table: (2.2) Reproduction of the root ‫ قتل‬/qtl/ entry in Wehr(1994) and Qamus Al-Ma'any
(Al-Ma'any Arabic- English Dictionary). The root can combine with patterns
and vocalisms to produce words or stems with different definitions.

"Morphology is the study of morphemes and their arrangement in forming words"
(Nida, 1948).

Thus, morphology seeks to concentrate on how words are formed. For the parsing of
complex word forms, that are originally formed via derivational processes, Nida (1949)
proposed six principles for identifying the component parts of such words and for
formulating the nature of those parts. The following Tables 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 are given
to explain how Arabic words (simple, complex, and compound) are formed, through
the morphological processes:

Arabic Simple words Meaning

‫ ِرجل‬/riʤl/ Leg

‫ عين‬/ʢayn/ Eye

‫ أسد‬/Ɂasad/ Lion

‫ خنجر‬/xanʤar/ Dagger

Table: 2.3 Arabic simple words

Looking for the words in the table above, we find that all of them are Arabic nouns
some of are triliterals (i.e. consist of three consonants) such as ‫ عين‬/ʢayn/ and ‫ أسد‬/Ɂasad/
and others quadrilaterals (i.e. Consist of four consonants). However, these words can
represent the form of simple words in Arabic that are not connected to any other
morphological units (i.e. Affixes, clitics, patterns, etc.,) and they are not derived from
verbal roots.

Arabic Compounds Compounds construction Meaning

/ʢadam-inħiyaaz/ /ʢadam/(F.M) + /inħiyaaz/(F.M) Non alignment
/ḡayr-dustuuriyy/ /ḡayr/(F.M) + /dustuuriyy/(F.M) unconstitutional
/minaaʔ-baħriy/ /minaaʔ/(F.M) + /baħriy/(F.M) Seaport
/ʢaabir-sabiil/ /ʢaabir/(F.M) + / sabiil/(F.M) Passer-by
/suuʔ-ʔidaarah/ /suuʔ/(F.M) + /ʔidaarah/(F.M) mismanagement
Table: 2.4 Arabic compound formation, (F.M – free morpheme)

Compounding is a process of word formation exists in Arabic, which is the process of
coining a word via conjoining other words (Ryding, 2005). This process is employed
by MSA for newly coined words, particularly technical terms while it is not usual in
traditional Arabic morphology. For instance, as shown in Table 2.4, the word, ‫غير‬
‫ دستوري‬/ḡayr-dustuuriyy/ meaning "unconstitutional", formed from conjoining the
words /ḡayr/ "non" and /dustuur/ "constitutional" and suffixing the adjectival ending /-
iyy/ ending. Another instance is /suuʔ-ʔidaarah/, meaning "mismanagement", that is
composed by conjoining the two complete words /suuʔ/ "mal-, dis-", and /ʔidaarah/
"management", such words function as a single word .

Sometimes created compounds in Arabic are not considered as one single word, like
‫ انحياز عدم‬/ʢadam inħiyaaz/, meaning "Non alignment", which is a noun phrase. Another
example, ‫ متعددالجوانب‬/mutaʢaddid al-ʤawaanib/, meaning "multilateral", which is a
combined participle-noun phrase. These kinds of compounds have become more
common lately as a result of the need for swift translation of technical terms from
Western languages into Arabic (Ryding, 2005). Further discussion and explanation of
this type of lexical innovation is covered in chapter three.

