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Summary of Arabic Morphology

Introduction

The Arabic language sub-science known as صرف – referring roughly to what we know as Morphology as well as Etymology – is a subject through which one learns the internal assembly of a word by way of patterns of vowelization and introduction of extra letters—or what we call a template. Morphology differs from Lexicology in the sense that the latter gives the root meaning associated to a set of base letters, whereas the former gives all other meanings and connotations achieved by the template.

 

In practice, the following topics are discussed in this science. Their purpose is to aid students of the language, with the help of Lexicology, in forming and correctly vowelling words.

 

1.       conjugating basic conjugable words

2.       conjugating enhanced conjugable words

3.       conjugating irregular conjugable words

4.       understanding the added meanings achieved by enhancing basic conjugable words

Simple Conjugation

Below are conjugation tables for a particular verb in the perfect and imperfect tenses. Alongside the tables are methods of varying the meaning of a verb in each of the two tenses. Notice that the tables also note the idiosyncrasies of certain conjugations.

 

Perfect Tense

Voice (rendering an active verb passive)

1.       starting with the first conjugation, the second-last letter is given a كسرة

2.       all preceding letters which are vowelled are given a ضمة

3.       conjugation then proceeds normally

 

Negation (negating an affirmative verb)

1.       the particle ما precedes the verb as a separate word

·         this applies to both active and passive

 

Distance (changing the meaning of “opened” to “has opened” or “had opened”)

·         present perfect (“has”) is achieved by the particle قد preceding the verb as a separate word

·         قد applies to affirmative active and affirmative passive only

·         past perfect (“had”) is achieved by conjugating the verb كان in tandem with the main verb (somewhere before it)

·         كان applies to both voices and both affirmative and negative

·         كان will be conjugated in the active despite the voice of the main verb

 

Perfect Tense

فَتَحَ

فَتَحَا

فَتَحُوْا

فَتَحَتْ

فَتَحَتا

فَتَحْنَ

فَتَحْتَ

فَتَحْتُما

فَتَحْتُمْ / فَتَحْتُمُوْنِيْ

فَتَحْتِ

فَتَحْتُما

فَتَحْتُنَّ

فَتَحْتُ

فَتَحْنا

 

Imperfect Tense

Voice (rendering an active verb passive)

1.       starting with the first conjugation, the second-last letter is given a فتحة

2.       the imperfect prefix is given a ضمة

3.       conjugation then proceeds normally

 

Negation (negating an affirmative verb)

1.       the particle لا precedes the verb as a separate word

·         this applies to both active and passive

 

Limiting the Tense

·         the particle سـ is prefixed to the verb to limit it to the near future

·         the particle سوف precedes the verb as a separate word to limit it to the somewhat distant future

·         both particles apply to affirmative active and affirmative passive only

 

Building the Subjunctive

1.       the 5 conjugations without a نون suffix will have their ضمة change to a فتحة

2.       the rest of the conjugations will lose their نون

3.       but conjugations 6 and 12 will retain their نون (they do not change at all)

Imperfect Tense

يَفْتَحُ

يَفْتَحانِ

يَفْتَحُوْنَ

تَفْتَحُ

تَفْتَحانِ

يَفْتَحْنَ

تَفْتَحُ

تَفْتَحانِ

تَفْتَحُوْنَ

تَفْتَحِيْنَ

تَفْتَحانِ

تَفْتَحْنَ

أَفْتَحُ

نَفْتَحُ

·         the particle لن is one of 4 reasons an imperfect verb is rendered subjunctive; لن emphatically negates the verb in the future (“will never”)

 

Building the Jussive

1.       the 5 conjugations without a نون suffix will have their ضمة change to a سكون

2.       the rest of the conjugations will lose their نون

3.       but conjugations 6 and 12 will retain their نون (they do not change at all)

·         the particle لم is one of 5 reasons an imperfect verb is rendered jussive; لم emphatically negates the verb in the past (“has never”)

 

Distance (forming the past continuous “used to” or “would”)

·         conjugate the verb كان in tandem with the main verb (somewhere before it)

·         this applies to both active and passive and can be negated using the particle ما

·         the verb كان will be conjugated in the active despite the voice of the main verb

 

Emphasizing the Verb

1.       render the imperfect verb subjunctive (this is just a shortcut and, grammatically speaking, the verb will not actually be in the subjunctive case); if the verb now ends in واو or ياء, drop that letter

2.       prefix every conjugation with the particle لَـ

3.       for every conjugation that ends in an Aleph, add the suffix ـنِّ

4.       for conjugations 6 and 12, add the suffix ـانِّ

5.       for all other conjugations, add the suffix ـنَّ

·         the emphasized verb has its tense limited to the future (“will certainly”)

·         this applies to affirmative active and affirmative passive only

·         note that in every conjugation with an Aleph before the particle of emphasis (the نون), the نون is مكسور, and that it is مفتوح in all other conjugations

·         it is possible, for prosodic reasons, to use a lighter particle of emphasis – the particle ـنْ with a سكون – but this can only be done with those conjugations where the other نون is مفتوح

