Arabic Morphology Term Paper 20 pages

Arabic Morphology

Morph = form or shape, ology = study of Language comprises of words and words have meanings. Meanings give value to words hence they must be given attention in body of knowledge. This is the reason; a study of foundation of meaning is developed. This foundation is called morpheme which is the basic and the smallest entity containing meaning or function in language. This whole study is known as Morphology (Kuthy, 2002).

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What Are Morphemes?

It must be noted with concern that word is not the unit of meaning in language. It is because; a word may contain multiple words in meaning (Kuthy, 2002). Below are a few examples when words contain obvious, difficult and medium meanings.

a. obvious: dinnertime, homework, moonlight, classroom

difficult: tenth, walks, dog’s, flipped

c. medium: quickly, fearless, fishing, momentary

Morpheme is the most basic element of meaning. If above mentioned words are carefully reviews, it becomes evident that each word contains at least 2 morphemes. For example, the word dinnertime is combination of dinner and time, each one was its meaning to itself. When combined, they become one word and give another meaning, means the time of dinner.

Basic Concept of Word Structure

Joining morphemes is a science and the different are not combined without any rule or pattern. The variable of order of joining morphemes, their number and the type; all play an important role in formation of words. For instance, redo is comprised of re and do. Similarly, “swims” is made up of swim and s. Morphologists take into consideration all the mentioned factors as part of their competence in their subject. The structure can be hierarchically drawn (Kuthy, 2002).

Classification Of Morphemes

Free And Bound Morphemes

Morpheme can either be free or bound. Free morpheme is the root in language. It is a complete word by itself and does not divide into multiple morphemes.

On the other hand, a bound morpheme is the one which is used in multi-morphemic word. It can also be known as affixes. Depending upon its position, it becomes suffix, prefix or infix (Kuthy, 2002).

(2) a. prefixes: un-happy, re-write, pre-view

b. suffixes: writ-ing, quick-ly, neighbor-hood

c. infixes: (very rare in English) speech-o-meter

As mentioned earlier, free morpheme is a root and is used as a complete word. There are cases when additional morpheme is added with the root to give it a new meaning, in this case, the root becomes a stem. The added word can be prefix, suffix etc. In general, all the words that are roots are considered stems if they can be combined with other morpheme, even though in their present state or form, they are acting like root. For example, the word carrot is a root, however, it can be made carrots with addition of s, and hence carrot is also a stem. There are certain words which are not stems at all as any words cannot be added to them. An example is of, or, I etc. (Kuthy, 2002).

There are two sub-categories of bound morphemes; derivational and inflectional.

Derivational Morphemes

As the term shows, derivational morphemes derive words from the other words and lead to creation of new words. An example is incomplete (in + complete), completeness (complete + ness) etc. Sometimes, the words are added and the new words become part of another part of speech.

(3) a. part of speech: us-able (V ! A), trouble-some (N ! A), judg-ment (V ! N)

b. meaning: dis-comfort, ex-boyfriend

c. both: use-less (V ! A) are not required by syntax, are not very productive: dis-like, *dis-hate, usually occur before inflectional suffixes: work-er-s can be either suffixes or preffixes (in english) (Kuthy, 2002).

Inflectional Morphemes

Inflectional morphemes do not change the sense of word, rather adds to the meaning of word in the same sense. The word remains in the same part of speech as it was previously. As example is addition of s to make plural or er to increase degree of state, e.g. dog to dogs and warm to warmer. In English language, they are used only as suffix and are appended at the end of the word (Kuthy, 2002). They are syntax requirements and productive in sentences. They are limited in number, in English they are eight; -s, -ed, -ing, – en, -s, -‘s, -er, -est.

Cranberry Morphemes

In “cranberry,” the cran is a bound root rather than an affix and this is why it is known as cranberry morpheme. These cranberry morphemes do not have a steady and linked meaning (Kuthy, 2002).

