The purpose of this paper was to provide a critical review of the literature of contrastive morphology on the use of affixation in English and Arabic noun formation. Thus, it aimed to examine the methodologies and findings of current research on the manner of affixation in English and Arabic noun formation. Pertaining to its topic, the review surveyed five papers, determined the purpose of each study, observed the methodologies, and described the findings. All of the reviewed studies had adopted an explanatory contrastive analysis approach and collected data qualitatively by referring to linguistic books, dictionaries in both languages, and journals to describe points of similarities and differences between the English and Arabic noun morphology. Being instructive, descriptive, and explanatory in nature, the mentioned studies had been based upon scientific and systematic illustration of affixation and its derivational and inflectional role in noun formation both languages. It was found out that though both languages share some similarities regarding the presence and classification of affixation along with its inflection in noun formation, the existing structural differences do outweigh the similarities and create morphological challenges in the process of learning a foreign language, for the linguistic behavior of L1 affects that of L2. Equally, the adopted explanatory contrastive analysis approach would be useful in predicting the linguistic challenges, relevant to the use of affixes in the morphological construction of nouns, which learners have to overcome. This would hopefully play a critical role in the target language design of the syllabus, selection of textbooks, and teaching and learning experiences. Finally, the critical review recommended that it would be useful to conduct some empirical studies in the examined area to reflect on the extent to which linguistic theories associate with authentic EFL teaching and learning practices.
The Use of Affixation in English and Arabic Noun Formation
Contrastive Analysis in TEFL
Contrastive analysis is a methodical branch of applied linguistics which looks into the linguistic representation of the structure of different languages. Such explanatory descriptive analysis demonstrates how languages fluctuate in their phonological, syntactic, and semantic formation. This sort of analysis can be useful in EFL teaching since it draws attention to areas where discrepancies between the two languages are the main source of difficulty in learning a foreign language. Respectively, contrastive analysis will function to help determine the differences between the two concerned languages and predict the linguistic challenges which learners have to overcome. Then, language acquisition will be directed at those points of structural variation. Incessantly, this will considerably determine what and how the learner should learn as well as what and how the teacher should teach.
Objective of the Research
Since one of the most credible sources are those supported by a scientific and systematic description of the language to be learned, which is entirely contrasted with an analogous description of the learners’ native language, it is always useful to refer to explanatory contrastive studies to predict areas of difficulty L2 learners might face and prepare the most effective learning tools and practices to help students deal with those linguistic challenges. Thus, the current paper sought to review the literature of research on the use of affixation in English and Arabic noun formation and examine the methodologies and findings of current research pertaining to the morphological inflectional construction of English and Arabic nouns. Accordingly, the current review will survey five studies focusing on the methodologies adopted and findings reached. Then, a discussion part will follow aiming to provide a critique of the reviewed studies delving into their value as well as recommending points for improvement for future research. The studies are arranged from the most recent to the oldest as of 2018 to 2013.
Scope of the Critical Literature Review
The focus of this critical review of literature is confined to research done on the role of inflectional morphology in noun morphology in the Arabic and English language. The output should be useful for prospect researchers who intend to delve into contrastive morphology and conduct empirical research in both languages as well as for educators and students of English and Arabic as a second language. Also, it will help language textbook writers to resolve morphological challenges faced by L2 learners as a result of L1 interference.
The Reviewed Research
To begin with, in an explanatory methodical contrastive approach, the study of Igaab ; Kareem (2018) examined affixation in English and Arabic to demonstrate the commonalities and differences between the two languages. Hypothesizing that both English and Arabic are inflectional languages, Igaab ; Kareem (2018) conducted a descriptive approach to contrast “affixation” in English and Arabic through identifying and classifying affixes according to their types. The depiction of affixation in Arabic was decoded into English and the translation of the basic terms was taken from “Wahba and Al-Muhandis’ dictionary, and the Arabic phonetic symbols were used for the transliteration all through the study” (Igaab ; Kareem, 2018). Actually, every Arabic exemplar was first translated into English; then, transliterated. The study discerned that though affixation is found in both contrasted languages, which have the same ways of classifying affixes, English features the type of affixes in the course of affixation, whereas Arabic uses ‘al-wazn’ through the affixation process, with little attention paid to the type of affixes.