Arabic Complex words Complex words construction Meaning

/fattaaħah/ /f-t-ħ/ (root) + /faʢʢaalah/ (pattern) Opener
/fawṡawtiyy/ /faw-/(splinter) + /ṡawt- nisba (y)/(F.M) Ultra sound
From /fawq/ and /ṡawt/
/kahroḍawʔiyy/ /kahro-/(splinter) + /ḍawʔ- nisba (y)/(F.M) Photoelectric
From /kahrabaaʔ/ and /ḍawʔ/
/ħalqaẒah/ /ħal-/(splinter) + /-qaẒah/(splinter) Daydreaming
From /ħulm/ and /yaqaẒah/
/waʤʢadah/ /waʤ-/(splinter) + /-ʢadah/(splinter) Gastralgia;
From /waʤaʢ/ and /maʢidah/ stomach pain
/laa-faqariyy/ /laa-(splinter) + /faqaariyy/(F.M) Invertebrate
/raʤulaan/ /raʤul/ (F.M) + /-aan/ (splinter) Two men
Table: 2.5 Arabic complex word formation, (splinter = a part of a word/morpheme), (F.M
= free morpheme).

It can be seen clearly that all the given words in the table above are complex words, simply
because of their internal structure (they have more than one constituent). The words above, are
created through different morphological processes, such as derivation (e.g. /fattaaħah/ "opener"
from the root /f-t-ħ/ and the derivational pattern /faʢʢaalah/), blending (e.g. /fawṡawtiyy/ "ultra
sound" From /fawq/ and /ṡawt/), and inflection (e.g. /raʤulaan/ "two men" from the word
/raʤul/ and the inflectional suffix for dual /-aan/). Other instances shown in Table (2.5), the
word ‫ وجعدة‬/waʤʢadah/ that is created from /waʤaʢ/ "pain" and /maʢidah/ "stomach" that
are segmented and re-blended into a word that combines parts (splinters) of the two word
stems. Like, ‫ حلقظة‬/ħalqaẒah/ which is formed from the two (splinters) /ħulm/ "dream" and
/yaqaẒah/ "to be awake". Another example, in Table 2.5, ‫ كهروضوئي‬/kahroḍawʔiyy/ is formed
from /kahro-/ which is (a splinter) of the word /kahrobaaʔiyy/ "electric" and the free morpheme
/ḍawʔ/ "light", like /fawṡawtiyy/. These words have been coined according to the principle of
comprehensibility, in order to avoid any difficulties for the potential reader in deciphering the
elements underlying these blend words, unlike ‫ وجعدة‬/waʤʢadah/ and ‫ حلقظة‬/ħalqaẒah/. ‫ال فقاري‬
/laa-faqariyy/ "Invertebrate" is constructed from /laa/ "no – negative particle", "which is
originally a free morpheme, but it has been used recently as a prefix" (Al-Najjar, 2012; 613),
and the word /faqariyy/ "vertebrate".

2.5 Inflectional Morphology of Arabic

The word "Inflection" mostly indicates the phonological changes that a word
undergoes as it is being used in context (Ryding, 2005). Number (singular and plural),
voice (active and passive) and tense (past, present ..) are some common inflectional
categories in English. While Arabic word has more grammatical categories than
English words. Some of these inflectional categories are common to the speakers of
English such as number and tense, but others are not, such as gender and case.

Arabic has eight major grammatical categories which are: number, gender, person,
voice, definiteness, tense/aspect, case, mood. Four of these categories apply to
adjectives and nouns (number, gender, definiteness, and case), four apply to pronouns
(number, gender, person, and case), and six of them apply to verbs (voice, mood,
tense/aspect, number, gender, and person) (Ryding, 2005). Affixes which are a closed
class of morphemes, encode predictable information. In addition to inflection,
cliticization is common in Arabic text. Conjunctions, possessive pronouns, and
prepositions are all expressed as enclitics or proclitics in Arabic (Heintz, 2010).