 

Command and Prohibition

Forming the Imperative

1.       for the second-person active conjugations

a.       start with the imperfect and remove the prefix

b.      Add an eliding Hamza if necessary. The vowel on this Hamza will be determined as follows

§  if the second base letter has a ضمة, the Hamza will be given a ضمة

§  if the second base letter has either of the other two vowels, the Hamza will be given a كسرة

2.       for all other conjugations

a.       Prefix the imperfect conjugations with لِـ. This لام will have a سكون when preceded by a conjunction

3.       all imperative conjugations will receive the same ending as the imperfect jussives

·         all imperative conjugations can be emphasized using either of the two methods of emphasis mentioned above

 

Forming the Prohibitive

1.       using the imperfect conjugations, the particle لا will precede the verb as a separate word

2.       the conjugations will receive the same ending as the imperfect jussives

·         all prohibitive conjugations can be emphasized using either of the two methods of emphasis mentioned above

 

Derived Nouns

Fem.  Broken Plurals

Masc. Broken Plurals

Fem. Sound Plural Used

Masc. Sound Plural Used

Feminine

Masculine

Group

فواعل

فُعّال، فعَلة

Y

Y

فاعلة

فاعل

Active Participle

مفاعل، مفاعيل

Y

Y

مفعولة

مفعول

Passive Participle

various

often

فَعِل، فَعُوْل، فَعِيْل، فَعَّال، فُعَّال، فُعُّوْل، فِعِّيْل، فَيْعُول، مِفْعَال، مِفْعِيْل، فَعَّالَة

Hyperbolic Participle

various

very rarely

various

Resembling Participle

مَفَاعِل

N

 

مِفْعَل

Utilitarian Noun

مِفْعَلَة

 

 

مَفَاعِيْل

 

مِفْعَال

 

فَوَاعِل

 

فَاعَل

 

مَفَاعِل

N

 

مَفْعَل

Locative/Temporal Noun

 

 

مَفْعِل

فُعَل

أَفَاعِل

Y

Y

فُعْلى

أَفْعَل

Comparative / Superlative

Verb Paradigms and Paradigm Connotations

Verbal paradigms are variations that come about in the stem of basic verbs, and they result from one of two things. The first is a result of the combination of middle letter vowel in the perfect conjugations and the middle letter vowel in the imperfect conjugations. For a given verb, the middle letter vowel for both tenses is basically random and is determined by looking in a dictionary. There is basically no meaning significance to these vowels and this is just a phenomenon of the language. The combination of what vowel a verb’s middle radical is given in the two tenses gives the following paradigms.

 

Cmd.

Passive Part.

Active Part. or Common Substitutes

Common Gerunds

Imperfect

Perfect

 

 

Intransitive

Transitive

Intransitive

Transitive

 

 

اُفْعُلْ

مَفْعُوْل

فَاعِل

فَاعِل

فِعَال، فَعَلاَن، فُعَال، فُعُوْل، فَعِيْل

فَعْل

يَفْعُل

فَعَلَ

اِفْعِلْ

يَفْعِل

فَعَلَ

اِفْعَلْ

يَفْعَل

فَعَلَ

اِفْعَلْ

فَعِل، فَعْلاَن، أَفْعَل

فَعَل

يَفْعَل

فَعِلَ

اِفْعِلْ

يَفْعِل

فَعِلَ

اُفْعُلْ

 

فَعِيْل، فَعْل، فَعَل، أَفْعَل

 

فُعُوْلَة، فَعَالَة

 

يَفْعُل

فَعُلَ

فَعْلِل

مُفَعْلَل

مُفَعْلِل

فَعْلَلة

يُفَعْلِل

فَعْلَلَ

 

The other reason why verbal paradigms exist is because of extra letters that are added to the stem in order to enhance the meaning of the verb. The following are by far the most popular methods of enhancement.

 

Popular Connotations Achieved

by the Enhancement

Gerunds

Perfect

transitivity

إِفْعَال

أََفْعَلَ (يُفْعِل)

transitivity, intensity

تَفْعِيْل، فِعَّال، فِعَال، تَفْعِلَة

فََعَّلَ

mutuality

مُفَاعَلَة، فِعَال

فَاعَلَ

reflexive of تفعيل, consequence to تفعيل, pretending to do the verb

تَفَعُّل، تِفِعَّال

تَفَعَّلَ

reflexive of مفاعلة, consequence to مفاعلة, pretending to do the verb

تَفَاعُل

تَفَاعَلَ

reflexivity, consequence of an action, etc

اِفْتِعَال

اِفْتَعَلَ

seeking the verb, to deem/consider something X

اِسْتِفْعَال

اِسْتَفْعَلَ

passivity

اِنْفِعَال

اِنْفَعَلَ

 

Forming the imperfect conjugations

1.       append the imperfect prefix

2.       if the first conjugation of the perfect tense has exactly 4 letters (including eliding Hamzas), the prefix will be مضموم, and it will be مفتوح otherwise