Defining “affixation” as a word-formation morphological procedure that forms and generates new words with various lexical and grammatical information, the study categorized affixes in line with their distribution and function in the word. According to position, affixes could be classified into “prefixes, suffixes, infixes, circumfixes, and superfixes” (Igaab ; Kareem, 2018). On the other hand, pertaining to their function in the word, affixes could be typified into two kinds: the derivational and the inflectional affixes. Derivational affixes contribute to the semantic role of a lexicon as they bring some modification in the meaning of the word without altering the lexical category, where as inflectional affixes display a syntactic function since they indicate the grammatical role of the words to which they are added.
Most prefixes and occasional suffixes alter the meaning of the word to which they are affixed. Accordingly, they are classified on the basis of how they change meaning including the location, number, measurement, judgment and negation prefixes as in ‘inter-change, tri-angle, micro-scope, malnutrition, or non-sense’ along with quality suffixes forming adjectives, causative forming verbs, and activity suffixes forming nouns as in ‘care-ful, harden, or cover-age’.
In both languages, affixation was defined as one of the morphological ways of forming a new word either with or without altering its meaning, syntactic, or grammatical category. Conforming to a number of morphological rules and a constrained order, affixes are blended with the roots to form original words. Moreover, in both languages, affixes are classified based on their position and function. However, according to the position of affixes, English includes five types: prefixes, suffixes, infixes, superfixes, and circumfixes while Arabic contains of three affixes only which are prefixes, suffixes, and infixes. Pertaining to the function of affixes, affixes are categorized into inflectional and derivational in both languages. English designates some phonological, semantic, and syntactic constraints in the addition of derivational affixes to form new words, but in Arabic there is no obvious indication regarding the impact of phonological and semantic features on affixes addiction. Besides the types of derivation cited in Arabic, some derivatives are clearly designated only in Arabic. Furthermore, English applies inflection in the course of forming words with various syntactic functions by adding a suffix to the end of the word, while in Arabic, inflection is utilized to develop more than one form with different syntactic functions. Moreover, in English, derivation and inflection are totally isolated processes and inflection as a, but Arabic inflection indicates ” two terms which are conjugation … of verbs and declension … of nouns and adjectives” (Igaab ; Kareem, 2018).
Additionally, in English, under a number of morphological restrictions, both prefixes and suffixes could be added to the same term to form complex words, whilst Arabic barely tackles those two phenomena as there are no regulations of how to form complex words or organize affixes in Arabic. In terms of affixation, both languages display some commonalities and variations. First, the similarities include: definition, procedures and involved processes, classification criteria with relevance to position and function of the affix in the word, and occurrence and frequency. Both in the Arabic and English languages, roots are the morphological elements, which hold the core meaning of the word, more than one derivational affix could be pulled together in one word, and when both exist, inflectional affixes are usually added after the derivational ones.
Likewise, Arabic and English languages attain noun plurality by means of inflection and have regular along with irregular ways to perform this inflection process. “The regular way is called the sound plural (al d3am9 al salim) and the irregular is known as the broken plural (d3am9 al taksiir)” (Igaab ; Kareem, 2018). Furthermore, the inflected genitive (‘s) in English is similar to the genitive case in Arabic because both of them are of morpho-syntactic property and both of them have added suffixes. In some cases, the genitive suffix does not exist in the two languages as in the regular plural noun: girls – girls’ in English which has only an apostrophe. Similarly, in Arabic, the diacritical mark is not conjugated in some noun types like: “al-maqSuur and al-manquus.”