Arabic Transliteration Translation Arabic Affixes English Affixes
‫أعل ُم‬ /ʔaʢlamu/ I know a-

‫نعل ُم‬ /naʢlamu/ We know na-

‫تعل ُم‬ /taʢlamu/ You(ms.) know ta-

‫تعلمين‬ /taʢlamiina/ You(fs.) know ta-, -ina

‫تعلمان‬ /taʢlamaan/ You(dual) know ta-, -aan

‫تعلمون‬ /taʢlamuun/ You(mp.) know ta-, -uun

‫تعلمن‬ /taʢlamna/ You(mf.) know ta-, -na

‫يعل ُم‬ /yaʢlamu/ He knows ya- -s

‫تعل ُم‬ /taʢlamu/ She knows ta- -s

‫يعلمان‬ /yaʢlamaan/ They(dual) know ya-, -aan

‫يعلمون‬ /yaʢlamuun/ They(mp.) know ya-, -uun

‫يدرسن‬ /yaʢlamna/ They(fp.) know ya-, -na

Table 2.6: An example of Arabic inflectional morphology. Modern Standard Arabic uses
affixes to express inflectional changes that are expressed using additional
words rather than affixes in English.

An instance of affixational, inflectional morphology of Arabic is shown in Table 2.6

The Arabic stem ‫ علم‬/ʢlm/, with the meaning "to know", combines with the imperfect
tense verb pattern and vocalism ‫ فع ُل‬/fʢalu/ to produce the imperfect tense stem ‫عل ُم‬
/ʢlamu/. This stem can also be combined with other 11 combinations of inflectional
affixes, creating as many unique word forms.

However, the English counterpart stem can take on the same meanings using far fewer
unique word forms. English uses separate words, such as she, we, they, etc. rather than
affixes to express number and person. The verb itself has only two forms, know and knows.

The same instance used in Table 2.6 can also be expanded with other stems from the
same root ‫ علم‬/ʢlm/ to represent different tenses. For example, the Arabic word (and
stem) ‫ علم‬/ʢalima/ "he knew" or the same root can be combined with other patterns and
vocalisms to gain different meanings, for example, ‫ علَّم‬/ʢallama/ "he taught" or ‫تعلَّم‬

/taʢallama/ "he learned". A number of varying word forms can be created by combining
each of these stems with the same or different affixes.

Arabic word (and stem) can combine with clitics, like the word ‫ أعل ُم‬/ʔaʢlamu/ "I know",
can combine with the clitic [ُ‫ ]ه‬/hu/ to create ُ ‫ أعل ُمه‬/ʔaʢlamuhu/ "I know it". Other clitics
can also be combined with the word (or stem), either before or after it. Such
morphological process can increase the number of possible word forms. For instance,
by combining the words in Table 2.6 with such qualities, an increasing number of word
forms will undoubtedly be created.

2.6 Morphology and Lexical Growth

A large number of Arabic words are created by the combination of derivational morphology,
concatenative inflectional morphology, and cliticization using Arabic root-pattern system. This
plenitude of creating word forms is especially notable in contrast to the low rate of English word
forms. Table: 2.2 and Table: 2.6 clearly exhibit this contrast. According to Kirchhoff et al.
(2006), the growth of unique word forms in Arabic is more increasing than English, "but the
contrast is abated when we first stem the Arabic words. There are many more unique affixes and
combinations of affixes, so that stemming has a more dramatic effect in Arabic than in English"
(Heintz, 2010, p.20).The number of Arabic unique word forms decreases if variation in word
forms is removed via stemming due to concatenative morphology. Words that have the same stem
form are classified as a single word class.

Other lexical types, such as compounding, blending, abbreviations, and acronyms, that are
created via Arabic word formation processes, are considered as a source of Arabic unique
word forms. Moreover, loan words can also be considered as one of the reasons for the
growth of unique word forms in Arabic. Loan words have been classified as solid stems
because they cannot be broken down into the root–pattern paradigm(Ryding, 2005, p. 50).
On the other hand, loan words, in some cases, can be inflected for number.

2.7 Concatinative and Non-concatinative: Operations in Arabic

Concatenative or linear morphology, is a term used to denote the morphological system in which
the lexical form of a particular word is a sequence of morphemes from the lexicon (Kiraz, 2001).
For instance, the analysis of English "unmindful" produces the lexical form "un-", "mind", and "-
ful". The surface form is created via the concatenation of the lexical morphemes. Thus, this
morphological system is called linear or concatenative morphology.

