Saturday, September 27, 2008

Arabic grammar

Arabic Grammar

Due to the rapid expansion of Islam in the 8th century many people learned Arabic as a lingua franca. For this reason, the earliest grammatical treatises on Arabic are often written by non-native speakers.
Traditionally, the grammatical sciences are divided into four branches:
al-lugah (lexicon) concerned with collecting and explaining vocabulary.
at-ta-rif (morphology) determining the form of the individual words.
an-na-w (syntax) primarily concerned with inflection (i-rab) which had already been lost in dialects.
al-istiqaq (derivation) examining the origin of the words.

The Arabic noun can take one of three states of definiteness: definite, indefinite or construct state. The definite state is marked by the article al-. The indefinite state is marked by an ending -n (nunation). The construct state is unmarked and occurs in the first member of a genitive construction.
Arabic Personal Pronouns:
I - anaa, for example: anaa katabtu - I wrote.
thou (masculine) - anta, for example: anta katabta - thou wrotest.
thou (feminine) - anti, for example: anti katabti - thou wrotest.
he (masculine) - huwa, for example: huwa kataba - he wrote.
she (feminine) - hiya, for example: hiya katabat - she wrote.
we - naHnu, for example: naHnu katabnaa - we wrote.
you (pl. masculine) - antum, for example: antum katabtum - you wrote.
you (pl. feminine) - antunna, for example: antunna katabtunna - you wrote.
you two (dual masc and fem) - antumaa katabtumaa - you two wrote.
they (masc) - hum, for example: hum katabuu - they wrote.
they (fem) - hunna, for example: hunna katabna - they wrote.
they two (dual masc) - humaa - humaa katabaa - they two wrote.
they two (dual fem) - humaa - humaa katabataa - they two wrote.

Two Types of Arabic Sentences:
1. Verbal sentence: the sentence starts with the verb and subject follows. The verb is always in the singular form even for the cases where the subject is dual or plural. Examples for the verbal sentence:
dhahaba abiy ila Cairo - literal translation - has gone my father to Cairo. But, it really means - my father has gone to Cairo.
raja'a abiy min Cairo - literal translation - returned my father from Cairo. But, it really means - my father returned from Cairo.
la'iba al-waladaani - the two boys played (dual).
la'iba al-awlaadu - the boys played.
As you see, the verb is always in the singular form even though the subject is in dual or plural.
2. Nominal sentence: the sentence starts with the noun or subject and the others follow. The verb must agree with the subject in number and gender. Examples for the nominal sentence:
abiy raja'a min Cairo - My father returned from Cairo.
akhiy kataba - my brother wrote.
al-waladu la'iba - the boy played.
al-waladaani la'ibaa - the two boys played (dual).
al-awlaadu la'iboo - boys played (boys is plural = "they" so the equivalent verb for "they" is "la'iboo").
As you see, the verb agrees with the subject in number.
anaa wa akhiy wa abiy dhahabnaa ila Cairo - I and my brother and my father went to Cairo. In this sentence, I, and my brother and my father are equivalent to "us." Therefore, the verb must agree with the "us," e.g., dhahabnaa.

Arabic has two genders, expressed by pronominal as well as by verbal agreement. Agreement with numerals shows a peculiar 'polarity'. The genders are usually referred to as masculine and feminine, but the situation is more complicated than that. The 'feminine' gender is also used to express 'singulatives'.
The marker for the feminine gender is a -t- suffix, but some nouns without this marker also take feminine agreement (e. g. umm 'mother', ard 'earth'). Already in Classical Arabic, the -t marker was not pronounced in pausa. It is written with a special letter (ta marbuta) indicating that a t sound is to be pronounced in sandhi but not in pausa.

There are two main tenses in the Arabic language. 1.Perfect Tense, 2.Imperfect Tense or the Present Tense. The action is completed in the perfect tense. You may also call this as the past tense because the action is completed before the present so it belongs to the past. For example, one may say, "I ate". The action of eating was finished in the past. The past could be a few minutes or a few decades before the present time. Alternately, in the second tense, i.e., the imperfect, the action is still continuing. For example, you knock on the door and walk in. You see he is eating his meal. He says to you, "I am eating". The action is still continuing, he is still eating while talking to you. This is the present tense in English. It is also the "imperfect tense" in Arabic. You look at the table above and locate the pronoun "I" on the left column and follow it to the right to the "imperfect" column. You will see the verb, "akulu". It means, "I am eating" or "I eat". What about the future tense? Well, there is not such a thing as the future tense in Arabic. This is done by adding the prefix "sa" to the imperfect form of the verb. For example, let's look at the table above to find out the imperfect form of the verb "akala". It is "ya'kulu". Add the prefix "sa" to the "ya'kulu" you get, "saya'kulu" which means "He will eat".


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