On the other hand, both languages have some dissimilarities regarding affixation. First, while in English affixation is attained only by means of affix addition to the root of the word, this phenomenon in Arabic is achieved not only through the addition of affixes but also by deletion, substitution, and interior alteration in the word. Second, English affixes are bound morphemes, yet Arabic affixes could be either bound or infrequently free morphemes similar to “al-hamza.” Third, pertaining to the positional classification of affixes, infixes are typical in Arabic whilst they are atypical in English. In contrast, circumfixes and superfixes exist only in English but have no presence in the Arabic language. The fourth difference manifests itself in the sound citation of phonological, semantic, and syntactic characteristics of prefixes and suffixes in English whereas this topic is hardly mentioned in Arabic. Fifth, English sorts out affixes into different types, but Arabic deals with the type-based affixes classification in connection with “al-wazn (fi9l, fa9il, maf9uul, mif9al, fa9la, etc), ” a measure which is neither used nor even established in the development of the English morphology. Sixth, as of terminology, the term ‘inflection’ is a general one in the Arabic morphology as it in accurately referred to by Arabic morphologists either as conjugation to indicate the inflection of verbs or declension to denote nouns and adjectives inflection. On the contrary, English uses the term inflection to represent the inflection of both verbs and nouns only. Seventh, albeit Arabic and English are inflectional languages are inflected, inflection is more rather used in Arabic to indicate case, gender, definiteness in nouns and adjectives inflection. Also, even though inflectional affixes in English comprise only suffixes, which close the word allowing no other affixes to be added, inflectional affixes in Arabic include suffixes, prefixes, and infixes that keep the word unclosed allowing the addition of other affixes. In addition, the Arabic language divides the derivation process into four kinds: “minor, middle, major and acronym in addition to the derivatives.” On the contrary, English classifies the derivational affixes into two types according to “class-maintaining derivational and class-changing derivational” (Igaab ; Kareem, 2018). Again, only the English derivational affixes are applied under certain phonological, semantic, and syntactic and semantic constrictions. Another distinction is in the representation of the bound pronoun in both languages as in Arabic it is manifested in the addition of an inflectional suffix as in “(al-yaa) in (kitaby) (my book) or (Kitabuha) (her book)… ” , yet the English bound pronouns are presented as separate morphemes. Similarly, noun definiteness is achieved in Arabic through the addition of the inflectional prefix ‘al’, yet excluding any inflectional process, the same feature is achieved in English by adding the definite article ‘the’ before the noun.
One more distinction between both languages occurs in the case inflection, there are three types of suffixes (nominative, accusative, genitive) in Arabic, while in English, there is only one inflectional case suffix indicating the genitive state, which is derived by addition of the possessive suffix “-‘s”. Regarding numeral inflections, the declension process takes place in Arabic, declining nouns for duality and two-type regular plurality with sound discriminating gender “(al-alif and al-nuun) and (al-alif and al-taa)”, yet English numeral inflection is employed only to indicate plurality by adding only one regular plural suffix (-s). As for the irregular plural, nouns are inflected by adding suffixes and infixes in English, but declined by adding suffixes, infixes, and prefixes in English.
What’s more, nouns of instruments are deviated from the verb on “al-wazns: mif9al, mif9aal, mif9alah, and so on,” while English instrument nouns exist either exclusive of any derivational process or inclusive of the suffix “-er”. Moreover, the Arabic language illustrates the derivation of the diminutive in line with the “morphological rules and … one of the three wazns: fu9aiil, fu9aii9il, fu9ii9iil,” with every noun demanding a literal “wazn” according to its type. Yet English forms the derivation of diminutive only through the addition of one of the six indicated diminutive suffixes despite the type of the noun to which the suffix is added; for example, the suffix ‘let’ is added to form the diminutive noun “booklet”, ‘ling’ for ‘duckling’, ‘en’ for ‘kitten’, etc…
Succinctly, the study found out that both English and Arabic languages display similarities in the manner of classifying affixes; however, the English language attends to derivational prefixation more than Arabic, which uses inflection more than English and relies on the notion of measurement “al-wazn”. In fact, Arabic employs both prefixes and suffixes as devices for inflection to contribute syntactically to form, number, possession and gender, and uses infixation for derivational operations often changing the lexical category of the lexicon. In contrast, English uses suffixes to extend the function of the lexical item and enable its integration into discourse and uses prefixes to produce ‘paradigmatic’ relations like antonyms. The findings of the study supported its five raised hypotheses proving that affixation as a morphological phenomenon is found in both contrasted languages, both languages are inflected though inflection is more employed Arabic rather than English, the process of combining the word derivational and inflectional affixes is different in the two examined languages, complex words are formed by the addition of more than one affix in both languages, and finally proving that regardless of the presence of some similarities between the Arabic and the English languages, variations are still more than the similarities when it comes to the use of affixation in word formation.
