Towards a systemic functional description of the system of temporal values in Arabic

Mohamed Ali Bardi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a general consensus about how difficult it is to come up with a proper description of the system of temporal values in Arabic. Overall, while Arab linguists mostly interpret the system from a temporal angle, western studies have treated it as fully aspectual. Both camps have been inspired by the work of traditional Arab grammarians who clearly stated that the system is not paradigmatically exclusive. This article will describe the system of temporal values in Arabic by following in the footsteps of Matthiessen 1996 in his systemic functional description of tense in English. By locating the system at word rank, instead of group rank, most of the past studies have overlooked a whole range of perspectives such as serial verb constructions and the tactic interdependency potential of the verbal unit in Arabic. Based on Comrie's work on aspect and his assertion that some ‘aspect’ languages can construe different temporal values, I will suggest that it may be time to treat temporal descriptions with more flexibility and instead of dividing languages into two dichotomous groups, place them on a temporal spectrum where at one end there is tense and at the other aspect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-316
Number of pages40
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2022


  • aspect
  • experiential
  • ideational
  • interpersonal
  • logical
  • logico-semantic relation
  • metafunction
  • temporal values
  • tense
  • the rank scale


Dive into the research topics of 'Towards a systemic functional description of the system of temporal values in Arabic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this