December 27, 2019 0

Arabic Grammar: Feminine Human Plurals

Arabic Grammar: Feminine Human Plurals


Masaa’ al-kheir! Right now, we’re going to talk about regular feminine plurals in Arabic. You’re probably familiar with the regular feminine ending, ـات, that we usually put at the end of words that are grammatically feminine in the singular, like if we were talking about ‘an article,’ مقالة,we see that it has a ‘taa marbuuTa,’ we know it’s grammatically feminine, so to turn it plural we would add an ‘alif and a ‘taa,’ and remove the ‘taa marbuuTa,’ مقالات, or مهندسة, a female engineer, مهندسات, مدرِّسة, a female teacher, مدرّسات, etc. In formal Arabic, feminine plurals that refer to human women have their own set of pronouns and verb conjugations as well. Remember that with non-human nouns, we refer to them, everything about them in our sentence is going to look gramatically as though we’re referring to feminine singular, so this is only for humans who are women that we use these. And remember that in Colloquial Arabic, in speech we usually have one set of nouns and pronouns and conjugations that applies to both men and women. This is a feature, basically, of formal, written Arabic. So over here, I have some feminine singular pronouns, subject pronouns, object pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, etc., for reference, and then I have the feminine plural versions that we would use if we were referring to a group of women, or addressing them in the second person. And you can sort of see the family relationship between most of them. Instead of هي for ‘they,’ a feminine plural you would say هنّ. Instead of أنتِ, we would say أنتُنّ, so we already hear that ـُنَّ ending, there’s a sort of harmony of sound that will help us out. Instead of هذه, we do use هؤلاء, which can refer to a group of men or a mixed group or a group of just women. Instead of ها, ‘her,’ or ‘hers,’ it would be ـهُنَّ, instead of ـكِ, ـكُنَّ, there again, that ‘unna’ sound, and instead of الّتي, we would use اللّواتي. For verb conjugation, we also have a couple of differences. So in the past tense, we still have suffixes, and then in the present tense, we have prefix-suffix combos, but they differ slightly from the other conjugations that we might already know. Instead of أنتِ دَرَستِ, I’ve picked the verb ‘to study,’ just as a template, because it’s one we all know, we would say أنتُنَّ دَرَستُنّ, ‘you, all of you women, studied.’ هي دَرَسَتْ ‘she studied,’ or they, feminine plural, هنَّ دَرَسنَ. Notice that the final letter of the جُذر Takes a ‘sukuun,’ and then we just add a ‘nuun’ with a ‘fatha’ on it, دَرَسْنَ. In the present tense, أنتِ تَدرسين, you, feminine singular, study, أنتُنّ تدرسنَ so we keep the ‘taa,’ but instead we add the ‘nuun’ with the ‘fatha’ on it, and instead of ‘she studies,’ singular, هي تدرس, We would say هنّ يَدرُسنَ Notice that unlike the other combinations, we keep that ‘yaa’ at the beginning, which is a prefix that you might associate with masculine verb conjugations: هو يدرس, ‘he studies,’ but in the feminine third-person plural, we’re going to say هنّ يدرسنَ, they, feminine plural, study. So I have some sentences here that are currently mostly about feminine singular subjects, but I want to switch them to feminine plural, just as some examples, so we can see how all of these things work. رقم واحد: الطبيبة التي حضرت المؤتمر كتبت مقالة ممتازة. So, ‘the doctor who attended the conference wrote an excellent article.’ Now, I want to turn that one female doctor into a group of female doctors. So I’m going to first use that sound feminine plural and say الطبيبات. Let’s use a different color. How about blue. الطبيبات التي… now I need to turn التي into a feminine pronoun, اللواتي So the doctors who attended, حضرَتْ, feminine singular, I need to make it plural, so I’m going to turn it into حضرنَ المؤتمر كتبَتْ, again, just one person wrote it. But now I want to make it a group of women who wrote this article, كتبنَ مقالة ممتازة. Second! المهندسة تحب عملها كثيرا. ‘The engineer loves her work very much,’ or ‘likes her work a lot.’ So now we want to make it a group of engineers. So we’d say المهندسات …a very nice thing about the sound feminine plural is that we pretty much aren’t going to be bothered with broken plurals in this case. Even if there is a broken plural like طبيب, one grammatically masculine doctor, the plural would be أطبّاء, which is very weird, but we can stick with طبيبات, so it’s convenient. المهندسات تحبّ now we want to say they all like so we can apply this template, and say يحبِبنَ عملها, her work, we want to make it their work, so we would say عملهنّ كثيراً, .and the adverb stays the same Finally, let’s say ‘I met,’ قابلتُ المديرة، وناقشنا الموظّفة الجديدة. ‘I met the director, and we discussed the new employee.’ And the director and the employee here are feminine. So here, we’re only going to change the nouns. قابلتُ المديرات, the female directors, and we discussed the new female employees. One last wrinkle, which this sentence can help us illustrate, is that… remember how the masculine regular plurals only really have two case markers? in the مرفوع it’s ـون, and then in the منصوب and the مجرور we have ـين. Something similar happens to the case endings for feminine plurals. It’s going to look the same probably in an unvocalized text. We’re going to have ‘alif-taa’ in either variation, but in منصوب and مجرور, it’s going to be made منصوب or مجرور with one or two ‘kasras.’ So here for example, قابَلتُ المديرات, ‘I met the directors,’ they’re the object of that verb, so they’re منصوب, but instead of putting a ‘fatha,’ like you might ordinarily expect with a منصوب verb, it’s going to take one ‘kasra.’ It doesn’t take two, it doesn’t have ‘tanwiin,’ because it’s definite with an alif-laam, and the same thing here: ناقشنا الموظّفاتِ الجديداتِ. We’re going to have a ‘kasra’ and a ‘kasra,’ even though It’s منصوب not مجرور. And that is feminine plurals in Arabic. Remember that we pretty much need to use them in speech when referring to–excuse me, we need to use them in writing an in formal speech when we’re referring to groups of women, and then in colloquial we tend to use one set of pronouns and conjugations for the same thing. But if we want to be clear in a formal text, and we’re referring to groups of women, This is the structure that we would need to use.

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