In case of Arabic, linearity does not hold. For example the Arabic verb /ḍurib/ "to hit -
PERF PASS." that consists at least two morphemes, the root /ḍ-r-b/ "notion of hitting" and
the vocalic sequence /u-i/ "PERF PASS." the concatenation of the two morphemes,
*/uiḍrb/ or */ḍrbui/, does not generate the desired result. Hence, the morphemes are
combined in a non-linear, or non-concatenative, manner.

Arabic shows a notably rich and productive morphology (Beesley, 2001) and (Smrž,
2007). An Arabic word is formed by the use of both concatenative and no-concatenative
operations. Concatenative operations take place in inflection while non-concatenative
operations take place in derivation.

Word formation of Arabic can be used as a premium instance of the root-pattern system.
"A combination of root letters are plugged in a variety of morphological patterns with
priory fixed letters and particular vowel melody that gives rise to corresponding
syntactic and semantic phenomena" (Bhuyan and Ahmed, 2008, p.375). To exhibit the
richness of Arabic morphological patterns, the following instance is given. The root
radicals /l/, /ʢ/, /b/, bearing a concept of playing, is plugged in different patterns to get
a large number of semantic and syntactic phenomena. The patterns with specific
semantic paradigm are called "form". Ten forms are used regularly, among many
different Arabic forms, the root letters /l-ʢ-b/, can be plugged in the following forms:

 Form I: ‫ ل ِعب‬/laʢiba/-"He played"

 Form II: ‫ل َّعب‬/laʢʢaba/-"He caused to play; make play"
 Form III: ‫ العب‬/laaʢaba/-"He played or joked with"
Form I Form II Form III
Active perfect laʢib-a yu-lʢab-u laaʢib-un

Passive perfect laʢʢab-a yu-laʢʢab-u mu-laʢʢib-un

Active imperfect laaʢab-a yu-laaʢab-u mu-laaʢib-un

Passive imperfect luʢib-a i-lʢab ma-lʢuub-un

Active imperative luʢʢib-a laʢʢib mu-laʢʢab-un

Passive imperative luuʢib-a laaʢib mu-laaʢab-un

Active participle ya-lʢab-u litu-lʢab ma-lʢab-un

Passive participle yu-laʢʢib-u litu-laʢʢab …

Locative participle yu-laaʢib-u litu-laaʢab …

Table: 2.7 Non-concatenative operations in the derivational morphology of Arabic

The examples and Table: 2.7 above are used to illustrate the derivational paradigm of
Arabic words, whereas and Table: 2.8 is used to exhibit the inflectional paradigm for
active perfect entry of form I, that is governed by the agreement information, and to
show how inflection is made by concatenative operations.

Singular Dual Plural

3rd/Masc. laʢiba laʢab-aa laʢab-uu
3rd/Fem. laʢib-at laʢib-ataa laʢib-na
2nd/Masc. laʢib-ta laʢib-tuma laʢib-tum
2nd/Fem. laʢib-ti laʢib-tuma laʢib-tunna
1st laʢib-tu laʢib-naa laʢib-naa
Table: 2.8 Concatenative operations in the inflectional morphology of Arabic

A complete sentence can be encoded by a single Arabic word. For instance,

/sayalʢabuha/ "He will play it". This word can be broken as shown in figure 2.4

(playing concept)

prefix Sa-yalʢabu-ha suffix

(future particle) pattern /ya--a-u/ (it-attached pronoun)
(Form I: 3rd/sg/masc./ind./perf./act.)

Figure: 2.4 The representation of /sayalʢabuha/ "He will play it"

From Figure 2.4, we can conclude that Arabic word possesses four components, which
are: a prefix /sa-/; a suffix /-ha/; root radicals /l-ʢ-b/; and the pattern with vocalsim /ya-
-a-u/. Other prefixes and suffixes may be possible to concatenate. If another root
radicals are plugged in, for instance /q-r-ʔ/, that bears the concept of reading, we get
/sayaqraʔuha/ "He will read it".