Exploring and categorising the Arabic copula and auxiliary kāna through enhanced part-of-speech tagging

Hardie, A. and Ibrahim, W. (2021) Exploring and categorising the Arabic copula and auxiliary kāna through enhanced part-of-speech tagging. Corpora, 16 (3). pp. 305-335. ISSN 1749-5032

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Arabic syntax has yet to be studied in detail from a corpus-based perspective. The Arabic copula kāna (‘be’), functions also as an auxiliary, creating periphrastic tense–aspect constructions; but the literature on these functions is far from exhaustive. To analyse kāna within the one-million word Corpus of Contemporary Arabic, part-of-speech tagging (using novel, targeted enhancements to a previously described program which improves the accessibility for linguistic analysis of the output of Habash et al.’s [2012] MADA disambiguator for the Buckwalter Arabic morphological analyser) is applied to disambiguate copula and auxiliary at a high rate of accuracy. Concordances of both are extracted, and 10 percent samples (499 instances of copula kāna and 387 of auxiliary kāna) are analysed manually to identify surface-level grammatical patterns and meanings. This raw analysis is then systematised according to the more general patterns’ main parameters of variation; special descriptions are developed for specific, apparently fixed-form expressions (including two phraseologies which afford expression of verbal and adjectival modality). Overall, we uncover substantial new detail, not mentioned in existing grammars (e.g., the quantitative predominance of the past imperfect construction over other uses of auxiliary kāna). There exists notable potential for these corpus-based findings to inform and enhance not only grammatical descriptions but also pedagogy of Arabic as a first or second/foreign language.

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22 Feb 2023 15:35
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22 Feb 2023 15:35