Arabic morphology: The central role of the imperfective

Elabbas Benmamoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the nature and role of the imperfective verb in Arabic. It argues that the imperfective verb is not specified for tense. It is only the default form that is resorted to whenever the verb does not carry temporal features. Syntactically, the lack of temporal features on the imperfective verb explains why, contra the perfective verb which carries past tense, it occurs lower than negation and displays the SV order in idioms. Morphologically, the default unmarked status of the imperfective is consistent with its central role in word formation. This role will be shown to be more pervasive than previously thought. This, in turn, allows for a unified analysis of nominal and verbal morphology. The implication then is that important parts of Arabic word formation are word based rather than root based.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-201
Number of pages27
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1999


  • Arabic
  • Default form
  • Imperfective
  • Indicative
  • Perfective
  • Tense
  • Word formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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