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[ISSN: 2231-4946]
Arabic Parts of Speech: A Brief Overview
Abdul Hamid Ahmed
A Research Scholar of CMJ University, Shillong, India
Abstract—Arabic belongs to Semitic group of languages, which is widely spoken in the Arab word. It is
the language of the Holy Qur’ân and Hadith and the theology of Islam. Arabic literature finds a great
reputation in the domain of the world literature. As an official language, Arabic is used in 25 sovereign
states and it is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. So, its importance has been high
level in the world of business and commerce. Moreover, it is widely taught in schools, colleges,
universities, Islamic institutions, and used in workplaces, government and the media as well. As such,
an attempt has been made in this paper to shed light on Arabic Parts of Speech.
Keywords— Qur’ân, Arabic, Grammar, Noun, Verb
In the linguistic scenario of the world, Arabic has a scientific grammar, rhetoric and prosody. Her
syntactical feature is unique in the world and parts of speech have elaborated functioning. Arabic grammarians
traditionally analyze all Arabic words into three main parts of speech; they are primarily (1) Noun, (2) Verb and (3)
Particles. (1) These parts of speech are further sub-categorized into more detailed parts-of-speech which collectively
cover the whole of the Arabic language. The three main parts of speech are as under:
To acquaint with Arabic Parts of Speech, we have categorically made a short discussion for all the aspects
as they have. It has been observed from the linguistic point of view that nouns were created first, so their discussion
is brought to notice as follows:
1. Noun: A noun in Arabic is a name or a word that describes a person, thing, or idea. Traditionally the Noun class
in Arabic is subdivided into Derivatives (that is, nouns derived from verbs, nouns derived from other nouns, and
nouns derived from particles) and Primitives (nouns not so derived). These nouns could be further sub-categorized
by number, gender and case. This class also includes Participles, Pronouns, Relatives, Demonstratives and
Interrogatives. (2)
The Arab grammarians divide the nouns into three classes, they are as follows:
Ism al-Jâmid (The Primitive Noun) e.g. rajul (man), faras (a horse), nisâ’ (women) etc.
Ism al-Maṣdar (Verbal Noun), e.g. katl (to kill), nuṣra (to help) etc.
Ism al-Mashtaq (Derivative Noun), e.g. Ism al-Fâ‟il (Active Participle), e.g. kâtib (a writer), nâṣir (a
helper) etc. (3)
In this respect, all the categories of noun and their examples are brought to notice with an explanation as
(i) The Verbal Noun (maṣdar): Here the word kitâba (writing) is a word denotes the act of writing having no a
specific time i.e. original root of the word (infinitive noun of action).
(ii) The Active Participle (ism al-fâ‘il): It refers to doers of action like the word kâtib denotes to a „writer‟.
(iii) The Passive Participle (ism al-maf‘ûl): It refers to an action on whose the action of verb is fallen; for
example the word „maktûb‟ means „written‟ i.e. a passive action.
(iv) The Adjective (sifah): It denotes to a quality, e.g. jayyid means „good‟.
(v) The Primary Noun (ism al-jâmid): It denotes to names which are not derived from any verb, e.g. asad
means a „lion‟; qalam means a „pen‟ etc.
(vi) The Demonstrative Pronoun (ism al-ishârah): It denotes to pronouns like hadhâ means „this‟; dhalika (‫)ذلك‬
means „that‟.
(vii) The Interrogative Particle (harf al-istifahâm): It denotes to the pronouns like mâ, man, hal, etc.
The Related Noun (ism al-mansûb): It denotes to a relation of a thing or place, e.g. asâmî means
an Assamese man.
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Abdul Hamid Ahmed
(ix) The Personal Pronouns (ḍamâ’ir): They denote to some particles for indicating persons, e.g. huwa „he‟,
hiwa „she‟, hum „they‟ etc.
(x) The Relative Pronoun (ism al-mausûl): It refers to a word which has a relation or connection to the
sentence following it. The sentence following such a noun may be nominal or verbal. The relative pronouns
(asmâ’ al-mausûla) are (4) as follows:
allâtî / allâ’î
allatân / allatain
2. Verb: The verb classification in Arabic is similar to that in English, although the tenses and aspects are different.
The Verb can be sub-categorized into Perfect, Imperfect, and Imperative. Further sub-categorization of the Verb
class is possible using number, person and gender. Verb is defined by an action done in a specific time. Arabic has
four kinds of verbs, and these are discussed as follows:
(i) Past Tense (al-fi‘l al-mâḍî): It refers to the action of verb in the past tense, e.g. kataba al-safîr risâlah
“The Ambassador wrote a letter.”
(ii) Present and Future Tense (al-fi‘l al-muḍâri‘): It refers to the action of verb in the present or future
tense, e.g. tatlu‘ al-shams fî al-mashriq “The Sun rises in the east.”
(iii) Imperative Verb (al-fi‘l al-amar): It denotes to give an order to be done within a period of time, e.g.
uktub hadhâ ‘alâ al-sabbûrah “Write this on the blackboard.”
(iv) Future Tense (al-fi‘l al-muḍâri‘): It indicates to the action of verb taking place perfectly in future,
while it is structured either with an addition of the letter sîn as suffix or the word saufa be preceded to the respective
verb, e.g. saufa ta‘lamûna “Very soon they will come to know.” (5)
3. Particle (harf): The particle in Arabic is such a word that which is dependent on a noun or a verb in order to
convey a complete or useful meaning. Its meaning will be complete when it is used along with the noun or verb in a
sentence. e.g. min “from”, ilâ “to”, „alâ “on‟ etc. We find in example as khadîjah min afrikiya “Khadijah is from
Africa”. Despite the al-hurūf al-jarrah other particles like hal, lam etc. are also fallen in the category of Arabic
particles. This matter is also supported by the scholar Muhammad Muhyi al-Din Abdul Hamid. (6)
It is imperative to know that the particle class includes: Prepositions, Adverbs, Conjunctions, Interrogative
Particles, Exceptions2, and Interjections. (7)
In fact, Arabic Parts of Speech are necessary for her language. The matter of Arabic Nouns is akin to other
languages. Arabic Verbs are morphologically formed in two categories, i.e. mâḍî (Past Tense) and muḍâri‘ (Present
and Future Tense). On the other hand, the Imperative (al-fi‘l al-amar) is structured from muḍâri‘ form of verb. Here
it may be noted that Arabic Verbs have many derivative forms incomparable to other languages. The matter of
particle in Arabic language is similar to other languages.
Arabic grammar, syntax, rhetoric, prosody etc. are very much scientific in linguistic nature. Arabic Parts of
Speech are essential to new learners. Here it is imperative to know that the matter of Arabic Parts of Speech is
related to Arabic grammar (sarf) and syntax (naḥw) together. According to western linguists, Arabic is the youngest
representative of the Semitic group of languages. It is widely spoken through out the Arab world.
M. Obaidullah-el-Obaidi (1938), A Grammar of Arabic Language, (University of Calcutta: Calcutta), p. 47 dated 5th October, 2011
M. Obaidullah-el-Obaidi (1938), Op. cit, pp. 128 – 129
Michael Mumisa (2008), Introducing Arabic (Goodword Books: New Delhi), p. 93
M. Obaidullah-el-Obaidi (1938), Op. cit, pp. 48 – 57
Michael Mumisa (2008), Op. cit., pp. 24 – 25
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