3.       if the perfect conjugations have an extra تاء prefixed to them, the second last letter will be مفتوح, otherwise it will be مكسور

·         all variations of the perfect verb, all variations of the imperfect verb, and forming the imperative and prohibitive all use the same formulas as the simple verb

·         derived nouns, however, are treated differently

 

Forming the active and passive participles

1.       starting with the first conjugation from the imperfect table, replace the imperfect prefix with a ميم مضمومة

2.       for the active participle, ensure the second last letter is مكسور, and for the passive, ensure it is مفتوح

·         enhanced paradigms do not have other derived nouns; although they may use the two participles as a substitute if necessary

Irregularity Rules

Hamza Verbs

Rule 1

 

 

if two Hamza occur side-by-side in the same lexical word and the first has a vowel while the second does not, the second Hamza must change to the long vowel appropriate to the short vowel on the first

 

Rule 2

 

 

if in a basic 3-lettered verb the first radical is a Hamza, this Hamza will drop in the second-person active imperative conjugations if the eliding Hamza is needed

 

Rule 3

 

 

if a vowelled Hamza is preceded by a non-vowelled letter in the same lexical word, the Hamza may optionally transfer its vowel to the preceding letter and then drop

Condition

 

 

for the 2nd-person active imperative conjugations of basic 3-lettered verbs, this rule is mandatory if the eliding Hamza is needed and prohibited otherwise

 

Duplicated Verbs

Rule

 

 

if two identical radicals occur side-by-side in the same lexical word, the two will geminate; if the preceding letter is ساكن, it will receive the old vowel of the first duplicate

 

Glide Irregularities

Rule 1

 

 

if a واو occurs as the fourth letter (or beyond) of a verb and the short vowel before does not match, the واو will change to ياء

 

Rule 2

 

 

if an imperfect active verb has a glide as the first radical and is from one of the following paradigms (ضرَب – يضرِب, فتَح – يفتَح, حسِب – يحسِب), then the glide will drop

 

Rule 3

 

 

if a verb is reduced to one letter, the هاء السكت will be appended to it

 

Rule 4

 

 

in the active participle of basic paradigms, if the middle radical is a واو or ياء, it will become a Hamza

 

Rule 5

Original Sequence

Resultant Sequence

Slot 1

Slot 2

Slot 3

Slot 4

Slot 1

Slot 2

Slot 3

sign of مضارع

u

y

S

sign of مضارع

u w

 

C

u

w

a/u

C

u w

 

if slot 4 is (a) then (a)

else this slot stays empty

C

V/S

G

V/S/L

C

if slot 2 is (a) and slot 4 is not S then (aa)

if slot 2 is (u) or (i) and slot 4 is not L then (iy)

else stretch the vowel in slot 4 if possible

 

The chart above is divided into two vertical halves. The left half describes the sequence we’re looking for in the original form of an irregular word. And the right half describes an algorithm to turn that sequence into the desired result. Each slot (or column) represents a consonant, a short vowel, a long vowel, or a non-vowel in the original and resulting words.

 

Each cell holds whether the position is a consonant, a vowel, and so forth. The following is a legend for the symbols.

 

C – consonant    {w – واو, y – ياء, G – glide (either w or y)}

V – vowel            {u – ضمة, a – فتحة, iكسرة}

S – ساكن

L – long vowel   {uwـُو, aaـا, iyـِيْ }

X / Y – either X or Y

 

The objective is to start at the first row and try to match sequences in a given word with what the first row stipulates. If the first row fails to match our sequence, we move to the second row, and then the third. If the third row fails to match any sequence in our word (or the algorithm becomes idempotent), then the given word will not experience change.

 

Take, for example, قَوَلَ. The first two letters and vowels can symbolically be represented as C a w a. This is more generally written as C V G V and matches row 3 of the chart. The algorithm requires that the initial consonant be copied for slot 1 of the result, so we get C. It then requires that, since the first vowel was (a), the second slot of the result should contain (aa), so we have C aa. For the final slot, the algorithm recognizes that the second vowel in the original was (a), so this slot must also be (a). We now have C aa a. This is the representation for قَاَ. Now, since Alephs do not have vowels, the (a) on it is dropped and we’re left with قا. Circumscribing the part of the word the algorithm did not match, the final result is قالَ.

 

Notes on the above algorithm

·         The algorithm does not consider gerunds, plurals, frozen nouns, and derived nouns. Although the algorithm will be accurate for most of these, it may break down in certain cases.

·         The algorithm should not be applied where the rules of تعليل are not meant to be applied; if it is, it may return false positives.

·         The algorithm works only with mandatory rules.

·         The rules of cluster reduction may need to be applied once the algorithm outputs its answer.

·         The algorithm does not handle drop of letters to reflect the jussive case; that is a grammar topic.

 

©

2009 Mohtanick Jamil and Yusuf Mullan

 

All rights reserved

 

This algorithm is copyright property of Mohtanick Jamil and Yusuf Mullan

 



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