Cranberry, boysenberry

Permit, commit, and submit

Receive, perceive, and conceive (Kuthy, 2002)

Content and Function Morphemes

Function and content are two types of morphemes. A semantic content is a part of content morpheme; it opposes the performance of grammatical function. Like for instance, car, -un, -able. While on the other hand, function morpheme is completely based on grammatical function and syntactic agreement. It should be noted that D/I morphemes (derivational/inflectional distinction) are all bound while functional and content morphemes may exist in free form as well. Preposition can be taken as a good example of function morpheme (free) (Kuthy, 2002). “And” and “-s” are dierent names for D/I morphemes (Kuthy, 2002).

Arabic Language

The grammatical system in Arabic is based on a root-and-pattern structure, which comprises of 10,000 roots (Ali, 1998). Thus, Arabic is considered as a heavily inflected language. Wehr-Cowan, the standard Arabic dictionary enlists alphabetically roost like drs () and ktb (). Root tends to be the most basic verb form which can be categorized as triliteral, quadrilateral or rarely pentaliteral. A finite set of roots along with the addition of affixes (prefixes, suffixes, and infixes) or diacritics1 are used in deriving words. Fixed pattern templates are then applied for the derivation of derivational and inflectional forms of a word. From the theoretical perspective, a single root can result in seven hundreds of Arabic words. Arabic morphology is defined by traditional Arabic grammarians to be linked with patterns associated with basic root f31 (, “to do”)- where f,3 and 1 are wildcards present in regular expressions. The first consonant is represented by the letter f (,” pronounced fa”) and is also referred as radical at times. The second and third consonants are represented by the letter 3 (, “pronounced ain”) and the letter l (, “pronounced lam”) respectively. Formation of additional patterns is done by the addition of suffixes to the basic root f31 (, “to do”). The pattern Af31 is formed by the placement of the letter Alef () as a prefix to the basic root f31 (,”to do”). This pattern is then used in forming words like arjl (,”legs”), anhr (,”rivers”) and asqf (,”ceilings”). Yf3l (), Mf3Wl (), Af3Al (), MfA3l (), etc. represent a few examples pertaining to the word patterns (Goweder, 2004).

The example here represents the use of patterns in forming words. Yktb (, “he writes or he is writing”) is the verb formed by mapping the consonants linked to the triliteral root ktb () to the yf31() pattern, where the slots for root consonant are represented by letters f (), 3 (), and l () present in the second, third and fourth positions respectively. The process of the formation of the verb Yktb (, “he writes or he is writing”) by the matching of the root ktb () to the pattern yf31() is represented in figure 1. It also illustrates the process of prefix or suffix addition for the formation of a word (Goweder, 2004).

Singular, dual and plural are a part of the Arabic number system. Plurals are categorized in two ways and are referred as the regular plurals, which are the so-called sound plurals and irregular plurals which are referred as the so-called broken plurals. Appropriate suffixation as depicted in English language (e.g. hand hands) is used in forming sound plurals. The suffix oun () is added in nominative cases for the formation of sound masculine plural, while the suffix een () is used the accusative & genitive cases. The addition of the suffix at () to the singular word is used in producing the sound feminine plural (Goweder, 2004).

Triliteral roots usually apply the phenomenon of Irregular or broken plurals, which are formed by the alteration of the singular as depicted in English language by the example (Tooth teeth). The application of several different patterns is used in all cases which alter long vowels like Alef (), Waw (), Yeh (), and Alef-Maqsura (), present outside or within the consonant framework (Cowan, 1958). Generally, several adjectives and nouns have broken plurals (Haywood and Nahmad, 1976).

Several studies revolving around broken plurals have been presented due to the complexity of Arabic morphology (McCarthy and Prince, 1990b; Kiraz, 1996a; Idrissi, 1997). Despite being highly successful, these studies have major shortcomings pertaining to information retrieval. The drawbacks are due to the assumption of completely vowelized words. Apart from religious texts like books of school children, poetry, and the Holy Quran, published Arabic text does not comprise of short vowels (Abuleil and Evens, 1998).

