Spatial and temporal uses of Moroccan Arabic prepositions


  • Ahmed Ech-Charfi


Correct use of prepositions is one of the most difficult problems that learners of foreign languages have to face even after many years of formal instruction. This difficulty is partly due to the lack of adequate and practical manuals, even for the
learning of international languages, including English and French. But the most crucial reason undoubtedly resides in the fact that the use of prepositions is underlied by cultural systems of belief about spatial, temporal and other relations expressed by
prepositions. A learner of English as a foreign language has to know, for example, that an island is considered in this language as a dimensionless point in order for him/her to produce correct structures such as “to live on an island” rather than incorrect ones
such as “to live in an island”, for example; the dictionary meaning of ‘on’, no matter how detailed, will not provide the necessary information for an appropriate use of the preposition.
In this paper, I will attempt to address the issue of the spatial and temporal uses of Moroccan Arabic (MA) prepositions. Throughout the paper, I will be concerned with the semantic distinctions between these prepositions and their Classical Arabic
(CA) cognates. The focus will be particularly on metaphorical uses that uncover the cultural conceptions of space and time, and where divergence between MA and CA is found, a comparison with Amazigh will be drawn in order to account for the semantic
change. MA and, until quite recently, Amazigh are unwritten languages which have been in contact with each other for a long period of time, long enough for the cultures they express to contribute to their mutual shaping. Will the uses of their corresponding
prepositions be found to reflect this common cultural background?






AXE 3 : Espace et temps dans la culture et la linguistique