The Derivation of ‘Verbless’ Sentences in Arabic: A Probe-Goal-Agree Approach

Kamel Jouini


In this paper, I provide an analysis of ‘verbless’ sentences in Arabic (mainly, the Standard variety, SA) in light of the claims of the feature-based probe-goal-Agree system of Chomsky (2001, 2004) and such assumptions as held by Biberauer et al. (2010) about probe-goal Agree relations being parameterized according to the feature-structure of functional elements derived in sentence structure. This analysis is essentially different from previous analyses in the literature relating to ‘verbless’ sentences in Arabic, such as Benmamoun’s (2008). In the present analysis, verbal inflection is the product of the valuation of a T-feature of verbs – i.e., [uT], as the unvalued uninterpretable counterpart of [iT] of tense (T as a node in sentence structure) in the syntax of languages. Using this framework of assumptions, I subsequently extend on Halila’s (1992) analysis of the famma-construction in Tunisian Arabic. In such constructions, famma-raising is the result of the verb-like nature of famma as an auxiliary or copula, which ultimately enters a probe-goal-Agree relation with T for tense interpretation at Logical Form (LF) in the syntax.


Predicate, Verbless, Agree, Probe-goal, Famma, Feature Valuation, Tense Interpretation

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