Aspects of Contemporary Arabic morphology

Arabic language morphology is divided into two significant parts which is a well-established fact (Bohas & Guillaume, 1984). Primitive nouns constitute the first part that do not relate to verbs but it is possible to derive verbs from them. For instance, the verb [kaliba] which means “get infected with rabies” can be derived from the primitive noun [kalb] meaning “dog.” The second part corresponds to verb morphology and incorporate proper verbs and derived nouns (nouns being derived from verbs). There are further two categories of verbs: augmented and unaugmented verbs. Three patterns make the un-augmented verb forms; {faoal}, {faoil}, {faoul}. The above three configurations are referred to as ‘un-augmented’ because they originate from minimal phonetic material required by a form to surface i.e. consonants of the root and the two vowels of word pattern. In the patterns shown above, the letters / f, o, l / indicate that the three radical letters of a root should fill the empty places. For example, an un-augmented surface form is [katam] which means “conceal.” Here the abstract root {ktm} is joined to the pattern {faoal} (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

Out of 14 patterns present in augmented forms, only 9 are used most frequently in contemporary Arabic. These are listed as follows: {faooal}, {faaoal}, {?afoal}, {tafaooal}, {tafaaoal}, {?infaoal}, {?iftaoal}, {?ifoall}, {?istafoal}. They contain additional consonantal and/or vocalic material that are essentially required to develop a surface form and thus are considered as ‘augmented’. As an example, [takattam] “keep mum” is the surface form made by joining the root {ktm} with the pattern {tafaaoal}. It is an augmented form because of the presence of epenthetic initial syllable / ta / and thus its second radical consonant / t / is geminated. The form [xaraZ] “go out” is produced by joining the root {xrZ} “going out” with the pattern {faoal}. The same root can be joined in many other combinations with five augmented verb patterns to give rise to the surface forms as follows: [xarraZ] “move out,” [?axraZ] “take out,” [taxarraZ] “graduate,” [taxaaraZ] “disengage,” [?istaxraZ] “extract.” It has been estimated that various roots can generate almost as many as 400 surface forms (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

Eight types of de-verbal nouns constitute the nominal morphology. A deverbal noun is a surface form comprising of a word pattern and a root (Cohen, 1961; Hilaal, 1990). These de-verbal nouns are: active participle, the passive participle, the instance noun, noun “masdar” and a noun indicating that the action conveyed through the verb happens once only (Holes, 1995; Wright 1995). For instance, the masculine active participle [xaariZ] “someone who goes out” consisting of root {xrZ} and word pattern {faaoil} originates from unaugmented surface form [xaraZ] “go out.” Similarly, the masculine active participles [muxarriZ], [muxriZ], [mutaxarriZ], [mutaxaariZ], [mustaxriZ] can be derived from augmented verb forms as follows: [xarraZ], [?axraZ], [taxarraZ], [taxaaraZ], [?istaxraZ]. The number of nominal word patterns extends over 100 (El-Dahdah, 1990).

These verb forms can also give rise to passive participles. Moreover, the verb [xaraZ] can generate an “instance noun,” [xarZa] “one departure,” the noun [?istixraaZ] can be derived from the verb [?istaxraZ], [taxaaruZ] from the verb [taxaaraZ] and the list goes on. The principle of productivity also implies for verbs generated from primitives. Thus the primitive noun [kalb] “dog” gives rise to [takaalab] “rave” whereas an active participle [mutakaalib] “someone who raves” and a “masdar” [takaalub] “raving” evolve from [takaalab] “rave.” In a similar manner, verbs like [talfan] “to telephone,” and an active participle like [mutalZn] “phone-caller” originate from loan words like [talifuun] “telephone” (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

The two elements of verb morphology, which are considered as highly productive, have important impacts on the inflectional plural system of a particular language (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

The qualitative productivity of sound and broken plurals in Contemporary Arabic

Pluralisation is one of the most frequently used morphological modification which the Arabic nominal forms goes through, although this is spaced out from case endings. This can be achieved through modiZcation and sufZxation. In sound pluralisation or more specifically the Zrst case, sufZx ~uun is placed as a supplementary to the citations of masculine nouns (e.g., [naaZiE-naaZiEuun] “successful” male), conversely, with feminine nouns ~aat is positioned (example [naaZiEa-naaZiEaat] “successful female”). It should be noted that a feminine sound plural ‘sufZx ~aat’ is added after eliminating the feminine singular ‘sufZx ~a’ to [naaZiEa], while masculine sound plural is straightaway added to noun stem [naaZiE] (Holes, 1995). If a noun does not end with an ‘a’ like for instance it is a proper name, for example in [marjam], [taoriif] and [ramadoaan]. A sufZx aat is added to form a plural noun. With the addition of the suffixes the result would be [marjamaat], [ramadoaanaat], and [taoriifaat].

