Definitions

nominal sentence

ʾIʿrab

(إﻋﺮﺍﺏ) is a word in the Arabic language, the stem IV masdar of ع-ر-ب, meaning "Arab" or "Arabic". It literally means "making [the word] Arabic") designates the system of nominal and adjectival suffixes of Classical Arabic. The term is cognate to the word Arab itself. These suffixes are written in fully vocalized Arabic texts, notably the Qurʾan or texts written for children or Arabic learners, and they are articulated when a text is formally read aloud, but they do not survive in any spoken dialect of Arabic. Even in formal Arabic, these suffixes are often not pronounced in pausa, i.e. when the word occurs at the end of the sentence, in accordance with certain rules of Arabic pronunciation. (That is, the nunation suffix -n is always dropped at the end of a sentence or line of poetry; the vowel suffix may or may not be, depending on the requirements of metre.) Depending on the knowledge of ʼIʻrāb, some Arabic speakers may omit case endings when reading out in Modern Standard Arabic, thus making it similar to spoken dialects. Many Arabic textbooks for foreigners teach Arabic without a heavy focus on ʾIʿrab, either omitting the endings altogether or only giving a small introduction. Arabic without case endings may require a different and strict word order, similar to spoken Arabic dialects.

Grammatical Cases

Case is not shown in standard orthography, with the exception of indefinite accusative nouns ending in any letter but ta marbuta or hamza, where the -a(n) "sits" upon an alif added to the end of the word (the alif still shows up in unvowelled texts). Cases, however, are marked in the Koran, children's books and to remove ambiguous situations. If marked, it is shown at the end of the noun. Further information on the types of declensions is discussed in the following section, along with examples.

Nominative case

  • Subjects of a verbal sentence.
  • Subjects and predicates of an equational (non-verbal) sentence, with some notable exceptions.
  • Certain adverbs retain the nominative marker.
  • The citation form of words is (if noted at all) in the nominative case.

For singular nouns and broken plurals, it is marked as a ḍammah (-u) for the definite or ḍammah + nunation (-un) for the indefinite. The dual and regular masculine plural are formed by adding -āni and -ūna respectively (-ā and -ū in the construct state). The regular feminine plural is formed by adding -ātu in the definite and -ātun in the indefinite.

Accusative case

  • The subject of an equational (non-verbal) sentence, if it is initiated with 'inna, or one of her sisters.
  • The predicate of kāna/yakūnu "be" and it's sisters. Hence, al-bintu jamīlatun "the girl is beautiful" but al-bintu kānat jamīlatan "the girl was beautiful".
  • Both the subject and the predicate of ẓanna and it's sisters in an equational clause.
  • The object of a transitive verb
  • Most adverbs.
  • Internal object/cognate accusative structure
  • The accusative of specification/purpose/circumstantial.

For singular nouns and broken plurals, it is marked as a fatḥah (-a) for the definite or fatḥah + nunation (-an) for the indefinite. For the indefinite accusative, the fatḥah + nunation is added to an alif which is added to the ending of all nouns not ending with a hamza or ta marbuta. The dual and regular masculine plural are formed by adding -ayni and -īna respectively (-ay and -ī in the construct state). The regular feminine plural is formed by adding -āti in the definite and -ātin in the indefinite.

Genitive case

  • Objects of prepositions.
  • All, but not necessarily the first member (the first nomen regens), of an idafa (genitive construction) .
  • The object of a locative adverb.
  • Objects of kam "how much/many" and 'ayy "any".
  • Elative (comparative/superlative) adjectives behave similarly: "ʼaṭwalu waladin" "the tallest boy".

For singular nouns and broken plurals, it is marked as a kasrah (-i) for the definite or kasrah + nunation (-in) for the indefinite. The dual and regular masculine plural are formed by adding -ayni and -īna respectively (-ay and -ī in the construct state). The regular feminine plural is formed by adding -āti in the definite and -ātin in the indefinite.

