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Reflection of Grammatical Case

What is this Tutorial About?

When we talk about grammatical declension (also known as inflection or إعراب), we want to have the following discussions:

 

1.       Which words in the language are declinable (معرب) and which are indeclinable (مبني)? And why?

2.       Of those that decline, what are the different grammatical cases? And under what circumstances does the case of a word change?

3.       Once we know what the case of a word is, how do we represent that on the word? This is what this tutorial deals with.

4.       What are the regents (عامل pl. عوامل) that bring about this change of case?

 

An overview of grammatical declension has been given in the tutorial entitled The Heart of Arabic Grammar. Point (1) regarding which words inflect and which do not has been thoroughly discussed in the tutorial entitled Grammatical Inflection. Point (2) is a complicated question with a very long answer. There are many tutorials that explain when words enter which grammatical state. Such tutorials include Arabic Adverbs. Now this tutorial deals with point (3).

How are we Going to Approach this Topic?

Note that when we say noun (اسم pl. أسماء), we mean anything other than a particle or a verb. This includes adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, etc.

 

There are 9 possible ways in which grammatical case can be represented on an Arabic noun. For the purposes of this subject matter, we divide Arabic nouns  into 16 categories. So for the rest of this tutorial, we will be:

 

1.       explaining how these 9 grammatical representations work,

2.       what the 16 different types of nouns are, and

3.       assigning each of the 16 noun types one of the 9 methods of inflection

 

As you may note, one inflection type may be used for many noun types. But one noun type will only have one inflection type.

 

Noun 1

Noun 2

Noun 3

Inflection 1

Noun 4

Inflection 2

Noun 5

Inflection 3

Noun 6

Inflection 4

Noun 7

Noun 8

Noun 9

Inflection 5

Noun 10

Noun 11

Noun 12

Inflection 6

Noun 13

Noun 14

Inflection 7

Noun 15

Inflection 8

Noun 16

Inflection 9

 


 

Inflection Type I

How it’s Represented

The first method of inflecting nouns in Arabic is to use the three short vowels on the last letter of the noun. In particular, the nominative case (رفع) is reflected with ضمة, the accusative (نصب) with فتحة and the genitive (جر) with  كسرة. And note that nunation (تنوين) is not an issue; the noun may or may not have nunation depending on external factors.

 

Example

ضرب زيدٌ عمراً بالخشبةِ

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

المفرد المنصرف الصحبح: a singular, first-declension noun whose final letter is not a glide. By singular, of course, we mean that the noun is neither dual nor any type of plural. Furthermore, the concept of first- and second-declension is a discussion which will not be covered here; the reader is assumed to have adequate knowledge on the topic. And finally, the last letter may not be a glide. Arabic has two glides; the واو and ياء letters.

 

Example

زيدٍ

زيداً

زيدٌ

 

المفرد الجاري مجرى الصحيح: a singular noun which is equivalent to the above noun type. By equivalent, we mean that it is the same in every way, but that the final letter may be a glide provided that glide is preceded by سكون.

 

Example

دلْوٍ

دلْواً

دلْوٌ

ظبْيٍ

ظبْياً

ظبْيٌ

 

الجمع المكسر المنصرف: a first-declension noun which is a broken plural. We will assume that the reader is familiar with broken plurals.

 

Example

رجالٍ

رجالاً

رجالٌ

 

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Visible change using all three (short) vowels

Type 1

1 المفرد المنصرف الصحيح

2 المفرد الجاري مجرى الصحيح

3 الجمع المكسّر المنصرف

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ


Critical Thinking

1.       For noun type 2, why don’t we bother saying that the noun must be first-declension, like we do for types 1 and 3?

2.       Consider the phrase “لا حولَ ولا قوةَ”. Do the words حول and قوة fall into one of these three types of nouns – notice that there is no nunation on either word? Why or why not?

3.       Does the name عمرو fall into one of the three noun types? If so, which one?


 

Inflection Type II

How it’s Represented

The second method of inflecting nouns in Arabic is to use the ضمة to reflect the nominative case, and the كسرة to reflect the accusative and the genitive cases. Again note that nunation is not an issue.

 

Example

عرّفت الطالباتُ مسيحياتٍ على مسلماتٍ

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

الجمع المؤنث السالم: a sound feminine plural. For the purpose of this discussion, this includes any and all nouns that are suffixed with an extra ـات, whether or not it is actually a feminine plural in meaning or not.

