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Temporal Anteriority of the Arabic Perfect in Relative Clauses

Lunds universitet/Masterprogram: Språk och språkvetenskap
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  • Arabic
  • Tense
  • Syntax
  • Languages And Literatures


In this study I investigate how relative clauses in MSA effect the temporal properties of the verb form known as Perfect. Comrie (1976), and later Fassi Fehri (2004), describe the Perfect as having the properties of anteriority and perfectivity, i.e. it reports a finished situation temporally anterior either to the time of speech or to some other point in time. My hypotheses is that the Perfect in a relative clause always refers to a situation anterior to the situation described in the main clause, rather than the time of speach. In other words, the Perfect in a relative clause always constitutes a step back in time. In a conventional narrative this means that the Perfect in relative clauses does not push time forward, quite the opposite of how the Perfect in main clauses is interpreted. The hypothesis yielded solidly positive results when tested on a corpus of narrative text. The conclusion is then drawn that the Perfect in relative clauses are cases of relative past tense, relating to the main clause in the same way that the Perfect relates to the auxiliary kāna in the pluperfect construction.

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