January 20, 2020 0

Arabic Grammar: Active Participles اسم الفاعل

Arabic Grammar: Active Participles اسم الفاعل


Ahlan wa sahlan! Right now we’re going to talk about active participles in Arabic, or what we would call in Arabic اسم الفاعل. A فاعل means a ‘doer,’ someone or something that does or performs an action, based on the verb from which it’s derived. We get a lot of really, really useful nouns and adjectives from this paradigm, and the good news is that it tends to be pretty regular and predictable, once we understand how it works. You probably know a lot of أسماء فاعل already. They’re all over the place in Arabic. For example, the word for student, طالب, comes from a verb يطلب, meaning to ask or demand. So a طالب is literally, in Arabic, an ‘asker,’ a ‘demander,’ someone who’s demanding knowledge, and it means ‘student.’ You know probably the word ضابظ, ‘officer,’ like in the military or in the police force, and the verb يضبط kind of means ‘to create order, to keep under control.’ A ‘writer’ or an ‘author’ in Arabic would be a كاتب from a verb that you probably know, يكتب ‘to write,’ and if you were talking about being a ‘resident of a place,’ or maybe in Levantine or Egyptian colloquial, If you were saying ‘I live in such and such a place’ you might say أنا ساكن في …wherever it might be, from the verb يسكن. All of these are Form I verbs, and all of these are Form I أسماء فاعل. Notice that they follow the exact same vowel pattern, and we have the exact same ‘extras’ as this word فاعل, where the ‘faa,’ ‘ayn,’ and ‘laam’ are stand-ins for our real, meaningful root, right, that’s shared. So we have طالب ضابط كاتب ساكن the same vowel pattern in every single case. Of course, if we were referring to a female student, or police officer, or author, or resident, we would just tack a ‘taa marbuuTa’ onto the end of those. That’s really it. It’s that simple for Form I. For all of the other verb forms, the derived verb forms, we can also make أسماء فاعل. We just have slightly different patterns and we have II through X, so there are ten forms that potentially, we need to learn how to manipulate. But there’s some good news, which is it’s all very very regular. If you know how to make an اسم فاعل In Form II, you know how to make an اسم فاعل from any Form II verb that you’re ever going to encounter. Pretty much same thing for all the other forms. And the other good news is that often they tend to share characteristics with the verbs. So if you have a handle on how the different verb forms are constructed, you can tend to make pretty decent predictions about how things are going to happen. For example, in Form V, we add the extra ‘taa’ to the beginning of the جذر and in Form V اسم فاعل, we do the same thing. Notice that from II through X, all of the أسماء فاعل begin with a ‘miim’ with a ‘Dhamma’ on it, and that the second-to-last letter of the جذر has a ‘kasra.’ This is true all the way down the line, so if you hear a word, a new, unfamiliar word, that starts with a ‘miim’ with a ‘Dhamma’ on it and Has a ‘kasra’ on the second-to-last letter of its جذر, you can make a pretty decent prediction that you’re dealing with an اسم فاعل right? Again, the doer of an action. So let’s take a look at a couple of examples. We know one word for a person who teaches an أستاذ, right? A professor. But if we just wanted to talk about a teacher, one who teaches, we could create an اسم فاعل from that same pattern, taking the verb يُدَرِّس. Now I can tell يُدَرِّس is form II because of the vowels, and because of that ‘shadda,’ I know, I can recognize that it sounds just like all the other form II verbs on Earth. And now I want to put into this pattern. So I’m going to lose the conjugation at the beginning or the end and then I’m going to put on the ‘miim’ with the ‘Dhamma,’ and I’m going to keep my جذر in the same spot relative to the extra letters and sounds I’m addingو and I wind up with مدرِّس, ‘a teacher.’ How about another example. The verb يُساعِد –Form III, I can tell because it’s got that ‘alif,’ and a ‘Dhamma’ at the beginning and a ‘kasra’ here on the second to last letter of the جذر. I’ve got that paradigm kind of settled in my head. So if I wanted to talk about someone or something who was ‘a helper’ or ‘an assistant’ I would, again, lose the conjugation, pop on my ‘miim,’ and wind up with مُساعِد. If we wanted to talk about an assistant professor, that would be the way to do it in arabic. We could say أستاذ مساعد Or if we were talking about a gramatically feminine professor. We could say أستاذة مُساعِدة. That would be the normal way to do it. One more example. To say ‘listen’ in Arabic, We would say يستمع. So if we wanted to refer to ‘a listener,’ a listener of the radio someone listening to a sports announcement, I would again drop my conjugation, tack on the ‘miim,’ Keep my جذر, and also keep the extra that’s part of the form: that ‘taa,’ that’s part of Form VIII, and wind up with مُستمِع ‘a listener.’ That’s something that you hear a lot on broadcast media. If you’re listening to the BBC in Arabic, they’ll say ‘يا مستمعين,’ ‘hello listeners,’ something like that. if we want to make any of the derived forms plural, Forms II through X, there’s great news. We can do that by tacking on the normal, regular plurals, the ون or ين paradigms for masculine or mixed groups and the ات for feminine groups. So if I wanted to talk about a lot of female assistant professors, I could just say أستاذات مُساعِدات Again, because they’re human, I’m using the sound plural. If they were non human plurals, that were feminine with ‘taa marbuuTa,’ or if they were non human plurals that weren’t feminine, I could get away with having the adjective look as though It were singular feminine. So for ‘listeners’ here I could just say مُستمعين. Form I tends to be less predictable. Form I is probably going to take a broken plural, but there are a couple of broken plurals that are really really common that we can anticipate. As a matter of fact, all of these nouns, all of these Form I nouns, take the same broken plural in the same pattern, فُعّال. So, assuming that I’m talking about a masculine or mixed group for the moment, if I were talking about a group, not just one طالب, but many, I would say طُلّاب More than one officer: ضُبّاط. More than one writer: كُتّاب. More than one resident, if we’re talking about the residents, the population of a city I could say سُكّان. So it’s not quite regular, we can”t count on it a hundred percent, but it’s a very common broken plural for Form I اسم فاعل. And for all of the other derived أسماء فاعل, we can use normal, regular plural endings, which is great. Saves us a lot of time. Not every single verb in every single form is going to have a derived active participle that is actually used. In theory, we could do it, but it might be a little unique, it might have kind of a strange flavor. For example, we know the word طالب, ‘student’ which doesn’t come from ‘study’ it comes from ‘ask or demand.’ But it’s just the normal word for student. We could in theory take the verb يَدرُس, which is Form I, and put it into that فاعل pattern, and wind up with دارس We could do that, and people would probably understand us, but it would come across as ‘marked,’ a little bit like saying ‘I am a studier’ of such-and-so in English. Is that exactly wrong? Perhaps not quite, but it’s not what’s usually said. We would say ‘student.’ We have a slightly less regular word. But it’s really great to get a handle on these because, once you figure out how these forms work, if you can match it up with your knowledge of meaningful جذور, meaningful roots, you can save a lot of dictionary time. You can save a lot of time looking things up if you can say, ‘Aha! I recognize that it’s an اسم فاعل pattern,’ that It’s the ‘doer’ of such and such an action. So I can conclude safely even if I don’t know the exact definition, I can conclude what the word means, more or less. And you can start making up some of your own words from all the verbs that you know. It’s essentially multiplying your vocabulary in Arabic by 15 or 20% if you consider that every verb you know theoretically has an اسم فاعل. Which makes knowing اسم فاعل and being able to comprehend it and deploy it in your own speech and writing a very, very powerful tool.

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