Arabic Grammar – 160

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Volitive stem (Ⅹ)

Stem Ⅹ ʔ⋅istafʕala, yastafʕilu اِسْتَفْعَلَ، يَسْتَفْعِلُ (the st-stem) is in origin a middle-voice derivative of the causative s-stem, which is one of the very rare stems.

s-stem Stem Ⅹ
*salqaya, *yusalqiyu
→ salqa⋅y, yusalqiy
سَلْقَى، يُسَلْقِيْ *ʔ⋅istalqaya, *yastalqiyu
ʔ⋅istalqa⋅y, yastalqiy
اِسْتَلْقَى، يَسْتَلْقِيْ
make [obj.] lie on the back (tr.) lie on the back (intr.)

The s-stem is believed to be an older variant of Stem Ⅳ (the ʔ–stem), and indeed many Stem Ⅹ verbs seem to be related to Stem Ⅳ verbs. However, there are also Stem Ⅹ verbs in Classical Arabic that appear to have been derived directly from Stem Ⅰ verbs. Given this and the fact that the grammarians of CA did not state a clear relationship between Stem Ⅹ and Stem Ⅳ, it seems that speakers of CA (at least at the time of the grammarians) did not recognize the historical relationship between Stem Ⅹ and Stem Ⅳ.

Stem Ⅹ developed a new volitive meaning besides the original middle-voice and intensive meanings in derivatives from Stem Ⅳ.

Middle voice

Following are examples of the middle-voice meaning of Stem Ⅹ.

Stem Ⅳ Stem Ⅹ
ʔaslama أَسْلَمَ ʔ⋅istaslama اِسْتَسْلَمَ
he surrendered [obj.] (tr.) he surrendered himself (intr.)
ʔaaša أَوْحَشَ ʔ·istaaša اِسْتَوْحَشَ
he made [obj.] feel lonely (tr.) he felt lonely (intr.)
*ʔawṣaya > ʔawṣa·y أَوْصَى *ʔ·istawṣaya > ʔ·istawṣa·y اِسْتَوْصَى
he advised (tr.) he was advised (intr.)
ʔaʕadda أَعَدَّ ʔ·istaʕadda اِسْتَعَدَّ
he prepared [obj.] (tr.) he prepared himself (intr.)

N.B. The last example has an irregular form because it is from a root Ⅱ=Ⅲ.


Verbs with this meaning do not indicate that the subject does the action denoted by the verb but rather that the subject seeks for the action to be done for their benefit. The subject can be semantically patient or agent. Unlike true middle-voice verbs, verbs with this meaning are transitive.

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅹ
ɣafara غَفَرَ ʔ⋅istaɣfara اِسْتَغْفَرَ
he pardoned (tr.) he sought pardon from (tr.)
naara نَصَرَ ʔ⋅istanṣara اِسْتَنْصَرَ
he rendered victorious, he supported (tr.) he sought support from (tr.)
ʔaðina أَذِنَ ʔ⋅istaʔðana اِسْتَأْذَنَ
he permitted (intr.) he sought permission from (tr.)
ʕalima عَلِمَ ʔ⋅istaʕlama اِسْتَعْلَمَ
he knew (tr.) he sought to know, he inquired about (tr.)

Denominal Stem Ⅹ verbs can mean “seek to be noun” or “act like noun.

Noun Stem Ⅹ
ʕarabuṋ عَرَبٌ ʔ⋅istaʕraba اِسْتَعْرَبَ
Arabs he Arabized (intr.)
ʔasaduṋ أَسَدٌ ʔ⋅istaʔsada اِسْتَأْسَدَ
a lion he acted like a lion (intr.)


Like the other middle-voice stems, Stem Ⅹ can be an intensive derivative of its active-voice counterpart, which means that Stem Ⅹ verbs can have an active-voice causative meaning. Stem Ⅹ verbs with this meaning can have the same translation as the cognate Stem Ⅳ verbs.

Stem Ⅳ Stem Ⅹ
ʔaktaba أَكْتَبَ ʔ⋅istaktaba اِسْتَكْتَبَ
he made [obj. 1] write [obj. 2] (ditr.) he had [obj. 1] write [obj. 2] (ditr.)
ʔaxraǵa أَخْرَجَ ʔ⋅istaxraǵa اِسْتَخْرَجَ
he brought/drove out (tr.) he sought to bring/drive out; he extracted (tr.)

Causative Stem Ⅹ productively forms denominals with the meaning “consider [object] to be noun.”

Noun Stem Ⅹ
ħasanuṋ حَسَنٌ ʔ⋅istaħsana اِسْتَحْسَنَ
beautiful, nice he considered [obj.] beautiful, nice (tr.)
ħaqȋruṋ حَقِيْرٌ ʔ⋅istaħqara اِسْتَحْقَرَ
petty, insignificant he considered [obj.] petty (tr.)

When derived from a noun of occupation, a Stem Ⅹ verb can indicate that the agent sought to employ the patient (e.g. by asking them), or it can indicate that the agent simply appointed the patient.

Noun Stem Ⅹ
xalȋfa·tuṋ خَلِيْفَةٌ ʔ⋅istaxlafa اِسْتَخْلَفَ
a successor he asked/made [obj.] to be own successor (tr.)
→ he entrusted (tr.)
ʕȃmiluṋ عامِلٌ ʔ⋅istaʕmala اِسْتَعْمَلَ
a vassal he asked/made [obj.] to be own vassal (tr.)
→ he used (tr.)
xȃdimuṋ خَاْدِمٌ ʔ⋅istaxdama اِسْتَخْدَمَ
a servant he asked/made [obj.] to be own servant (tr.)
→ he used (tr.)


It seems that some speakers of CA conflated Stem Ⅹ and Stem Ⅷ by using verbs like ʔ⋅ixtadama, yaxtadimu اِخْتَدَمَ، يَخْتَدِمُ , ʔ⋅ixtaraǵa, yaxtariǵu اِخْتَرَجَ، يَخْتَرِجُ , and ʔ⋅iktataba, yaktatibu اِكْتَتَبَ، يَكْتَتِبُ in place of ʔ⋅istaxdama, yastaxdimu اِسْتَخْدَمَ، يَسْتَخْدِمُ , ʔ⋅istaxraǵa, yastaxriǵu اِسْتَخْرَجَ، يَسْتَخْرِجُ , and ʔ⋅istaktaba, yastaktibu اِسْتَكْتَبَ، يَسْتَكْتِبُ .



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