The Aorist in Zenaga Berber and the Imperfective in two Arabic dialects

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In Berber studies, it is often considered – at least in French-speaking literature – that there is a specific verbal category named Aorist. This category is not supposed to exist in the Semitic family, which is also part of the Afro-Asiatic phylum. However, the Arabic prefixal conjugation shows important similarities with Berber Aorist in forms as well as uses. After studying the role of Aorist in the Berber time-aspect-mood (TAM) system and, in particular, in the Zenaga Berber of Mauritania, we will compare it with the role of prefixal conjugation in Arabic. We will show that similarities are more or less strong. Similarities are important with a Bedouin variety such as Ḥassāniyya Arabic, which doesn’t have a modal form. And similarities are even more important in a more evolved variety such as Morrocan Arabic. Indeed, in Morrocan Arabic, the use of prefixal conjugation without preverbs tends to be limited to non-referential propositions.


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