Another form of pluralisation is the one which is connected with singular nouns and is commonly known as broken pluralisation. Examples of some singular nouns being altered are; cluster changes to clusters, while nightingale changes to nightingales and andaliib changes to anaadil (Levy & Fidelholtz, 1971; Murtonen, 1964; Ratcliffe, 1998). Many researchers denote sound pluralisation as regular inflectional process (which is rule based), while broken pluralisation is termed as irregular one (which does not stick to specific rules). The term regular refers to short-term activity under which very minimal or no allomorphy is seen; on the contrary irregular refers to substantial alterations of singular inputs. Nevertheless, if the word ‘regular’ is used to signify a consistent nature of a morphological process, then a few classes of broken pluralisation along with sound pluralisation can be defined as regular under their virtue of consistency (Ratcliffe, 1998).

Prince and McCarthy both have worked on the Contemporary Arabic. According to the work of Prince’s and McCarthy (1990), the Arabs have a minority defaulting system of pluralisation. They were of the view that all the canonical shaped lexical nouns would take broken plurals. While, proper names, derived nouns, adjectives (like for instance, participles, diminutives and deverbals), unassimilated loans and the letters of the alphabets will make use of sound plural (McCarthy & Prince, 1990: p. 212). The phrases mentioned above are rather misleading because they fail to distinguish between qualitative and quantitative productivity. Productivity is subject to varying conditioning factors, while the dissimilarity between qualitative and quantitative aspects assists in capturing progression. If a morphological process is described as qualitative then it means it is dependent on various conditioning factors. The conditioning factors can be syntactic, phonological, semantic or pragmatic (Anshen & Aronoff, 1999; Aronoff, 1976; Baayen, 1992; Bauer, 1983). Conditioning factors do not exclude the possibility of particular inflectional operations from being productive under a controlled structures form (Aronoff & Anshen, 1998; Ratcliffe, 1998). The processes leading towards quantitative productivity have very few constraints and a large number of items can be applied to the language. An example of the rival suffixes “ity” and “ness” will help in clarifying this point. Suffix “ity” tends to present an example of qualitative productivity while “ness” suffix is an instance of quantitative productivity. The suffix “ity” is considered as qualitatively productive because it is used for converting many adjectives into nouns. It is placed at the end of adjectives which have suffixes like “ible,” “able,” “ic” “id.” Since, “ness” is subjected to lesser constraints it is considered to be quantitatively productive (Aronoff & Anshen, 1998).

Taking in to consideration the characteristics pertaining to broken pluralisation and sound and the plural system of Contemporary Arabic, both the cases present a picture of qualitative productivity. Sound pluralisation, particularly the masculine plural must essentially meet some nominal forms in accordance with the formal and probable syntactic criteria, as suggested by McCarthy and Prince (1990). Both sound or suffixal pluralisation and broken pluralisation are qualitatively productive. Broken pluralisation is mostly applied to lexicalised derivatives and short primitive nominal forms which consist of two or three consonants. Thus, several conditioning factors have led to the fact that both sound and broken pluralisation be considered as qualitatively productive. As an example, consider that the plural template [fuooaal] needs to be lexicalised in the nominal form and be in the form of pattern [faaoil], before application. However, there lies a room for determining which one of the two types of pluralisation tends to be a quantitative productive process (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