Note: diptotic nouns receive a fatḥah (-a) in the genitive and are never nunated.
Note: there is no dative case; instead, the preposition "li-" is used.

Types of declension

Fully declined nouns (triptote منصرف munṣarif)

The suffixes are -u, -a, -i for nominative, accusative and genitive case, respectively, with the addition of a final /n/ (nunation, or tanwīn) to produce -un, -an and -in when the word is unmarked for definiteness (that is, when it is not preceded by al-).

This system applies to most singular nouns in Arabic, including feminine nouns ending in -ah/-at (ta' marbuta). It also applies to many "broken plurals".

The final /n/ is also dropped when the noun is in iḍāfah (construct state). Thus:

Nominative (مرفوع marfūʿ; literally, "raised") :
baytun بَيتٌ : a house
al-baytu البَيتُ : the house
baytu 'r-rajuli بَيتُ الرَّجُلِِ : the house of the man.

Accusative (منصوب manṣūb):
baytan بَيتًا : a house
al-bayta البَيتَ : the house
bayta 'r-rajuli بَيتَ الرَّجُلِِ : the house of the man.

Genitive (مجرور majrūr; literally, "dragged"):
baytin بَيتٍ : a house
al-bayti البَيتِ : the house
bayti 'r-rajuli بَيتِ الرَّجُلِِ : the house of the man.

Diptotes (الممنوع من الصرف Al-Mamnūʻu mina 'ṣ-Ṣarf)

A few singular nouns (including many proper names and names of places), and certain types of "broken plural", are known as diptotes (Arabic: الممنوع من الصرف, al-mamnūʿu mina 'ṣ-ṣarf, literally meaning both "those forbidden purity" and "those forbidden case endings", as the same word, ṣarf, refers to both) meaning that they only have two case endings (Greek ptosis, case).

When the noun is indefinite, the endings are -u for the nominative and -a for the genitive and accusative with no nunation. The genitive reverts to the normal -i when the diptotic noun becomes definite (preceded by al- or is in the construct state)).

Duals (المثنى ''Al-Muṯannā)

The endings of the dual are -āni in the nominative, and -ayni in the accusative and genitive. The "ni" is dropped in iḍāfah (construct state).

Nominative:
wālidāni: (two) parents
al-wālidāni: the (two) parents
wālidā 'r-rajuli: the parents of the man

Accusative and genitive:
wālidayni: (two) parents
al-wālidayni: the (two) parents
wāliday 'r-rajuli: the parents of the man. Which becomes wāliday ir-rajuli for euphonic purposes.

Sound masculine plurals (الجمع مذكّر سالم Al-Ǧamʻu 'l-Muḏakkaru 's-Sālim)

In the case of sound masculine plurals (mostly denoting male human beings), the suffixes are respectively -ūna, -īna and -īna. These stay the same whether or not al- precedes. The final a is usually dropped in speech.

The "na" is dropped when the noun is in iḍāfah (construct state). Thus:

Nominative:
wālidūna: parents (more than two)
al-wālidūna: the parents
wālidū 'r-rijāli: the parents of the men

Accusative and genitive:
wālidīna: parents
al-wālidīna: the parents
wālidī 'r-rijāli: the parents of the men

Sound feminine plurals (الجمع مؤنث سالم Al-Ǧamʻu 'l-Mu'annaṯu 's-Sālim)

In the case of sound feminine plurals, the suffixes are respectively -ātu(n), -āti(n) and -āti(n). The n is only there when the noun is indefinite (not preceded by al-). Again the final vowel is dropped in speech, leaving only -āt.

The final "n" is dropped when the noun is in iḍāfah (construct state).

