Arabic Grammar – 180

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Denominal nouns
Nouns in –V(V)w/–V(V)y (continued)
Nouns in –iy & –ȋy

The suffixes –iy & –ȋy form relative nouns (the nisba⋅t {النِّسْبةُ}). In this function these suffixes correspond to suffixes in English such as –ish in English, –y in watery, –ic in acidic, –ian in Christian, etc. The general meaning of all these suffixes is related to, pertaining to.

Relative nouns in Classical Arabic usually have –ȋy = –iyy, which is the productive suffix, while –iy = –ȋ is a rare variant found sometimes, as in *Yamāniyun > Yamȃniṋ {يَمانٍ} “Yemeni.”

Following are examples.

Miṣriyyuṋ مِصْرِيٌّ Miṣru مِصْرُ
Egyptian Egypt
ʕArabiyyuṋ عَرَبِيٌّ ʕArabuṋ عَرَبٌ
Arab Arabs
Yahūdiyyuṋ يَهُوْدِيٌّ Yahūdu يَهُوْدُ
Jew Jews
ʔarḍiyyuṋ أَرْضِيٌّ ʔarḍuṋ أَرْضٌ
earthly, of ground land
Makkiyyuṋ مَكِّيٌّ Makka⋅tu مَكَّةُ
Meccan Mecca
ṣaħrȃwiyyuṋ صَحْراوِيٌّ ṣaħrȃʔu صَحْراءُ
of desert desert


In general, the relative suffix is added without stem modification. The exceptions are as follows:

  • If the stem has the suffix a⋅t, it is removed, e.g. Makkiyyuṋ {مَكِّيٌّ} “Meccan” from Makka⋅tu {مَكَّةُ} “Mecca.”
  • If the stem has the suffix aw/–ay, it is removed. However, it can be kept in stems of the shape fVʕl, e.g. from *ʔad‑dunyawu > ʔad‑dunyȃ {الدُّنْيا} “the nearest [world] = this world” it is possible to form dunyiyyuṋ {دُنْيِيٌّ} or dunyawiyyuṋ {دُنْيَوِيٌّ} .
  • If the stem has the suffix –ȃw, it is kept, e.g. ṣaħrȃwiyyuṋ {صَحْراوِيٌّ} “of desert” from ṣaħrȃʔu {صَحْراءُ} “desert.” However, in some CA words this suffix was removed or changed to –ȃn, e.g. Ṣanʕȃniyyuṋ {صَنْعانِيٌّ} from Ṣanʕȃʔu {صَنْعاءُ} , the big city in Yemen.
  • With stems of the forms fVʕil & fVʕila⋅t–, the vowel in the second syllable is changed to a, e.g. malakiyyuṋ {مَلَكِيٌّ} “royal” from malikuṋ {مَلِكٌ} “king” and malika⋅tuṋ {مَلِكةٌ} “queen.” The same happens with stems of the forms fVʕȋla⋅t– & fVʕayla⋅t– if the root is not II=III or II=w/y, e.g. Ħanafiyyuṋ {حَنَفِيٌّ} from the tribal name Ħanȋfa⋅tu {حَنِيْفةُ} , and Ǵuhaniyyuṋ {جُهَنِيٌّ} from the tribal name Ǵuhayna⋅tu {جُهَيْنةُ} . The same happens sporadically with stems of the form fVʕȋl, e.g. Θaqafiyyuṋ {ثَقَفِيٌّ} from the tribal name Θaqīfuṋ {ثَقِيْفٌ} .

Violations of the above-mentioned rules of CA are common in modern Arabic, often caused by false analogies. For example, relatives in –ȃwiyy or –ȃniyy may be derived from stems in –a⋅t by analogy with stems in –ȃw (e.g. Makkāwiyy “Meccan”). Also relatives in –awiyy may be derived from stems in –a⋅t by analogy with stems in –aw/–ay (e.g. waħdawiyyuṋ {وَحْدَوَيٌّ} from waħda⋅tuṋ {وَحْدةٌ} “unity, union”). Another issue is that relatives in modern Arabic are frequently derived from broken plurals, which was not valid in CA unless the broken plural was a proper noun. Thus in modern Arabic we have sometimes duwaliyyuṋ {دُوَلِيٌّ} “international” from the plural duwaluṋ {دُوَلٌ} “states,” while the correct form is dawliyyuṋ {دَوْلِيٌّ} from the singular dawla⋅tuṋ {دَوْلةٌ} “state.”



A fusion of the suffix –iy/–ȋy with the inflective ending –un gave rise to a new suffix –ȋn which can be seen in some Arabian place names (e.g. Yabrȋnu {يَبْرِيْنُ} ), in some personal names (e.g. Ħamdȋnu {حَمْدِيْنُ} ), and in some other nouns. A variant form is possibly –ȗn (e.g. in personal names such as Ħamdȗnu {حَمْدُوْنُ} and Saʕdȗnu {سَعْدُوْنُ} ), which must be distinguished from the Aramaic diminutive –ūn < –ōn < –ān found in vernacular Arabic words such as Mesopotamian ṣɣayrūn “little.”


One variant of the relative suffix, known from other Semitic languages, is –ay. This form is found petrified as *–ay-un > –ayn in some proper nouns, such as ʔ·al-Baħraynu {البَحْرَينُ} , a name applied formerly to eastern Arabia and the region of Basra, and currently to a small island in the Arabian Gulf. The word *Baħrayun was derived from Baħruṋ {بَحْرٌ} “sea,” so the meaning was “[land] of the sea,” corresponding to the Akkadian name for the same region māt tâmtim “land of the sea.” The suffix –ayn is found also in personal names such as the modern Ħasanēn < *Ħasanayn. It corresponds to the Hebrew –ayim < *–aym in words such as Miṣrayim {{מִצְרַיִם}} “[land] of the forts = Sinai = Egypt.”


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