The quantitative productivity of sound and broken plurals in Contemporary Arabic

Several combinations of nine frequent augmented word patterns can be mounted in a productive way for a given trilateral root in Arabic for the creation of new words. As an example, one can consider the trilateral unaugmented surface form [katab] “write,” which can be transformed in to seven augmented forms. Contrary to this, the triliteral unaugmented surface [oabaT] “fool around” results in only one augmented form [oaabaT] “banter.” It can be safely hypothesized that triliteral roots result in at least three surface forms on an average. However, in Arabic there does not exist any systematic statistical work pertaining to the number of unaugmented and augmented verbs formed. Each augmented form may results in at least four deverbal forms considering the analysis of active and passive participles in masculine and feminine forms. This fact has further confused the analysis carried out by Boudelaa and Gaskell (2002), yet it is true that all these forms are derived in a transparent way and will take a sound plural (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

The roots of Arabic have been penned down by Moussa (1996) in Taj Al-Arous, which is considered as one of the major dictionaries of the language. According to his statistics, there exist 7597 triliterals, 4081 quadriliterals and 300 quinquiliterals out of a total of 11,978 words. The fact that each root can lead to the derivation of at least four deverbal surface form is not an overestimation, as triliteral roots itself yield 7597 3-4 e 91,164 surface forms which will take a sound plural. This estimate will rise drastically if quadriliteral and quinquiliterals derivatives are also taken in to consideration. This inflated prediction of the figure can be justified by the counter- argument that derivatives like assimilated nouns are pluralised in a broken way more frequently while transparent derivatives get pluralised in a broken way once they are lexicalised. This fact can easily be countered by considering that either a diminutive or a feminine form or both exist for any assimilated noun or any other noun which has a plural form. These diminutive or feminine forms do take a sound plural. As an example, one can see that [ouwaiqir] is the diminutive form having a sound feminine plural [ouwaiqiraat], derived from the assimilated noun [oaaqir] “barren” which has the broken plural [oawaaqir]. In the same way, “monkey” is a primitive noun [qird] which has a broken plural [quruud]. However, the feminine form of this noun is [qirda] “female monkey” which has a sound plural form [qirdaat]. Similarly, there exist several forms which pluralise in the suffixed regular way for majority of the forms having irregular broken plural. However, the rule does not turn true in the reverse case. Not only this, several semantic considerations also govern the type of pluralisation taken by a specific nominal form. Majority of the active participles like [kaatib] “writer” which are derived from an unaugmented verb pluralise in an irregular or regular way on the basis of whether they function as an adjective or as a substantive. When they function as a substantive they indicate a permanent activity or quality and form a broken plural. So, the broken plural [kuttaab] is used when the token [kaatib] is used in the sense of “author.” This implies that surface forms taking a broken plural are quite less than the number of surface word forms which take a sound plural in Contemporary Arabic. Thus, sound pluralisation is subjected to several conditioning factors yet it is considered as a quantitative productive process in Contemporary Arabic. The following section will now present certain statistical evidences for corroborating this claim (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

Statistical investigation of the Contemporary Arabic plural system

All the nouns listed in the “Basic Lexicon of Modern Standard Arabic” (henceforth BLMSA)” were analysed by Boudelaa and Gaskell (2002) to review broken plurals. Their study comprised of almost 3000 words of the language which are being frequently used (Khouloughli, 1992). The BLMSA was made on the basis of deep statistical analysis of more than 200,000 words taken from newspaper and the literary works conducted in the entire Arab world. There are 1670 forms of nouns and adjectives which had been reported by the author. Among them, there are 666 forms of words which are clearly listed as broken plural; 610 as sound plural, which includes 395 feminine and 215 masculine; the rest 394 words are either plural or singular and furthermore the author also said that they can be sound or broken. The further bifurcation of these 394 words 16 are sound-plural, 352 are singular-form having sound plural, 6 broken plural-forms and 20 singular-form having a broken-plural. There is a possibility that the author had listed only plural or singular forms as unpublished form is out of 3000 most common words of the English language. Yet, they cannot be described as ‘hapax legomena’ in a possible available database. There are some familiar collection of many words which are although unlisted (murabba’aat = squares), and (‘aaliha = gods) having their own broken and sound plural-forms of their singular-forms (murabba = square), and (ilaah = god) are yet found even in the books of children (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

