Arabic Grammar – 55

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►II.13. ORTHOGRAPHIC IRREGULARITIES

The Arabic writing in use today has few orthographic irregularities that should be noted.

►II.13.A. THE PREFIX hā–

Arabic has a demonstrative element هَاْ that means “ecce, behold, here is/are.” This word is called the “hȃʔ of drawing attention” هَاْءُ التَّنْبِيْهِ . When this word is prefixed to certain demonstrative elements it is written without the vowel-denoting ʔalif.

This (masc. sing.) hā-ðȃ هَذَاْ
These hā-ʔulȃ هَؤُلَىْ
Here hā-hunȃ هَهُنَاْ
hā-hannȃ هَهَنَّاْ
hā-hinnȃ هَهِنَّاْ
hā-hanȋ هَهَنِيْ

►II.13.B. THE PREFIX ðā–

The demonstrative ðȃ ذَاْ “this” is written without the vowel-denoting ʔalif when prefixed to the far demonstrative element li–. The far demonstrative element li– is found only as a prefix. It is called the “lȃm of distance” لامُ البُعْدِ .

That ðā-li-ka ذَلِكَ

►II.13.C. THE DEMONSTRATIVE ʔulȃ

The plural demonstrative ʔulȃ أُولَىْ “these” has an unnecessary wȃw و .

These ʔulȃ أُولَىْ
ʔulȃ-ʔi أُولاءِ
Those ʔulȃ-ka أُولاكَ
ʔulȃ-ʔi-ka أُولَئِكَ
ʔulȃ-li-ka أُولالِكَ
Those of ʔulȗ (subject case) أُولُوْا
ʔulȋ (object case) أُولِيْ

Note that the word ʔulȃ-ʔi-ka أُولَئِكَ lacks a vowel-denoting ʔalif after the lȃm.

The wȃw in ʔulȃ أُولَىْ disappears when is prefixed:

These hȃ-ʔulȃ هَؤُلَىْ
hȃ-ʔulȃ-ʔi هَؤُلاءِ

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۞ SIDE NOTE

It is probable that the wȃw in ʔulȃ أُولَىْ originally represented a long vowel *ʔȗlay. The length of this vowel was compensatory, for the original form of the demonstrative was probably *ʔullay (c.f. Hebrew ʔēlleh אֵלֶּה “these” < *ʔillay אִלַּי*; Biblical Aramaic ʔillēn אִלֵּן “these;” Tigre ʔəlli “this;” Assyrian allû “that;” Babylonian ullû “that”).

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►II.13.D. THE CONJUNCTION lākin

The conjunction lākin لَكِنْ “but” is etymologically composed of لا “not” and *kin كِنْ “so.” The written form of lākin لَكِنْ lacks a vowel-denoting ʔalif.

►II.13.E. THE MASCULINE PLURAL ATTACHED SUBJECT PRONOUN

The masculine plural attached subject pronoun –ȗ ــُوْا has a silent vowel-denoting ʔalif. This is called the “distinguisher ʔalifالْأَلِفُ الْفَاْرِقَةُ because (according to popular belief) it serves to distinguish the wȃw of the masculine plural attached subject pronoun from other wȃw’s at the end of words.

In modern Arabic the “distinguisher ʔalif” is added only to verbs. However, in the Qurʔȃn it is added also to construct nominative masculine sound plural substantives (e.g. banȗ بَنُوْا “sons [of]”). The ligature ــوا appears irregularly in the word ʔ·ar-ribȃ الْرِّبَوا “usury.”

In my opinion, it is possible that the ligature ــوا originally represented the sound o < –aw (for more information see the side note in §II.21.A.h.γ.).

►II.13.H. THE PERSONAL NAME ʕAmruṋ

The male personal name ʕAmruṋ عَمْرٌو has a silent wȃw. It is said that this wȃw served to distinguish this name from the similarly-looking name ʕUmaru عُمَرُ .

►II.13.I. THE PERSONAL NAME Dȃwūdu

The male personal name Dȃwūdu دَاْوُدُ “David” lacks a vowel-denoting wȃw. An old linguistic joke says that ʕAmruṋ عَمْرٌو stole the wȃw from Dȃwūdu دَاْوُدُ .

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