Tagung zum Thema Wortbildung /

Conference on word formation

Bern, 5. / 6. Februar 2014


Reima Al-Jarf
King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Arabic Word Formation with Borrowed Affixes

Arabic is a derivational language. The major word-formation process is simple derivation, in which words are formed from a root consisting of three or four consonants and a set of vowels that alternate with the root consonants. Derived forms are produced by lengthening a vowel, doubling C2, doubling C3, adding a prefix or infix. Different derivational patterns are used to derive agents, patients, nouns of place, time, occupation, appliances, tools, diseases, the diminutive and so on. Other less productive derivation processes are metathesis and root transformation. In addition, Arabic has loan words from ancient, as well as, modern languages. Borrowings from Turkish are especially significant, as the Ottoman Empire dominated Arab countries for about 600 years. Not only has Arabic borrowed lexical items, but has also borrowed few affixes such as /-ji/, /-li/ which are used to form nouns referring to occupations in Turkish and /-xane/ that is used to derive nouns referring to place names. A sample of words containing borrowed affixes was collected and examined to find out the following: (i) The status of borrowed affixes in Arabic and their status within the terminological structure; (ii) their structure (type of base to which they are attached); (iii) their denotative and connotative meanings; (iv) whether they have the same meaning as the donor language; (v) how productive they are; (vi) whether they are used in Standard or colloquial Arabic; (vii) in which Arabic dialects they are common. The study also aims to examine those borrowed affixes diachronically, and find out whether other languages such as Japanese, Portuguese, Finnish have borrowed affixes. Data analysis showed that Arabic has borrowed 3 affixes from Turkish /-ji/, /-li/ and /-xane/ as in قهوجي شربتلي اجزخانة and a limited number of lexical items containing borrowed affixes from English (جيوسياسي قهوين حرفيم). In 85% of the words collected, the borrowed affixes are attached to native Arabic bases as in عربجي قهوجي; the rest are attached to bases borrowed from Turkish or other foreign languages as in بلطجي كومسيونجي بوسطجي كندرجي. Affixes borrowed from Turkish are mostly used in spoken colloquial Arabic. Common people can spontaneously create their own words containing the borrowed suffix /-ji/. However, in Arabic the meaning of the suffix /-ji/ is not only used to derive nouns referring to professions (as in Turkish), it was extended to derive adjectives with a negative or derogatory connotation as in ثورجي قومجي اخوانجي. In addition, plural and abstract noun forms are derived by adding Arabic plural suffixes and Arabic derivational patterns. Words ending in /-ji/ and /-li/ are not equally common in all Arabic dialects; some are common in one dialect (Iraqi or Syrian), others are common in another (Jordanian or Egyptian. Words ending in /-ji/ and /-li/ were more common in the 1940’s and 1950’s, before Arab countries gained their independence from the Ottoman Empire and became less widely used with the rise of Arab nationalism. Some have also became very prevalent in the media after the Arab spring in the past few years, especially those with a negative or derogatory connotation as in بلطجي ثورجي قومجي اخوانجي. Examples of lexical items containing borrowed affixes and results of the analysis will be reported in detail.

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