There was a pre-test conducted by an earlier author (for some other study) on 15 native Arabic users, in this they were requested to rate the words according to their familiarity with them on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 being familiar and 1 being rare. However, these 1200 set of words used in this test are different from a couple of words which Khouloughli (1992) listed. The results of this pre-test clearly showed that these set of words were rated as the highest familiar words and yet Khouloughli skipped these words and leave them unlisted. Looking at the word [? ] “Needs,” it is an unlisted broken plural that was rated on a 5 point scale. The 5 score showed the most familiarity and 1 the least familiarity. This word scored a high 4.5 on the scale. Looking at two other examples for unlisted sound plural forms [? ] “Chances” and [? ] “Celebrations,” their scores were 4.22 and 4 respectively (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

From this one see that within the BLMSA, the amount of nominal forms that have a sound plural go well beyond 950. In total, there were 978 forms. Roughly 41% of the selected 1670 frequently nominal forms had a broken plural form while another roughly 59% pluralized by either adding on a suffix or by making use of the forms remaining. Their breakdown is as follows: 610 forms had their sound and singular forms stated, another 352 had the singular forms stated without any plural forms and 16 sound plural forms that didn’t have their singular forms stated). A certain degree of caution needs to be employed with these figures because the BLMSA database is fairly limited, consisting of just 3000 of the most frequently used words in a language. In spite of this fact, these results can be considered highly reliable because the words take into account broken plurals and nouns that take on sounds. This was tested by checking a representation of the BLMSA against random selected Arabic text samples. From the results it was clear to see that the rules that utilized in the Modern Standard Arabic samples and the lexical unit samples easily matched the non-technical new age texts (Koulogughi, 1992, p.12).

If the BLMSA can be taken as the representative then it is clear to see that a majority of the languages nominal forms have a clear plural sound and a mere 41% has a broken plural form. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that there is a clear chance that these values are clearly underestimating the wide spread use of sound plurals. If one considers the BLMSA to be nothing more than a sampling of a language’s most frequently used words and irregulars are often common words, there is a high chance for lower frequency nouns to have a clear slant towards regular plurals (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

Murtonen conducted an in-depth study in 1964 where he examined how broken plural’s formed in the Arabic language. The research made use of statistical surveys, covering all nominal forms and included the broken plural list that was included in Lane’s dictionary. The study did not include the nominal forms that started with the following glides: / w, j / 2. His study showed that there were 9540 nominal forms that have a broken plural form. Should the / w, j / glides also be included, it is expected to increase the total amount of forms that have irregular forms. The number is far less than the estimated amount of nominal forms that were expected. Generally, nominal forms that tend to be pluralized frequently go far above 90,000 words. This holds true even if restrictions are applied on passive and active participles that derive themselves from any trilateral roots (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

When one keeps this in mind, Contemporary Arabic doesn’t seem to be a good model of a minority-default language. This mindset comes from the works of several Arabic lexicographers who listed just the broken plural forms due to their unpredictability. Plunkett and Nakisa (1997) and McCarthy and Prince (1990) reliance on the Wehr Arabic Dictionary (Wehr, 1976) is hardly an exception either because it doesn’t include any plural sounds of the derivatives. There are many other Arabic frequency lists that tend to count feminine sound plural and masculine sound plural as separate tokens but related to the similar singular type. These same lists however, take the broken plural forms to be different types when considered against singular forms (Abdah, 1979).

This section lays out the corpus and linguistic-based evidence which proves that Contemporary Arabic’s plural system doesn’t make it a minority default. There is a lot more that goes into an affixational process than it does into a templatic process. However, the amounts of regulars that are present within the system are not as many as the amount present in English past tense, which has 95% regulars (Daughtery & Seidenberg, 1992). The next part of this paper will study the research that was done on Contemporary Arabic nominal forms and their distributional structures. The methodology used on using principal components analysis was applied on the BLMSA sample material (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

