Verbal Inflection Acquisition in Egyptian Arabic-Speaking Children: A Corpus-Based Study

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Saudi Digital Library
The Arabic verb morphology presents difficulties in language acquisition due to the fusion of tense, number, person, and gender into a single infix. Young learners' challenges are further complicated because Arabic verbs cannot function independently. The effectiveness of verbal inflections and the default verb form, specifically the imperfective bare stem, for Egyptian Arabic (EA) children has been uncertain. This study aimed to investigate the use of perfective and imperfective stem verbal inflection in EA children. Additionally, the study explored how age affects verbal inflection and default verb usage. This study was conducted using a corpus-based approach, using spontaneous speech data from ten EA children (1;07–3;08) obtained from the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) and provided by Salama in 2015. A comprehensive analysis was conducted on conversations that lasted 30 minutes. This analysis focused on evaluating the utterances of the children for accuracy, errors, and preferred verb usage. The study's findings revealed that EA children demonstrated a high level of proficiency in understanding and using verbal inflections. They achieved an impressive accuracy rate of 94%, with only a small error rate of 6%. The most common errors observed were substitution errors, followed by omissions and errors related to aspects. Our research supports Benmamoun's hypothesis (1999, 2000), which suggests that children from English-speaking backgrounds tend to use the imperfective stem as their preferred verb form. This research contributes to linguistics by investigating how children in Egypt acquire complex verb inflections in Egyptian Arabic (EA), allowing for delayed language acquisition to be pinpointed and interventions to be created. This study is significant for both EA linguistics and the broader field of Arabic linguistics.
Egyptian, verbal inflection, CHILDES, Arabic verb morphology, Corpus