A Contrastive Study of Middle and Inchoative Alternations in Arabic and English
Author: Abduljawad T. Mahmoud Date: 1989 Institution: Abduljawad T. Mahmoud Subject:Linguistics Linguistic Field(s): Syntax, Semantics, Morphology, Lexicography
Abstract: This study presents a detailed analysis of the semantic, syntactic and morphological features of the middle and inchoative (unaccusative) alternations in Arabic and English. The issue of the middle/ unaccusative contrast and the question of whether middles constitute a semantically and syntactically uniform class are also addressed. On the basis of this analysis, a new typology of the middle and unaccusative verbs in the two languages has been proposed. In addition to the semantic properties and the syntactic behavior of these verbs, this typology is conditioned by some contextual and pragmatic factors. The following are the main conclusions of this study: (i) Given the class of the unmarked unaccusatives and the class of the morphological intransitives, the morphological condition for the formation of Arabic unaccusatives is neither necessary nor sufficient. (ii) Unlike English, Arabic does not have semantic or syntactic restrictions analogous to those that distinguish the English middles from unaccusatives. (iii) The English verbs known un the literature as middles do not constitute a semantically or syntactically uniform class. (iv) Despite the fact that Arabic and English are typologically different and genetically unrelated, the two languages exhibit significant similarities with respect to the semantic and syntactic properties of the middle and unaccusative alternations.