The phonological distribution of sound and broken plurals

Thanks to the claims that were made about Arabic being a minority default system, many claims have been made that a connectionist model cannot be applied to it (Pinker & Prince, 1994). This claim was examined by Plunkett & Nakisa (1997) and their results showed that having a minority default status does not automatically lead to problems for having a connectionist link. They used connectionist simulations and statistical analysis to show that regulars have a clear even distribution while irregulars can be found in tight clusters within a phonological area that has many uninflected forms present in it (cf. Hare, Elman & Daughtery, 1995). There are instances where the irregulars have clear phonological resemblances but there is a clear minority of them whose phonological forms differ. Irregulars could be high in amount but they have the characteristic of being concentrated within small areas of a network’s space. This makes them dissimilar to any novel items. Novel items tend to come closer to regular items and their inflections will come across as default behavior. It is possible for a multi-layered connectionist network to lead to the development of ‘distributional default’ actions (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

In another study, Plunkett and Nakisa (1997) studied the manner in which Arabic singulars following a phonological distribution by drawing on the nouns that were part of the Wehr Arabic Dictionary (Wehr, 1976). As per the statistical analysis which was performed on the distribution of singulars in a phonological phase, it was concluded that the Arabic plural model failed to provide proper basis for the development of a distributional default. Sound plurals appeared phonologically more consistent than the broken plurals. A connectionist network which is skilled on singular to plural mapping would be improbable to develop behaviour approaching a default rule (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

According to Nakisa and Plunkett (1997), even in the absence of proper conditions which are essential for the development of default behaviour, the connectionist model successfully generalize and learn the pluralisation and that also pretty well. If truth to be told, then generalization, which comprises of unskilled patterns, is considered to be superior to the double root one, despite of the fact that division of labour is present between the two routes. As a result, the performance of the network was adequate, with neither a minority nor majority default (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

The findings of Nakisa and Plunkett (1997) are quite important because it emphasises on the essential conditions which are required for a default like behaviour of a morphological process under a connectionist model. The attributes of a connectionist model does not only rely on the irregular and regular items but it heavily depends on the distribution of such items with in phonological space. There are a number of questions which are still unanswered as far as the Arabic cases are concerned. The data base which was selected by Nakisa and Plunkett (1997) during this research was a bias one, because it only had a population of 24% with respect to sound plurals. Moreover, the detailed predictions stated by both of them are rather speculative in nature. This has been discussed previously as well, that Arabic has a vast majority of sound plurals but this fact is not sufficient enough to justify that connectionist system will deal with the sound plurals in a default like way. It is important to examine the language’s representative sample and its phonological properties so that the distributional default can be assessed. If results conclude that both classes of broken and sound plural are compact and well defined in term of phonology, then “no default” system shall be established as defined by Plunkett and Nakisa (1997).

Analysis of Arabic nouns

The analyses of 1670 BLMSA was based on 16 categories containing more than 10 members and were classified into nominal forms by plural type. Each singular form was translated into a featural code, for examining the phonological similarities existing between the group members. The featural code was based on some modification pertaining to the temp-late system presented by Plunkett and Nakisa (1997). The first step involved the alignment of the phonemic transcriptions of the singular forms to the 18-slot template comprising of alternating vowels and consonant slots. The consonants were placed in consonant slots and the vowels were put in respective vowel slots, filling each slot from left to right. The occurrence of two vowels or consonants present in a row within a word created an empty slot between them, ensuring the best possible representation of similarities existing between words, through the comparison of like words with each other. As an example, jur-H was the representation of / ZurE / “scar” in the template. The process of gathering similarities existing between different phonemes is done by translating the slot-based phoneme representations to featural representations. This transformation resulted in a 360 dimensional vector having 18 slots with 20 features pertaining to each singular form. Considering the entire data set, each word forms a point in the 360 dimensional spaces. One can cater the issue regarding the distribution of different plural classes in the multidimensional space (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

The principal components analysis or PCA carries the group of points within a high dimensional space and from it derives the small set of the orthogonal vectors that acquires the largest variation within these points. The genuine points can be designed over the principal components in order to extract a plot of low dimension thus retaining the most significant data from the high dimensional space and removing the unwanted dimensions. It can be seen from figure 1 that the locations of variable plural subtypes within a plane over all these spaces provided by the initial three chief components that is these three dimensions acquires the largest variations. According to the sample utilized by the Plunkett and Nakisa (1997), comparatively the limited positions are taken by the sound plurals within a given space. As for the model developed by Boudelaa and Gaskell (2002), the sound plurals are universal. There are a multiple completely vacant regions in the space that corresponds to the fundamental combinations which are formed badly, but the regions which are occupied mostly are taken up by the sound plurals, though the set of broken plurals are likely to be more understandable.

