A Syntactic Analysis of Arabic Tense and Aspect

Abdullah S. Al-Dobaian


I discuss the morphological analysis of tense and aspect proposed by early Arab grammarians and illustrate some of its problems. In order to account for these problems, the Arab grammarians had to relegate the effects of tense and aspect to the morphological forms of faÀal and yafÀal. I show that these forms marked different tense specifications other than the default past tense for faÀal and present or future tense for yafÀal. As for aspect it has only received a sporadic and inconsistent analysis by early Arab grammarians. I agree with Fassi Fehri (1993) and Juhfah (2006) that a comprehensive theory of tense and aspect is essential for Arabic. I propose a syntactic analysis of tense and aspect in Arabic based on MacDonald’s (2008) analysis with some modifications needed to account for the Arabic data. Unlike Fassi Fehri and Juhfah’s analyses, this analysis is based on the verb interaction with its arguments and modifiers in which the verb checks tense and aspect syntactically by moving to functional projections: aspect phrase and tense phrase. I argue that such syntactic analysis consistently explains the interaction of tense and aspect in Arabic and their relevant specifications.


Arabic Tense, Arabic Aspect, Telicity, Syntax, Morphology, FaÀal, YafÀal

Full Text:



Alfarahiidi, K. A. (1985). Kitaab aljumal fii annahw. taḥqiiq by F. Qabaawah. Beirut, Lebanon: Alrisaalah Publishing Company.

Alhataari, A. A. (2006). taḥawlaat alafaal fii alsiiyaaq alquraanii wa athruruha albalaaii. In majalat aldiraasaati alijtimaaiyah. 22

Almaxzumii, M. )1986). fii annahw alarabiy: naqadun wa tawjiih. Beirut, Lebanon: Daar alraaid alarabiy.

Almalaax, M. (2009). Azzaman fii alluati alarabiyah: binyaatih attarkiibiyat wa addalaaliyah. Beirut, Lebanon: Arabic Sientific Publishers, Inc.

Almatlabii, M. Y. (1986). Azzaman wa alluah. Cairo, Egypt: Alhayati almasriyati alaamti lilkitaab.

Alzajaajii, A. (1974). alidaaḥ fii ilali annahw. taḥqiiq by M. alMubaark. Cairo: Daar alnafaais.

asSakkaaki, A. (2000). Miftaaḥ aluluum. Tahiqiiq A. Hendawii. Beirut: Daar alkutub alilmiyyah.

Binnick, R. I. (1991). Time and the verb: a guide to tense and aspect. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chomsky, N. (2015). The Minimalist Program. 20th Anniversary Edition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (1986a). Barriers. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Fassi Fehri, A. (1993). Issues in the structure of Arabic clauses and words. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Haegmen, L. (1994). Introduction to government and binding theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hasan, A. (no date). anNaḥaw alWaafii. Vol. 1 and Vol. 4, Cairo: Daar alMaaarif.

Ibn aashuur, M. (no date) tafsiir attaḥriir wa attanwiir. Tunis: Daar Saḥnuun lilanshar wa attawzii.

Ibn Jenni, A. (1952). alkhasaais. tahqiiq M. Ali. Beruit: Daar alkitaab alarabiy.

Ibn Yaiish, A. (no date) sharḥ almufassal. Cairo: Idaarat attibaaati almuniiriyah.

Juhfah, A. (2006). Dalaalatu azzamani fii alarabiyah: diraasatu annasaqi azzamaniy lilasaal. Morocco: Daar tubqaal lilnashr.

Larson, R. (1988). On the double object construction. In Linguistic Inquiry, 19(3), pp. 335-391.

MacDonald, J. (2008). The Syntactic Nature of Inner Aspect: A minimalist perspective. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company Amsterdam.

Pustejovsky, J. (1991). The syntax of event structure. In cognition, 41, pp. 47-81.

Radford, A. (2009). An Introduction to English Sentence Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sibawayhi, A. (1992). Kitaabu Sibawayhi. Vol. 3, tahqiiq A. Haaroun. Cairo: Maktabatu alxaanjii.

Sibawayhi, A. (1998). Kitaabu Sibawayhi. Vol. 1, tahqiiq A. Cairo: Haaroun. Maktabatu alxaanjii.

Tenny, C. (1987). Grammaticalizing aspect and affectedness. Ph.D. thesis. MIT.

Vendler, Z. (1967). Linguistics in philosophy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Wright, W. (1974). A grammar of Arabic Language. Beirut: Librairie du Liban.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.9n.6p.82


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2010-2022 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Language and Literary Studies

You may require to add the 'aiac.org.au' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.