Second, adopting a methodical actuarial analysis approach, the next study aimed to review, explain, and assess the English and Arabic word formation in case of noun morphology. Hameed & Yasin (2015) study determined to contrast morphological processes in English and Arabic languages with a greater attention given to the genitive case, gender analysis, and affixes within both languages. In their morphological analyses, Hameed & Yasin (2015) described English nouns in view of root construction, morphological procedures, origins, and inflection, and then divided the morphological procedures into 5 types of which affixation is the subject of this paper. The five types included “affixation, interior transformation combination, suppletion, and zero-modification” (Hameed & Yasin, 2015).
Regarding position, Hameed and Yasin (2015) divided affixes into prefixes, suffixes, and infixes, mentioning the absence of the latter in the English language. When it comes to function, affixes contained the inflectional and derivational types. Inflectional affixes not only retain their structural property and syntactic role, but also display a terminating trait, being word closures as no additional affixation could be attached afterward. Conversely, derivational suffixes could occur as prefixes, infixes, and suffixes, create new roots, and alter or even maintain the word class as in adding the suffixes ‘-ship’ and ‘-hood’ in the words ‘relationship’, and ‘childhood’, which sustains “class-keeping derivational suffixes;” such suffixes generate nouns from other nouns after affixation. On the other hand, “class-varying derivational suffixes” form words with different syntactic group. The suffixes ‘-ish’ and ‘-ment’ in ‘foolish’ and ‘payment’ have changed the noun to an adjective, and the verb to a noun equally.
Pertaining to inflectional classes, English inflectional suffixes are morphologically categorized in line with number, gender, case, and person. First, the suffix ‘-s’ is added to indicate noun plurality. What’s more in Hameed and Yasin (2015) was the justification of how the derivation of the inflectional morpheme (-s), which indicates noun plurality, undergoes phonological constraints to comprise three allomorphs /-s, -z, -iz/ as in ‘maps, bags, addresses’ as well as the plural morpheme /s/, a number of irregular variations are affected by the addition of the inflectional plural affixes exists like the root variation upon adding the inflectional morpheme /-s/ as in ‘wives, thieves, months’, the addition of /-en/ to the root, as in ‘oxen and children’, the modification of vowel sound as in ‘penny – pence, man – men, tooth – teeth, mouse – mice, and woman- women’, and the combination of a zero morpheme when the plural noun is the same as the singular as in ‘sheep, deer, and food’. Second, English language creates very limited gender differences as there is no inflectional affixation to allocate gender accord. Yet, pronouns are used as gender indicators. For female noun formation, suppletion is used as in ‘husband-wife, brother-sister’, suffixation as in ‘author – authoress, poet – poetess’, and extra endings as in ‘fox-vixen’. Third, regarding case, unlike other languages, English is constrained in the noun to a possessive or genitive case, indicated by either by /–’s/ or /–s’/. Again, Hameed and Yasin (2015) explained the existent phonological constraints on the possessive inflectional morpheme /- ‘s/ to include four allomorphs /-s, -iz, -z, -iz/ akin to ‘sheep-sheep’s /-s/, fish- fish’s /-iz/, child – children’s /-z/, and ox- ox’s /-iz/’ respectively. Finally, the person is not derived in English through the application of the affixation, but by means of reference to corresponding pronouns.
On the other side of the cone, Hameed and Yasin (2015) continued their methodical actuarial analysis to delve into the Arabic noun morphology, which could also be established on the foundations of form and function. They defined Arabic nouns in terms of root formation and morphological processes of root construction. The study found out that the Arabic root contains three consonant stem, which, if adjusted by inflectional and derivational affixation, could form a lot of words. For instance, “from the root /R-K-B/ several words could be formed, like, /rakaba/, /rakibun/, /rakib/, etc” (Hameed and Yasin, 2015).
