Arabic Grammar – 30 (from old website)

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Nouns (continued)

Number of nouns

Singular nouns

The grammatical number of nouns is easily determined from their endings.

Singular nouns, including the grammatically singular but semantically plural broken plurals, take the ending –uṋ, which inflects for case and state as follows.

Singular ending
Case State
absolute
determinate & construct
Rafʕ –uṋ –u
Naṣb –aṋ –a
Ǵarr –iṋ –i

The singular ending in the absolute state has a terminal –ṋ. The presence of this suffix is called nunation, after the name of the letter nȗn. Nunation in most nouns indicates indefiniteness, like the English article a/an.

The rules of pause require dropping the singular ending from pronunciation when it is followed by a pause, with one exception: if the ending has the form –aṋ, it becomes –ȃ at pause.

The form –aṋ of the singular ending is the only form that is written down by an alphabet letter ـــا . All the other forms are indicated in the orthography by optional diacritical marks. This means that the singular ending may not be always written down and the readers will have to provide it themselves based on their understanding of the text. Ignoring this ending altogether is common but is not correct in Standard Arabic.

Examples:

Stem: raǵulرَجُل “man”
State Case Noun
Absolute Rafʕ raǵuluṋ رَجُلٌ
Naṣb raǵulaṋ رَجُلًا
Ǵarr raǵuliṋ رَجُلٍ
Construct Rafʕ raǵulu رَجُلُ
Naṣb raǵula رَجُلَ
Ǵarr raǵuli رَجُلِ
Stem: ʔimraʔa·tاِمْرَأة “woman”
State Case Noun
Indefinite Rafʕ ʔimraʔa·tuṋ اِمْرَأةٌ
Naṣb ʔimraʔa·taṋ اِمْرَأةً
Ǵarr ʔimraʔa·tiṋ اِمْرَأةٍِ
Construct Rafʕ ʔimraʔa·tu اِمْرَأةُ
Naṣb ʔimraʔa·ta اِمْرَأةَ
Ǵarr ʔimraʔa·ti اِمْرَأةِ
Stem: riǵȃlرِجَال “men”
State Case Noun
Indefinite Rafʕ riǵȃluṋ رِجَالٌ
Naṣb riǵȃlaṋ رِجَالًا
Ǵarr riǵȃliṋ رِجَالٍ
Construct Rafʕ riǵȃlu رِجَالُ
Naṣb riǵȃla رِجَالَ
Ǵarr riǵȃli رِجَالِ

The last example is a plural noun yet it has the singular ending. This is a broken plural noun. Although broken plurals that refer to humans, like the above example, are often modified by plural adjectives and often serve as subjects to plural verbs, the declension of the broken plural itself will always be singular.

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