Arabic Grammar – 19 (from old website)

Click to view table of contents

Roots

Words are built from roots. For example, the root “talk” is the source of many words:

Talk Infinitive
Talking Present participle
Talked Past participle
Talk Present simple
Talked Past simple
Talk Noun

In Arabic the root is not a word but it is only a sequence of consonants that is found in all related words.

Most Arabic roots consist of three consonants (triconsonantal). Some verbal and nominal roots consist of four consonants (quadriconsonantal). Few nominal roots consist of two consonants (biconsonantal) or more than four consonants.

The root can be easily obtained from the 3rd person masculine singular past (perfective) conjugation of the verb.

Look at these examples:

Meaning of Verb Root

3rd person masc. sing. past (perfective) verb

(He) did FʕL

ف ع ل

faʕala فَعَلَ
(He) wrote KTB ك ت ب kataba

كَتَبَ

(He) studied DRS د ر س darasa دَرَسَ
(He) drew (a picture) RSM ر س م rasama رَسَمَ
(He) ate ʔKL أ ك ل ʔakala أَكَلَ
(He) knew ʕLM ع ل م ʕalima عَلِمَ
(He) was/became big(ger) KBR ك ب ر kabura كَبُرَ
(He) rolled (something) DĦRǴ د ح ر ج daħraǵa دَحْرَجَ

You see that the root is not a word; it is just a sequence of consonants.

The consonants of the root are separated by different vowels in different types of words. They can also be separated by other consonants that do not belong to the root.

The root is used to make all the forms of a verb. It is used to make nouns as well.

Each root pertains to a certain meaning, e.g. KTB كتب  pertains to “writing.”

See the following example:

Meaning

Words derived from the root كتب

Verbs

(he) wrote

kataba

كَتَبَ

≈(he) was/became written

kutiba كُتِبَ

(he) was/became written

ʔ·inkataba اِنْكَتَبَ

(he) made (somebody) write

kattaba كَتَّبَ

(he) made (somebody) write

ʔaktaba أَكْتَبَ

(he) exchanged writing with

→ (he) corresponded with

kȃtaba كاتَبَ

(he) exchanged writing

→ (he) corresponded

takȃtaba تَكاتَبَ

(he) wrote himself

→ (he) subscribed

ʔ·iktataba اِكْتَتَبَ

(he) sought writing

ʔ·istaktaba اِسْتَكْتَبَ
Nouns

writing

katb

كَتْب

writing

book/dispatch

kitȃb كِتاب

writing

kitȃba·t كِتابَة

booklet

kutayyib كُتَيِّب

writing (man)

writer

kȃtib كاتِب

written

letter

maktȗb مَكْتُوب

desk/office

maktab مَكْتَب

library/bookstore

maktaba·t مَكْتَبَة

phalanx

katȋba·t كَتيبَة

All these words were created from the root كتب by adding vowels and letters to it. This is how Semitic languages work.

Almost all Arabic words are structured on roots. Words in Arabic grammar belong to three categories:

  • Noun الاِسْمُ : includes pronouns, adjectives and most adverbs.

  • Verb الْفِعْلُ : there are three main verbal structures in Arabic.

  • Letter (particle) الْحَرْفُ : small words that do not have roots.

So small words without known roots were not even qualified enough to carry the title of a “word” in Arabic grammar. Many of these “letters” are prepositions and they do not undergo inflection.

The letters of the root are called the original letters of a word الأَحْرُفُ الأَصْلِيَّةُ.

The variable letters that appear between the root letters in different words are called the additional letters الأَحْرُفُ الزائِدَةُ .

The letters that can serve as additional letters are ten: أ ا تس ل م ن هـ و ي

These letters are rounded up in the word: سَأَلْتُمُوْنِيْهَاْ =”you asked me for/about it.”

There are standard patterns for adding additional letters to the root. These patterns are called ʔawzȃn أَوْزَاْنٌ = “measures” or ʔabniya·t أَبْنِيَةٌ = “structures.”