Nominative:
mudarrisātun: (female) teachers
al-mudarrisātu: the teachers
mudarrisātu 'l-ʼawlādi: the teachers of the children

Accusative and genitive:
mudarrisātin: (female) teachers
al-mudarrisāti: the teachers
mudarrisāti 'l-ʼawlādi: the teachers of the children

Sentence structure

A noun's case depends on the role that the noun plays in the sentence. There are multiple sentence structures in Arabic, each of which demands different case endings for the roles in the sentence. "Subject" does not always correspond to "nominative", nor does "object" always correspond to "accusative".

Verbal Sentences (الجملة الفعلية al-Ǧumlatu 'l-fiʻliyyah)

In a verbal sentence, there is Verb Subject Object word order. This is the preferred word order of Classical Arabic.

In a verbal sentence, the subject takes nominative case and the object takes accusative case. Such a sentence ("This writer wrote the book") would be formed as follows (read from right to left):

Verbal Sentence
grammatical role Object Subject Verb
Arabic label مفعول به
mafʻūlun bi-hi
فاعل
fāʻil
فعل
fiʻl
case accusative nominative (verb)
example الكتابَ
al-kitāb(a)
(the book)
هذا الكاتبُ
hāḏā 'l-kātibu
(this writer)
كتب
Kataba
(wrote)

Nominal Sentences (الجملة الإسمية al-Ǧumlatu 'l-ʼismiyyah)

In a nominal sentence, there is Subject Verb Object word order.

Equations (no verb)

If the verb would be "is" (that is, the predicate merely attributes something to the subject -- see Predicative (adjectival or nominal)), then there is no verb used. Both the subject and the predicate take nominative case when there is no overt verb. Such a sentence ("This writer is famous") is formed as follows (read from right to left):

Nominal Sentence without Verb
grammatical role Object (no verb) Subject
Arabic label خبر
ḫabar
(no verb) مبتدأ
mubtadaʼ
case nominative (no verb) nominative
example مشهورٌ
mašhūrun
(famous)
(no verb) هذا الكاتبُ
Hāḏā 'l-kātibu
(this writer)

Overt Verb

If there is an overt verb, the subject takes nominative and the predicate takes accusative. Such a sentence ("This writer wrote the book") is formed as follows (read from right to left):

Nominal Sentence with Verb
grammatical role Object Verb Subject
Arabic label خبر
ḫabar
فعل
fiʻl
مبتدأ
mubtadaʼ
case accusative (verb) nominative
example الكتابَ
al-kitāb(a)
(the book)
كتب
kataba
(wrote)
هذا الكاتبُ
Hāḏā 'l-kātibu
(this writer)

With Sisters of 'Inna (أخوات إنّ ʼaḫawātu ʼinna)

There is a class of words in Arabic called the "sisters of ʼinna" (أخوات إنّ ʼaḫawātu ʼinna) that are cognates/derivatives of أنّ ("that"). Among them are:

  • إنّ      ʼinna (particle for emphasis, close to "it is the case that")
  • أنّ      ʼanna ("that")
  • ولكنّ      walākinna ("but")
  • لأنّ      liʼanna ("because")
  • كأنّ      kaʼanna ("as if", "as though")

If one of the sisters of إنّ begins a clause, then the subject takes accusative case instead of nominative.

Such a sentence using the particle إنّ ("Verily, this writer wrote the book") would be formed as follows (read from right to left):

Nominal Sentence with Verb with إنّ
grammatical role Object Verb Subject Sister of ʼinna
Arabic label خبر
ḫabar
فعل
fiʻl
مبتدأ
mubtadaʼ
أخت إنّ
ʼuḫtu ʼinna
case accusative (verb) accusative (sister of ʼinna)
example الكتابَ
al-kitāb(a)
(the book)
كتب
kataba
(wrote)
هذا الكاتبَ
hāḏā 'l-kātiba
(this writer)
ّإن
ʼinna
(verily)

Note that although there was an overt verb in the above example, a nominal sentence without an overt verb will also have its subject take accusative case because of the introduction of one of ʼinna's sisters. (The predicate of an equation is unaffected and will remain in the nominative.)

