Context Sensitivity and Language Specificity of Arabic Verb-Preposition Structure: The Case of English Learners of Arabic

Several studies have dealt with the Arabic verbal system and Arabic prepositional phrases (although separately). Nevertheless, no study, to date, has been devoted to tackling the question of the context sensitivity and language-specificity of Arabic verb-preposition structure per se. The lack of such studies was the principle motivation for undertaking this study. Additionally, being a teacher of Arabic language and literature for many years in different universities (The University of Sydney, The Australian National University and The University of Western Sydney), I noticed the enormous struggle of English learners of Arabic when tackling the phenomenon of verb-preposition structure. Due to the lack of awareness of the context sensitivity and language-specificity of such structures, students quite often confuse the usage of Arabic prepositions with that of English. Hence, the finding and recommendations of this study will be of great benefit and interest to English learners of Arabic since it will raise their awareness of the issues at hand, and, in turn, help them avoid getting the wrong message of Arabic texts owing to misinterpreting the Arabic prepositions which collocate/colligate with verbs.

Prepositions in English are particles which express “a relation between two entities, one being that represented by a prepositional complement, the other by another part of the sentence. The prepositional complement is characteristically a noun phrase, a nominal wh- clause, or a nominal ing clause” (Quirk et al. 1985, p. 657). English prepositions are of five types, they are: 1) time, as in: during the exam; 2) place, as in: against the wall; 3) manner, as in: with ease; 4) agency, as in: by the mechanic; and 5) recipience, as in: to a friend (Collins, 1998, p. 32). It is worth noting that a number of English prepositions may play the role of adverbs in some contexts especially when combining with verbs to form what is known as English phrasal verbs (Bolinger, 1971; Cowie and Mackin, 1993 and Aldahesh, 2009a). Bolinger (1971) labels such particles of dual functions as ‘Adpreps’, which “form the most typical phrasal verbs [... and] function now as adverbs, now as prepositions” (p. 23). The English prepositions used to form phrasal verbs are listed by Cowie and Mackin (1993) as follows:

Aboard, about, above, across, after, against, ahead of, along, alongside, among, around, as, as far as, astride, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, for, from, in, in front of, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, on top of, out of, outside, over, past, round, through, to, toward(s), under, underneath, up, upon, with, within, without (p. vii).

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(Author: Ali Yunis Aldahesh

Published by Macrothink Institute)