Unlike English, Hameed and Yasin (2015) divided morphological procedures in Arabic into affixation, derivation, and inflection, noting that affixation is the most common morphological procedure. Dissimilar to Iqaab and Kareem (2018), who classified the Arabic affixes at the level of position to five types, Hameed and Yasin (2015) study dealt only with prefixes, infixes, and suffixes. Yet, corresponding to function, the Arabic affixes were categorized into inflectional and derivational. Moreover, Hameed and Yasin (2015) review presented three different models for noun formation. Those are: the stem model, the form model, and the arrangement model. First, the stem model involves vowel inclusion within the consonantal stem alongside with an occasional addition of extra consonants that are not parts of the stem. Besides, the arrangement model includes the implementation of consonantal configuration like ‘/fa’ala/ as in “/jama’a/ ‘he gathered’, /kataba/ ‘he wrote’, etc.” Pertaining to noun formation, the study discerned that the most common noun derivative contains the relative adjectives, derived by the insertion of the “suffix /iyun/ like, /arabiyun/ which means (Arabian) or /ilmun/ (science), /ilmiyun/ which means (scientific), the diminutive nouns in agreement with the ” form /fu’aylun/, as in /tufayyilun/ (a small baby), /bunayyatun/ (a tiny girl),” the verb-based noun derivation as in /kita:bun/ (book) from /kataba/ (he wrote), /majlesun/ (council) from /jalasa/ (sat),” and noun-based noun derivation as in /insa:niyatun/ (humankind) from /insa:nun/ (human) and /masihiyyun/ (Christian) from /masih/ (Christ)” (Hameed and Yasin, 2015).
In addition, relating to inflectional categories, nouns in Arabic are classified for number, gender, case, and person. First, the Arabic language use inflectional suffixes to indicate both duality and plurality. Initially, duality is attained though “affixing the suffix ‘-a: ni’ in the nominative, ‘-ayni’ inside the singular form of the noun as in /malikun/ (a ruler), /malikayni/ (two rulers).” Additionally, plurality is formed in three ways with the masculine plural, feminine plural, and broken plural. Each of these plural forms has its own inflectional suffixation; for example the masculine plural is attained “by affixing either the suffix /-u: na/ or /-i:na/ for the nominative in accordance with the noun location and role in context. Also, the feminine plural is achieved by affixing the suffix /-a:tun/ to the nominative as in /mu3alima:tun/ (teachers) for the singular /mu3alimatun/ (teacher). As well, the broken plural is formed in line with an arrangement by varying the vowel sounds within or outside the consonantal stem.
Besides number, gender and case are well distinctive feature in Arabic, where feminine markers are usually used at the end of the word to indicate femininity akin to the /ta/ (almarbuta) pronounced aspirated /h/as in /madrasa/ (school) which is pronounced /almadrasatu/ in the nominative case, /almadrasata/ in the accusative case, and /almadrasati/ in the genitive case. Still, morphologists find it complicated to justify why Arabic nouns like (shams: sun, or dar: house) are considered feminine or collective nouns like (naml: ants; nahl: bees) are ambiguous in terms of gender identification.
To sum up, from the afore mentioned review, it is found out that the second study had explicated and exemplified the use of affixation in the English and Arabic word formation in case of noun morphology, yet demonstrated some limitations in presenting a thorough contrast relating to the noun genitive case and gender analysis in both languages.
Third, in their theoretical descriptive study, Abdul-Halim & Shamsan (2015) reviewed different books on Standard Arabic and English syntax and morphology and conducted a contrastive analysis approach to find out the similarities and differences between the Arabic and English language with respect to inflectional morphology, anticipating to resolve the linguistic challenges that Arab EFL learners meet as a result of their L1 interference. Consistent with the afore mentioned studies in its findings, Abdul-Halim & Shamsan (2015) discerned some facts about the inflectional morphology of both languages, of which only those relevant to noun formation would be presented in this review, and summed up that Arabic, unlike English, has a root-and-pattern morphology, where roots are consonantal, yet they cannot form a word unless a pattern of vowel(s) is affixed to this root. Besides, Arabic inflections could be either suffixes or prefixes unlike English inflections which are all suffixes. Moreover, the study revealed that Arabic nouns, unlike the English ones which are inflected for number, gender, and case, are inflected for number, gender, case and definiteness. To continue, Abdul-Halim & Shamsan (2015) pointed out similarities in noun plurality between both languages, pointing to the existence of duality in Arabic nouns along with three plural types: masculine plural, feminine plural, and the irregular broken plural. In English, plural nouns are formed either by affixing the suffix -s or -es, or by modification. Furthermore, the Arabic inflectional suffix /ta/ is used as gender feminine marker, yet some nouns of females or countries like ‘bint’: (girl) or ‘misr’ don’t need any inflectional suffix to indicate its feminine identity. Conversely in English, gender is infrequent though it could be found in nouns like ‘prince-princess; actor-actress; lion-lioness; male-female; ox-vixen;’ by affixing the inflectional suffix (-ess), prefix (fe-), suppletion, or noun compounding as in ‘housewife’. While English nouns are marked for the genitive case only, nouns in Arabic are inflected to indicate nouns nominative, accusative and genitive case.
Abdul-Halim & Shamsan (2015) conveyed the implications of their study on teaching EFL since the findings could call attention to some of the difficulties that Arab learners of English morphology may face. Such problems could be effectively dealt with in setting EFL teaching objectives and selecting textbooks. Likewise, EFL learners could be cognizant of the morphological differences between their native and foreign language, so they would better manage their acquisition of the second language.
The fourth reviewed study in the scope of this paper examined the noun plural inflectional morphemes in Arabic and English by collecting qualitative data from journals and books and then sorting it out in line with the research purpose. Through contrastive analysis, Himmah & Wahyudi (2014) attempted to compare the morphological process of noun formation in English and Arabic. In the analysis, they focused on the affixation added to form the plural nouns in the two contrasted languages mainly to answer questions about the differences and similarities of regular plural morphemes along with the processes by which plural nouns are formed in Arabic and English languages. The results found out the presence of major “differences rather than similarities in terms of the patterns of plural nouns in relation to gender, regularity, and internal vowel change” (Himmah & Wahyudi, 2014).
Pertaining to number classification of English nouns, results accorded with preceding findings illustrating the presence of two number groups in English: singular and plural along with two forms indicating plurality: the common regular and the occasional irregular. The regular plural is formed by affixing the inflectional plural morpheme (-s; -es) to the singular, whereas the irregular plural demonstrates more complexity as in case of affixation, its inflectional suffix is unmethodical, its internal stem might be changeable causing vowel variation or “ablaut” (Spencer, 1994; Watson, 2002) as in (man: men and mouse: mice), or its zero-suffixation is noticeable.
On the other hand, number classification of Arabic nouns involves the division of three categories: Singular, plural, and dual. So the count of two is dual in the Arabic morphology yet plural in the English one; Arabic plurality starts with the count of three. Regarding regularity, the Arabic nouns are classified to regular masculine plural, regular feminine plural, and the irregular broken plural. Himmah & Wahyudi (2014) stated that the inflectional morpheme affixed at the end of the regular plural is case constrained as it fluctuates in line with being nominative, accusative, or genitive and illustrated variations brought to masculine regular plural inflectional morphemes if the inflected words belong to “mamdud”, ending in hamzah “?”, “maqsur”, ending in alif layyinah (?) or not (?), or “manqus”, ending in ya (?). Conversely, the feminine regular plural noun occupies the same suffix –aat (??-), yet case affects it only at the diacritical level displaying kasra i if the noun is accusative or genitive and damma u when the noun is nominative.
Himmah & Wahyudi (2014) argued that the Arabic broken plural system “is highly allomorphic” , for it includes “ablaut”, shift in the vowel pattern inside the word stem although it might occasionally involve the affixing supplementary consonants, ‘hamza’ or ‘waaw’. Also, they stated that the Arabic broken plural, unlike the English irregular plural which has no exact system, has several specific regulations to form its plural type like including internal vowel shift both vowel alteration and consonant affixation. As well, some distinctive details about the plurality of Arabic nouns revealed the formation of “plurals of the plurals, plurals not having the singular form, plurals from modified roots, and plural form which means singular in addition to one noun which can be pluralized into regular and irregular form”(Himmah & Wahyudi, 2014). Based on the conductive contrastive analysis of noun plural makers, the study concluded that both languages are more different than parallel. With reference to structure, since the Arabic plural marking classification is much more complicated rather than English, it’s expected that the Arab learners of EFL may find English plural markers more straightforward to learn rather than Arabic.
Adopting the same explanatory contrastive analysis approach, the fifth reviewed study in this paper aimed to discover points of difference in English and Arabic noun morphology in order to determine the main sources of difficulty in second language acquisition. Salim (2013) had developed the data with reference to books in both languages and then analyzed it through a contrastive approach. Though findings illustrated the presence of some similarities about affixation, essential morphological differences do exist.
First, both languages almost apply the same morphological procedures; do share some aspects in their derivational structure since both use affixations in the process of noun formation. Also, in both languages, the derivational suffixes indicate the function of words in a clause, and inflectional suffixes indicate categories of number, gender, and case.