Consider the following example ("Verily, this writer is famous"):

Nominal Sentence without Verb with إنّ
grammatical role Object (no verb) Subject Sister of ʼinna
Arabic label خبر
ḫabar
(no verb) مبتدأ
mubtadaʼ
أخت إنّ
'uḫtu ʼinna
case nominative (no verb) accusative (sister of ʼinna)
example مشهورٌ
mašhūrun
(famous)
(no verb) هذا الكاتبَ
hāḏā 'l-kātiba
(this writer)
إنّ
'Inna
(verily)

With Sisters of Kāna (أخوات كان ʼaḫawātu kāna)

The verb kāna (كان) and its sisters form a class of 12 verbs that mark the time/duration of actions, states, and events.

Sentences that use these verbs are considered to be a type of nominal sentence according to Arabic grammar, not a type of verbal sentence. Although the word order may seem to be Verb Subject Object when there is no other verb in the sentence, note that it is possible to have a sentence in which the order is Sister-of-Kāna Subject Verb Object. Such a non-equation sentence clearly shows Subject Verb Object word order.

Among the sisters of kāna are:

  • كان      kāna ("was")
  • ليس      laysa ("not")
  • ما زال      mā zāla ("still"; literally, "has not ceased to be")
  • أصبح      ʼaṣbaḥa ("to reach a state")
  • ظلّ      ẓalla ("to remain")

If one of the sisters of كان begins a clause, then the subject takes nominative case and the object takes accusative case. (Note that because of this, Arabic contrasts [The man]NOM is [a doctor]NOM in the present tense with [The man]NOM was [a doctor]ACC in the past tense.)

Such a sentence using the verb كان ("This writer was famous") would be formed as follows (read from right to left):

Nominal Sentence with كان
grammatical role Object (no verb) Subject Sister of Kāna
Arabic label خبر
ḫabar
(no verb) اسم
ism
أخت كان
ʼuḫtu kāna
case accusative (no verb) nominative (sister of kāna)
example مشهوراً
mašhūran
(famous)
(no verb) هذا الكاتبُ
hāḏā 'l-kātibu
(this writer)
كان
Kāna
(was)

In a sentence with an explicit verb, the sister of kāna marks aspect for the actual verb. A sentence like كان الكاتب يكتب الكتاب (was the.writer he.writes the.book, "the writer was writing the book"), for instance, has both a main verb (يكتب) and a sister of kāna that indicates the non-completed aspect of the main verb.

Verbs

The imperfective tense of the verb also has suffixed vowels, which determine the mood of the verb. Thus:

  • yaktubu, indicative (مرفوع marfūʿ), means "he writes" or "he will write";
  • yaktuba, subjunctive (منصوب manṣūb), is used in phrases such as "so that he should write";
  • yaktub, jussive (مجزوم majzūm, literally meaning "clipped off"), means "let him write". This can become yaktubi when required for euphony, e.g. when followed by two consonants.

Traditional Arab grammarians equated the indicative with the nominative of nouns, the subjunctive with the accusative and the jussive with the genitive, as indicated by their names (the only pair that is not borne out in the name is the jussive-genitive pair, probably because the -i vowel is usually dropped). It is not known whether there is a genuine historical connection or whether the resemblance is mere coincidence, caused by the fact that these are the only three short vowels available.

References

  • Brustad et al., A Textbook for Arabic: Part Two: Washington, DC 1997, ISBN 0-87840-350-7
  • Haywood and Nahmad, A new Arabic grammar: London 1965, ISBN 0 85331 585 X
  • Aryeh Levin, "The Fundamental Principles of the Arab Grammarians' Theory of `amal", in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 19 (1995), pp. 214-232.
  • John Mace, Arabic Grammar: A Reference Guide: Edinburgh 2002, ISBN 0 7486 1079 0

See also

External links

Search another word or see nominal sentenceon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature