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Arabic motion events
in the Arabic Constructional and Variational Lexicon
Abdelkader Fassi Fehri
Sameerah T. Saeed
Mohamed Bin Zayed
Humanities, Abu Dhabi
The paper presents an analysis of Arabic motion events, typically daxal ‘enter’ and xaraj
‘exit’, and their kins, within the Arabic Constructional and Variational Lexicon (ACVL)
project, originally designed by Fassi Fehri (2020), based on previous seminal work, namely
Fassi Fehri (1986, 1997), and implemented more recently in Fassi Fehri & Salem-Taha
(2020 & 2021) and Fassi Fehri, Alotaibi, & Saeed (2021 = FAS henceforth), among other
references. ACVL is a generative cognitive model of lexical competence using a generative
distributive morphology design, inspired namely by Chomsky (1995), Halle & Marantz
(1993), Marantz (1997, 2000), Hale & Keyser (2002), and Borer (2005), Harley (2014), and
Adger (2013). It typically distinguishes ‘words’ in the mental lexicon from their external
realizations in the dictionary, Root syntax from Category syntax. The lexicon is both
constructional and variational. It is constructional because it seeks to build lexical items
morphologically, syntactically, and semantically in a gradual manner by starting from
simple roots, then complex roots, then categories and their projections, etc. It is variational
because it targets significant Arabic varieties, not only the standard variety, but also the
dialects, including Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Moroccan here (and much more in other papers), with
the purpose of standardizing some of the dialectal expressions or uses to enrich the standard
Arabic lexicon. It also aims at describing the content of this variation.
In available traditional dictionaries, forms, structures, and meanings of daxal and xaraj, and
their synonyms are not properly described. It is simply stated that they are ‘opposites’ to
each other (see e.g. Lisaan al-Arab, al-Muʕjam al-Waseet, etc.). Furthermore, derived
forms like the causative ʔadxal, the intensive daxxal, the participative daaxal, the
beneficiary causative sta-dxal, or the reflexive intensive ta-daxxal, are rarely treated
systematically, or their fine sense distinctions accounted for in a principled way. Other flaws
include lack of definitions, inappropriate uses of synonyms as definitions, etc. Our
treatment is systematic, and motivated by typological and comparative results.
FAS2021 analysis of daxal ‘enter’ and xaraj ‘exit’ presents an inventive model of motion
events (and verbs) that is root-based. It thus diverges from other available models that are
word-based, namely Talmy (1985, 2000), Jackendoff (2002), Levin (1993), Goldberg &
Jackendoff (2004), Beavers, Levin, & Tham (2010), Verkerk (2015), to cite few. For
example, enter and exit in English are already categorized as directed motion verbs that
involve Path in their semantic make-up (see e.g. Talmy 1991, Levin 1993, and Jackendoff
2002). Moreover, these analyses are mostly based on Talmy's (2000) limited typology of
languages into verb-framed and satellite-framed, according to which the mechanism of
directed motion events is determined, especially with respect to Path and Manner. But
FAS2021 presents evidence that the Path component is not encoded in the semantic make-
up of these events. More specifically, it is proposed that the roots of daxal ‘enter’ and xaraj
‘exit’ primarily involve a locative component of the ‘nominal’ form daaxil 'inside' and
xaarij 'outside', respectively, which denotes only location. As for the motion component, it
is assumed to be a light verb MOVE (or event, rather), only present in the root structure of
daxal ‘enter’ and xaraj ‘exit’ when used as verbs that denote motion.
A similar locative and motional lexical segregation is morphologically attested in other
languages such as Kurdish, where enter is expressed separately by a nominal element
meaning 'inside' and 'outside' and a verb similar to 'go' and 'come'. The other components
involved in motion verbs and event structures, such as Path and Manner, are proven not to
be incorporated into the basic roots of the two motion events, but rather expressed by
adjuncts, such as preposition phrases and adverbs.
In sum, more fine-grained decompositions of motion verbs can be empirically and
theoretically supported through the ACVL design, and more adequately descriptive
dictionaries of Arabic varieties implemented.
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