On the other hand, differences in the English and Arabic noun morphology include the English stem structure in contrast to the stem-root structure in Arabic, morphological processes involving affixation, internal change, compounding, suppletion, and zero-modification in English contrasting with affixation, inflection and derivation in Arabic , the derivational system including the ordering of morphemes in English in contrast to derivatives of nouns in Arabic, and the inflectional system in relation to number, gender, case, and person.
In Arabic, the root system presents the central morphological attribute in noun formation as every Arabic noun refers to a basic three consonant root. Regarding morphological procedures of suffixes addition, inner vowel modification, limitless number of nouns could be derived. Most Arabic nouns are derived through affixation and vowel change within the root. Salim (2013) inferred that English language learners might face some difficulties in learning the second language because the Arabic derivational system appears to be much more complicated than the English one in the process of noun formation. Regarding the inflectional system, English nouns include only two numbers: singular and plural, while the Arabic nouns contain three numbers: singular, dual and plural, citing that the Arabic plural itself is more classified into three subcategories: sound plural masculine, sound plural feminine, and the irregular broken plural. Whereas Arabic retains only two genders: masculine and feminine, English possesses the masculine, feminine, and neutral adding to the fact that it confines itself only to personal pronouns. Moreover, Arabic nouns are inflected to three cases particularly the nominative, accusative, and genitive ,yet nouns are inflected only for genitive case in English.
With reference to a certain area of interest, linguistic contrastive analysis will find out the similarities and differences between the two languages, and then, in the light of such comparison, the linguistic problems of the Arabic speakers learning English could be predicted. The current paper reviewed research on the use of affixation in English and Arabic noun formation and found out that all of the reviewed studies had adopted an explanatory contrastive analysis approach and collected data qualitatively by referring to linguistic books, dictionaries in both languages, and journals to describe points of similarities and differences between the English and Arabic noun morphology. Being instructive, descriptive, and explanatory in nature, the mentioned studies had been based upon scientific and methodical illustration of affixation and its derivational and inflectional role in noun formation in both languages. Since one of the most effective sources are those based upon a methodical description of the language to be learned in contrast to the native language, it is always beneficial to refer to similar explanatory contrastive studies to consider areas of difficulty L2 learners might encounter and prepare the most effective learning practices to help students deal with those linguistic challenges. In other words, through this comparison, the teacher will be more acquainted with the structures of the two languages in question and the areas of difficulties at the morphological level.
Though all the reviewed studies are theoretical in approach, they have generated some practical and important results. In the fourth study, Himmah & Wahyudi (2014) argued that qualitative research had to do with “structure and patterns, and how something is formed.” Since the researchers analyzed and interpreted the collected data to reflect on their morphological linguistic knowledge about the formation of plural nouns, the study adopted, akin to the preceding ones, an explanatory and descriptive approach to arrive at certain information and analyze it within the scope of contrastive linguistics.
Nevertheless, for more benefit, empirical research on the application of derivational and inflectional morphology in the process of noun formation should be conducted to validate the findings of the examined studies and reflect on the extent to which theory pertains to authentic L2 acquisition in various contexts. According to Wardhaugh (1970), “The strongest formulation of contrastive analysis hypothesis claimed that all the errors made in second language learning could be attributed to L1 interference.” However, this claim might not be carried on by experimental evidence as It could be shortly proposed that some of the errors predicted and construed by contrastive analysis might not be observed in the learner’s native language. Especially perplexing is that a number of constant errors could be made by learners irrespective of their first language. It is therefore intelligible that contrastive analysis could not predict all learners’ difficulties, yet it could be indeed helpful in explicating the source of those errors produced by the influence of the learner’s native language behavior .Where the structure of the two languages is rather parallel, difficulty is unexpected. Conversely, where L2 structure is remarkably different from L1, difficulty is predicted not only in learning but also in performance. Consequently, it is essential to learn the behavior of the target language in order to overcome those difficulties simply because the full attainment of a second language entails shifting one’s native language behavior to that of the target language.
Results of contemporary research on the employment of affixation , derivational, and inflectional morphology in noun formation could provide educators, syllabus designers, and textbook writers understanding of the nature of the contrasted languages and of the influence of complex inter-linguistic areas on foreign language learning.
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