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Syntactic Relations


The traditional Arabic grammar of iʿrāb (إعراب) assigns a syntactic role to each word in a sentence. Pairs of syntactic units are related through directed binary dependencies. In the Quranic Arabic corpus these relations are represented as directed edges on dependency graphs. The following tables list dependencies which are used to relate morphological segments, words, phrases and clauses.

Nominal Dependencies

Relations betweens nominals are shown in Figure 1. These include the relation between an adjective and the noun it describes, as well dependencies that relate pairs of nominals (predicate, apposition and specification). The compound relation is used to form numbers from single digit words.

Relation Arabic Name Dependency Dependent → Head
adj صفة Adjective adjective → noun
poss مضاف إليه Possessive construction second noun → first noun
pred مبتدأ وخبر Predicate of a subject predicate → subject
app بدل Apposition second noun → first noun
spec تمييز Specification second noun → first noun
cpnd مركب Compound second number → first number

Fig 1. Dependency relations for nominals.

Verbal Dependencies

Verbs are related to their arguments through subject and object dependencies, with certain special verbs taking a subject and predicate as arguments. Imperfect verbs (فعل مضارع) may form part of an imperative expression through the imperative and prohibition relations.

Relation Arabic Name Dependency Dependent → Head
subj فاعل Subject of a verb subject → verb
pass نائب فاعل Passive verb subject representative subject representative → verb
obj مفعول به Object of a verb object → verb
subjx اسم كان Subject of a special verb or particle subject → verb or particle
predx خبر كان Predicate of a special verb or particle predicate → verb or particle
impv أمر Imperative imperfect verb → imperative particle
imrs جواب أمر Imperative result result → imperative verb
pro نهي Prohibition imperfect verb → prohibitive particle

Fig 2. Dependency relations for verbs.

Phrases and Clauses

A preposition phrase is formed from a preposition and its genitive noun. Preposition phrase attachment is annotated through the link dependency. Conjunction particles relate two clauses as either a coordinating conjunction, or through a subordinating conjunction which introduces a subordinate clause. Another common pair of dependencies which relates clauses are the condition and result relations.

Relation Arabic Name Dependency Dependent → Head
gen جار ومجرور Preposition phrase preposition → noun
link متعلق PP attachment PP phrase → verb or noun
conj معطوف Coordinating conjunction second phrase → first phrase
sub صلة Subordinate clause subordinate clause → particle
cond شرط Condition condition → conditional particle
rslt جواب شرط Result result → conditional particle

Fig 3. Dependency relations for phrases and clauses.

Adverbial Dependencies

Several relations link a noun to its verb to form an adverbial expression. In each of these constructions, the noun will always be found in the accusative case manṣūb (منصوب). These include accusatives of circumstance and purpose, the cognate accusative and the comitative object.

Relation Arabic Name Dependency Dependent → Head
circ حال Circumstantial accusative accusative → verb
cog مفعول مطلق Cognate accusative accusative → verb
prp المفعول لأجله Accusative of purpose accusative → verb
com المفعول معه Comitative object accusative → verb

Fig 4. Dependency relations for adverbial expressions.

Particle Dependencies

Certain types of particle occur frequently in Quranic Arabic, and due to their individual nature they are each assigned unique syntactic relations. For example, the vocative and exceptive particles each affect the case ending of nouns that they modify according to different grammar rules. A list of dependencies for particles is shown in Figure 5 below:

Relation Arabic Name Dependency Dependent → Head
emph توكيد Emphasis verb → emphatic particle
intg استفهام Interrogation verb → interrogative particle
neg نفي Negation imperfect verb → negative particle
fut استقبال Future clause imperfect verb → future particle
voc منادي Vocative noun → vocative particle
exp مستثني Exceptive noun → exceptive particle
res حصر Restriction noun → restriction particle
avr ردع Aversion dependent → aversion particle
cert تحقيق Certainty dependent → particle of certainty
ret اضراب Retraction dependent → retraction particle
prev كاف Preventive preventive particle → accusative particle
ans جواب Answer dependent → answer particle
inc ابتداء Inceptive dependent → inceptive particle
sur فجاءة Surprise dependent → surprise particle
sup زائد Supplemental dependent → supplemental particle
exh تحضيض Exhortation dependent → exhortation particle
exl تفصيل Explanation dependent → explanation particle
eq تسوية Equalization verb → equalization particle
caus سببية Cause imperfect verb → particle of cause
amd استدراك Amendment dependent → amendment particle
int تفسير Intepretation dependent → particle of intepretation

Fig 5. Dependency relations for particles.

See Also

Language Research Group
University of Leeds