Morphology of COVID-19 Neologisms in Modern Standard Arabic

Othman Aref Al-Dala’ien
Al-Balqa Applied University, Jordan, Department: Department of English Language and Literature
Zeyad Al-Daher
Al-Balqa Applied University, Jordan, Department of English Language and Literature
Mohammad Al-Rousan
Ajloun National University, Jordan, Department of English Language and Literature
Yasser Al-Shboul
Al-Balqa Applied University, Jordan, Department of English Language and Literature
Mohammad Ihssan Zabadi
Gulf University for Science and Technology-Kuwait, English Language Unit


This study investigates the morphological behavior of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) in terms of developing neologisms related to the new requirements imposed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The data of the study was collected from the news reports of Al-Mamlakah TV, as being the most viewed channel in Jordan during the COVID-19 crisis. The findings of the study revealed that a majority of the collected neologisms were nouns, which provided further support to the theory of onomasiology (Štekauer, 1998). Compounding, borrowing (loan-translation, Arabicization, and hybridization), and semantic extension formed the major word-formation processes for creating such neologisms. Compounds fell into three categories depending on their internal structures: N+Adj, N+N, and more elaborate complex compounds. The first two types were discussed in terms of their headedness and internal syntactic structure with a special reference to the cross-linguistic criteria that were used to identify such compound constructs, whereas the analysis advanced for the third type was inspired by Carstairs-McCarthy (2017). The data analysis revealed interesting aspects in the morphology of COVID-19 neologisms, most noticeably, the higher productivity of (N+N) compounds than (N+Adj) compounds, which goes against the putative assumption that the latter is much commoner in Arabic, identifying new compound types in MSA, namely, N+A metaphoric compounds and N+N hybridized compounds, and the   possibility of having newly created three-member complex compounds (i.e., compounds within compounds).

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