Verb Form and Tense in Arabic

  •  Yasir Alotaibi    


This paper discusses tense in Arabic based on three varieties of the language: Classical Arabic (CA), Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), and the Taif dialect (TD). We argue against previous analyses that suggest that Arabic is a tenseless language, which assume that tense information is derived from the context. We also argue against the suggestion that Arabic is tensed, but that its tense is relative, rather than absolute. We propose here that CA, MSA, and TD have closely related verb forms, and that these are tensed verbs. Tense in Arabic is absolute in a neutral context and verb forms take the perfective and imperfective aspect. Similar to other languages including English, verb forms in Arabic may take reference from the context instead of the present moment. In this case, we argue that this does not mean that tense in Arabic is relative, because this would also imply that tense in many languages, including English, is relative. Further, we argue that the perfective form indicates only the past tense and the imperfective form, only the present; all other interpretations are derived by implicature.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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