For example:

 

ʔ·infaʕala

اِنْفَعَلَ

faʕala

فَعَلَ

(he/it) did himself/itself (he/it) did
ʔ·inkasara

اِنْكَسَرَ

kasara

كَسَرَ

(he/it) broke himself/itself (he/it) broke
ʔ·inabba

اِنْصَبَّ

abba

صَبَّ

(he/it) poured himself/itself (he/it) poured

So this structure ʔ·in*a*a*a has a specific sense that is different from the basic structure *a*a*a.

Both structures are structures of active voice past (perfective) verbs. However, there is a difference between the two that is reminiscent of the Latin or French difference between faire and se faire. The ʔ·in*a*a*a structure is called a “reflexive” verb because it denotes a self-directed action. You can put so many root letters in place of the stars and you will get the same outcome.

Usually stars are not used but instead the root ف ع ل = “do” is used for giving prototypes of different structures.

So these two structures will be standardized:

(He/it) did faʕala فَعَلَ
(He/it) did himself/itself ʔ·infaʕala اِنْفَعَلَ

Biliteral Roots

Arabic grammar recognizes three-letter, four-letter, and five-letter-roots, but not anything more or less than that. Five-letter-roots exist only in nouns but not verbs.

However, there are several Arabic nouns that have only two consonants in them, for example:

Son

ʔ·ibn

اِبْن
Name

ʔ·ism

اِسْم

Mouth

fam

فَم

Hand

yad

يَد

Blood

dam

دَم

The ا is prosthetic and not an original letter (§II.11.).

Classical Arabic grammarians did not recognize biliteral roots and considered them all to be modified from triliteral roots. For example, they debated whether the root of اِسْم wasس م و or و س م .

Quadriliteral Roots

Quadriliteral roots were created by reduplicating a biliteral root, and sometimes by adding a fourth letter to a triliteral root.

Examples:

Proto-Root ق ط

(He) dripped

qaqaa

قَطْقَطَ
Proto-Root ر ف

(He) flapped, fluttered

rafrafa

رَفرَفَ

Quadriliteral and pentaliteral roots were often extracted from foreign loanwords.

Example,

A traditional Arab currency is the dirham, which is still a currency unit in several Arab countries today. A dirham was a silver coin in old times. The name of the dirham comes from the Greek drachmē or drachma. It was Arabized to follow the standard Arabic noun structure fiʕlaفِعْلَلٌ .

drachmēdirham دِرْهَم

Some triliteral roots were also extracted from foreign loanwords. An interesting example is the word irȃṭ  صِرَاْطٌ  meaning “a way” or “a path.” This word comes from the Latin strata = “paved road.” The Latin word was rendered into the standard verbal noun structure fiʕȃl فِعَاْلٌ . This is the structure of the word kitȃb كِتَاْبٌ = “a book” or “a dispatch.”

stratairȃṭ  صِرَاْط

PREVIOUSNEXT

Advertisements

One thought on “Arabic Grammar – 19 (from old website)

  1. اشكرك اخ هاني على هذه المدونه الرائعة، لكن لدي استفسار حول اصل كلمة “صِرَاْطٌ” !! ذكرتم انها كلمة من اصل لاتيني!! وهي في الحقيقة كلمة عربية الاصل ذكرت في القرآن الكريم في مواضع كثيرة .. ارجو تعليل هذا..شكرا لك

اترك رد

إملأ الحقول أدناه بالمعلومات المناسبة أو إضغط على إحدى الأيقونات لتسجيل الدخول:

WordPress.com Logo

أنت تعلق بإستخدام حساب WordPress.com. تسجيل خروج   / تغيير )

صورة تويتر

أنت تعلق بإستخدام حساب Twitter. تسجيل خروج   / تغيير )

Facebook photo

أنت تعلق بإستخدام حساب Facebook. تسجيل خروج   / تغيير )

Google+ photo

أنت تعلق بإستخدام حساب Google+. تسجيل خروج   / تغيير )

Connecting to %s