Figure 1: taken from Boudelaa and Gaskell (2002)

According to Plunkett and Naksia (1997), they concluded their analysis by designing a consistent measure for every plural subtype. Thus, for the database comprising of the plural types of great variation, this measure is of less value, because of it being confounded by the set size, so that the greater set would be generally rated to be more consistent due to its size. Instead of this a as a whole, one sees the comparative isolation of the irregular and the regular groups. Thus to simplify the situation, in order for the regular groups within a connectionist model to perform like a distributional default, there must be a great chance for the randomly selected non-word would most likely be corresponding to one of the currently present regulars, and will thus get processed in the similar manner. Every word within the language shall be having its own area of influence located within the phonological space, if either of the novels falls within the provided area; it would be nearest to that point and thus will be inflicted in the similar manner (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

Within a language the greatest area of influence are those areas which have many of the influential items. These areas can be evaluated by calculating, for every word within language, the distance since the closest neighbour both belonging to same and to all class. The class having the greatest number of isolated members are likely to be more influential, due to these words causing the greater influence, which is the expression of generalization to the novel forms. The following analysis determines that in Arabic there are greater number of sound plurals along with them being spread over within the phonological space and thus produces a larger area of influence. According to coherence measure utilized by the Plunkett and Naksia (1997), it was dependent on the ratio of the closest neighbour in between and within the sets. The greater sets are likely to contain a member close to any of the given point thus resulting in a low nearest neighbour distance. Monte Carlo’s evaluation regarding randomly generalized sets shows a greater coherence value for a larger set and lower coherence value for smaller sets (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

Following is a simplified evaluation regarding the function of connectionist model, as the amount of influence is dependent over the consistency in between the frequency of the presentation and multiple neighbours. According to an initial approximate, it’s valid. It must also be observed that the characterization is adaptable to the gang effect produced by irregular group, for example keep-kept, sleep-slept and weep- wept. These groups influence as a cluster in a tightly strained phonological space. Therefore, the influence of every individual item in the provided groups is confined. For the purpose of distribution default, there must be a broad distribution of single class words (Plunkett & Nakisa, 1997). There are approximately 4.9 features while there is a difference of 3.7 in broken plurals. The extent to which advantage can be gained depends on the quantity of items in every plural class. When neighbour distances break down, in this case both the larger influential area and numerical dominance becomes clear: the sounds of plurals differs from neighbour broken plural with an average of 12.2 features. Similarly, broken plurals differ from neighbour sound plural by approximately 6.0 features. The statistics show that sound plurals are easy to find if compared with broken plurals. Figure 2 show the results. The forms that have 8 features or more than that are plotted are different from the nearest but opposite class (25% broken plurals and 68% sound plurals) (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).

Figure 2: taken from Boudelaa and Gaskell (2002)

One of the features of broken plurals is that they are strongly packed in tight pockets whereas on the other hand a sound plural is spread out. Such a state matches directly with the distributional default activity for the development of connectionist model. Stories having phonological similarity to the group of nouns that are not regular are likely to be inflected in the same manner, whereas all of the other novel forms may take the sound plural. It should be emphasized that in case of Arabic, it is likely to be less extreme that it is in English and that the Arabic irregulars are to be considerably more influential as compare to English counterparts. The particular feature is reflected in the section of phonological space presented in figure 2 that is dominated by the broken plurals. Despite the fact that few productivity constraints will not be identified by the pure phonological analysis, as mentioned above, these clusters would still render generalisation and productivity that is similar to qualitative productivity of broken plurals. Nevertheless, Arabic pluralisation is not included in minority default system, as per the claim of many researchers (Boudelaa and Gaskell, 2002).


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