Arabic Class

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Posts Tagged ‘ال (al)

Noun Sentences

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Note: I am “learning by teaching” here, so the following is very likely to contain mistakes. I would love it if you pointed these out to me.

There is no equivalent of the verb “to be” in the present tense in Arabic. A simple form of sentence can be made by using only nouns and adjectives, but no verbs. These come in a couple of variations. Let’s start by looking at sentences with only two words.

Firstly, when both words are indefinite: بيت كبير (bait kabiir) meaning “a big house”. The fact that both words are indefinite here can be understood from the lack of the definite article ال (Al, “the”). There is no actual word in Arabic word the indefinite article “a” – it shows up in translation in this particular form of sentence.

Secondly, when the first word is definite and the second is indefinite: البيت كبير (al-bait kabiir) means “the house is big”. That the first word (البيت) is definite can be understood from the definite article ال.

Thirdly, when both words are definite:البيت الطبير (al-bait al-kabiir, “the big house”). Notice that the definite article ال shows up before both words here.

Mathematicians will now wonder about the meaning of a indefinite word, followed by a definitive one. This is (as far as I understand now) not a noun sentence but a genitive construction, and will be dealt with later.

The examples above are based on a noun (in the above, بيت) and an adjective (in the above, كبير). The workings for two-word-sentences with two nouns are similar*:

محمد مدرس (muHammed mudarris) means “muHammed is a teacher”. Note that muHammed is definite, though it’s lacking the definite article. However, we’re not talking about “a muHammed” but about a particular one.

هو طالب (huwa Taalib) means “he’s a student”. “He” is definite too, because we know about which “he” we’re talking.

Open question: can you say “the big muHammad” like this: معمد الكبير ?

Open question: how do you say “muHammed is the teacher”? Answer

*in fact, I can only think of examples where the first word is either a proper noun (e.g. John), or a personal pronoun (e.g. you)


Written by klaasvanschelven

January 16, 2008 at 6:47 am

Sun letters and moon letters

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The pronunciation of the definite article ال (Al, meaning “the”) may change depending on the letter following it. Basically: if it would be hard to say the letter following the article when speaking quickly, the ل (Laam) is dropped, and the letter following the article is doubled.Try to pronounce the following: الشمس

Knowing the alphabet you will see the letters ا (Alif), ل (Laam), ش (Shin), م (Mim) and س (Sin). That makes “al-shams”, right? Now try saying that as quickly as you can: you will surely end up with something that sounds very similar to “ash-shams”. Fortunately this is also the rule. In fact it is the rule for the following letters:

ت، ث، د، ذ، ر، ز، س، ش، ص، ض، ط، ظ، ل، ن

These letters are called the ‘sun letters’, for the simple reason that the word شمس (shems, meaning “sun”) starts with one of them. The other letters are called ‘moon letters’, since قمر (qamar, meaning “moon”) does not have a beginning letter from this set.

Note: make sure to double the first letter of the actual noun when pronouncing (ash-shems).

Fancier names for sun letters and moon letters in English are “solar letters” and “lunar letters”.

Written by klaasvanschelven

January 5, 2008 at 11:31 pm

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