 

Example

مسلماتٍ

مسلماتٍ

مسلماتٌ

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Visible change using all three (short) vowels

Type 1

1 المفرد المنصرف الصحيح

2 المفرد الجاري مجرى الصحيح

3 الجمع المكسّر المنصرف

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Visible change using some (short) vowels

Type 2

الجمع المؤنث السالم 4

ـٍ

ـٍ

ـٌ


Critical Thinking

1.       Why do you think the sound feminine plural needed to use a different method of inflection in the language; why doesn’t it simply use the same scheme as the first three noun types?

Hint: the nunation on the sound feminine plural is considered to be a different type of nunation from that of all other declinable nouns. This is because the grammarians want to contrast it to the letter ي in the sound masculine plural.


 

Inflection Type III

How it’s Represented

The third method of inflecting nouns is to use the ضمة to reflect the nominative case, and the فتحة to reflect the accusative and the genitive cases. But this method of inflection only utilizes these short vowels in non-nunation.

 

Example

رأت فاطمةُ ابنة عمرانَ قوافلَ مزدهرة

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

غير المنصرف: a second-declension noun. Note that such nouns revert back to first-declension when prefixed by the definite article, or when they are a non-final word in a genitival construction (مضاف). So words such as “القوافل” or “قوافل القوم”, for example, are not included in this category.

 

Example

قوافلَ

قوافلَ

قوافلُ

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Visible change using all three (short) vowels

Type 1

1 المفرد المنصرف الصحيح

2 المفرد الجاري مجرى الصحيح

3 الجمع المكسّر المنصرف

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Visible change using some (short) vowels

Type 2

الجمع المؤنث السالم 4

ـٍ

ـٍ

ـٌ

Type 3

غير المنصرف، لا يعرف باللام ولا يضاف اليه 5

ـَ

ـَ

ـُ


Critical Thinking

1.       Why do you think it is that second-declension nouns don’t experience nunation?

Hint: in classical Arabic grammar, a word is said to be in second-declension when it has two of the nine qualities that are taken up in the study of such nouns. And each of those qualities expresses the noun becoming heavy, long, or in some way awkward.

2.       In the following sentence, try and pick out as many nouns as possible, assigning to them one of the five noun types we’ve discussed so far, as applicable.


فنحن – عرب اليوم – بين لغة فصحى، يتفاهم بها بعض الناس في جميع بلاد العربية، وبين لغات عامية عديدة، يتفاهم بكل منها جميع الناس، في بعض المناطق المحدودة من بعض البلاد العربية. — من "كتاب في الادب واللغة وعلاقاتهما بالقومية" ابو خلدون ساطع الحصري؛ مركز دراسات الوحدة العربية: بيروت، ۱۹۸۵.


 

Inflection Type IV

How it’s Represented

The fourth type of inflection stops dealing with short vowels and looks at using long vowels to represent grammatical case on a noun. In particular, the nominative case is reflected with واو, the accusative with الف, and the genitive with ياء.

 

Example

ألفى حموه حماه لدى حميه

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

أب، أخ، حم، هن، فم، ذو: these are six particular nouns in the Arabic lexicon. They are translated as ‘father’, ‘brother’, ‘father-in-law’, a swear word, ‘mouth’, and ‘possessor of ...’, respectively. This last word is in the same meaning of ‘صاحب’ as in “ذو مال” meaning possessor of wealth or affluent person. In order for one of these words to be inflected using the fourth inflection type, the following conditions must be met:

 

1.       the word must not be diminutive, as in ‘أخيو

2.       the word must be in the singular form as seen above

3.       it must be مضاف towards something other than the first person personal pronoun, as in ‘أخي

 

Example

في

فا

فو

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Visible change using all three long vowels

Type 4

المكبرة الموحدة المضافة الى غير ياء المتكلم 6

أب أخ حم هن فم ذو

ي

ا

و


Critical Thinking

1.       Can you find a case where it is ambiguous whether فيه is the word فم or the genitival particle, في? If not, can you prove there will never be ambiguity?

2.       What difference do you notice in the inflection process of فم and ذو as compared to the rest?


 

Inflection Type V

How it’s Represented

The fifth type of inflection uses الف to represent the nominative case, and ياء to represent the accusative and genitive cases.

 

Example

رأى رجلان زوجتيهما مع صديقيهما

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

مثنى: dual nouns. This includes nouns that are suffixed with ـانِ indicating duality.

 

Example

رجلين

رجلين

رجلان

 

كلا وكلتا: these are two particular words in the Arabic lexicon. They must be مضاف to a pronoun, in which case they mean ‘both of ....’ If this condition is not met, these words are reflected with الف in all three grammatical cases.

 

Example

كلي

كلي

كلا

كلتي

كلتي

كلتا

 

اثنان واثنتان: these are two particular words in the Arabic lexicon. Both words mean ‘two’ and have been included here, although they could simply have been grouped with the category of dual nouns, to be explicit.

 

Example

اثنين

اثنين

اثنان

اثنتين

اثنتين

اثنتان

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Visible change using all three long vowels

Type 4

المكبرة الموحدة المضافة الى غير ياء المتكلم 6

أب أخ حم هن فم ذو

ي

ا

و

 

Visible change using some long vowels

Type 5

مثنى 7

كلا وكلتا المضافتان الى ضمير 8

اثنان واثنتان 9

ي

ي

ا


Critical Thinking

1.       Why do we bother separating noun types 7, 8 and 9; why not group them into one category?


 

Inflection Type VI

How it’s Represented

The sixth method of inflecting nouns is to represent the nominative case with واو, and the accusative and genitive with ياء.

 

Example

صلّى المهندسون مع البنائيـن مقنعي رؤوسهم

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

الجمع المذكر السالم: the sound masculine plural.

 

Example

عاملين

عاملين

عاملون

 

عشرون الى تسعون: the multiples of ten between twenty and ninety.

Example

عشرين

عشرين

عشرون

 

أولو: this is a particular word from the Arabic lexicon. It is one of the plurals of the word ذو, which we have seen before. As such, it is always مضاف. A noteworthy point in the phonology of this word is that the first واو is silent.

 

Example

أولي

أولي

أولو

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Visible change using all three long vowels

Type 4

المكبرة الموحدة المضافة الى غير ياء المتكلم 6

أب أخ حم هن فم ذو

ي

ا

و

 

Visible change using some long vowels

Type 5

مثنى 7

كلا وكلتا المضافتان الى ضمير 8

اثنان واثنتان 9

ي

ي

ا

Type 6

الجمع المذكر السالم 10

عشرون الى تسعون 11

اولو 12

ي

ي

و


Critical Thinking

1.       What are we trying to indicate by noun type 11; why do we differentiate it from type 10?

2.       Reflection types 5 and 6 both represent the accusative and genitive cases using a ياء. Can this result in any confusion? How or why not?

3.       In tandem with the previous question, are the فتحة that precede the ياء of duality and the كسرة that precede the ياء of masculine plurality part of the grammatical reflection?

Hint: think of the word “مصطفون” (many chosen ones); how is it vocalized?


 

Inflection Type VII

How it’s Represented

This method of inflection utilizes an assumed ضمة to reflect the nominative case, an assumed فتحة for the accusative, and an assumed كسرة for the genitive. Due to certain morphophonemic properties, words that utilize this method of reflection cannot explicitly show the vowels on their final letters. Had they been able to do as such, they would have fallen under reflection type 1.

 

Example

مدرستـ(ـُ)ـي كانت أقصـ(ـَ)ـى من جامعتـ(ـِ)ـي

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

المضاف الى ياء المتكلم: a noun which is مضاف towards the first person personal pronoun. However, note that this class of nouns does not include sound masculine plurals which are مضاف to the ياء. There is a separate category altogether for such nouns.

 

Example

دلوي

دلوي

دلوي

 

الاسم المقصور: a noun that ends in a ياء مقصورة.

 

Example

مصطفى

مصطفى

مصطفى

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Completely invisible change of short vowels

Type 7

غير الجمع المذكر السالم، المضاف الى ياء المتكلم 13

  الاسم المقصور 14

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ


Critical Thinking

1.       We’ve indicated in noun type 13 that the noun cannot be a sound masculine plural in order for it to be included in this category. What conditions have we not mentioned?

2.       How do we make an اسم مقصور possessor (مضاف) towards the ياء of first person?


 

Inflection Type VIII

How it’s Represented

This type of reflection is very similar to the previous in that the nominative and genitive cases are reflected using assumed ضمة and كسرة, respectively. But the accusative case is represented with a clearly visible فتحة.

 

Example

القاضـ(ـُ)ـي قد يزور النواديَ بعد المقاهـ(ـِ)ـي

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

الاسم المنقوص: those nouns that end in a long vowel ياء. Note that this long vowel ياء does not include the personal pronoun, nor suffixes like it.

 

Example

قاضي

قاضياً

قاضي

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Completely invisible change of short vowels

Type 7

غير الجمع المذكر السالم، المضاف الى ياء المتكلم 13

  الاسم المقصور 14

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Partially invisible change of short vowels

Type 8

الاسم المنقوص 15

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ


Critical Thinking

1.       Grammarians have tried hard to make all of these noun types mutually exclusive. That way, a given noun will fall into one, and only one, of them. And hence there will be no confusion as to how grammatical case is reflected on it. But some nouns can fall under type 15 and another type simultaneously. What is that other type? Can you find an example of such a noun?

2.       Continuing form question 1, what do we do in this case; how are the two types of reflection reconciled? Use a case-analysis approach to answer this.


 

Inflection Type IX

How it’s Represented

Finally, the ninth method of representing grammatical inflection in Arabic is as follows. We use an assumed واو to represent the nominative case, and an explicit ياء for the accusative and genitive cases.

 

Example

رأيت عاملـ(ـو)ـيَّ ثم جائني عامليَّ فمررت بعامليَّ

 

Which Nouns Use this Representation

الجمع المذكر السالم المضاف الى ياء المتكلم: the sound masculine plural which is مضاف towards the ياء personal pronoun. This is the type of noun which was excluded in noun type 13.

 

Example

مسلميّ

مسلميّ

مسلميّ

 

Summary

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

نصب

رفع

 

Completely invisible change of short vowels

Type 7

غير الجمع المذكر السالم، المضاف الى ياء المتكلم 13

  الاسم المقصور 14

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Partially invisible change of short vowels

Type 8

الاسم المنقوص 15

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Partially invisible change of long vowels

Type 9

الجمع المذكر السالم المضاف الى ياء المتكلم 16

ي

ي

و


Critical Thinking

1.       Does this final noun type apply to words like مصطفون? Explain.


 

Extend your Knowledge

Below is a summary of what we have learned:

 

 

 

الإعراب

 

الاسم المتمكن

جر

(genitive)

نصب

(accusative)

رفع

(nominative)

 

Visible change using all three short vowels

Type 1

1 المفرد المنصرف الصحيح

2 المفرد الجاري مجرى الصحيح

3 الجمع المكسّر المنصرف

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Visible change using some short vowels

Type 2

الجمع المؤنث السالم 4

ـٍ

ـٍ

ـٌ

Type 3

غير المنصرف، لا يعرف باللام ولا يضاف اليه 5

ـَ

ـَ

ـُ

 

Visible change using all three long vowels

Type 4

المكبرة الموحدة المضافة الى غير ياء المتكلم 6

أب أخ حم هن فم ذو

ي

ا

و

 

Visible change using some long vowels

Type 5

مثنى 7

كلا وكلتا المضافتان الى ضمير 8

اثنان واثنتان 9

ي

ي

ا

Type 6

الجمع المذكر السالم 10

عشرون الى تسعون 11

اولو 12

ي

ي

و

 

Completely invisible change of short vowels

Type 7

غير الجمع المذكر السالم، المضاف الى ياء المتكلم 13

  الاسم المقصور 14

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Partially invisible change of short vowels

Type 8

الاسم المنقوص 15

ـٍ

ـً

ـٌ

 

Partially invisible change of long vowels

Type 9

الجمع المذكر السالم المضاف الى ياء المتكلم 16

ي

ي

و

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Now you can use what you know about how this type of discussion works to extend your knowledge. Read and understand the table below that replicates this topic of grammar for verbs.

 

 

 

الاعراب

 

الفعل المضارع

جزم

(jussive)

نصب

(subjunctive)

رفع

(indicative)

Type 1

المفرد الصحيح بغير نون الرفع 1

ـْ

ـَ

ـُ

Type 2

المعتل الواويّ بغير نون الرفع 2

المعتل اليائي بغير نون الرفع 3

حذف اللام

ـَ

ـُ

Type 3

المعتل الالفيّ بغير نون الرفع 4

حذف اللام

ـَ

ـُ

Type 4

المضارع مع نون الرفع 5

حذف النون

حذف النون

ن

 



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