September 1, 2019 0

Arabic Grammar: Forming Nisba Adjectives in Arabic النسبة

Arabic Grammar: Forming Nisba Adjectives in Arabic النسبة

Ahlan wa sahlan. Right now we’re going
to talk about how to form ‘nisba’ adjectives. ‘Nisba’ adjectives are
adjectives that are formed by adding ‘yaa-shadda,’ or ‘yaa-shadda’ plus a ‘taa marbuuTa,’ depending on whether we’re talking about something masculine or
feminine. They’re usually derived from place names
or ‘names of affiliation,’ a lot of proper nouns. You’ve probably encountered a few already, things like قهوة عربيّة, where we have that ‘yaa-taa marbuuTa,’ ‘Arab coffee,’ or ‘Arabic coffee,’ or maybe الأدب الإنجليزيّ, ‘English
literature,’ where we have that ‘yaa’ referring to ‘English,’ something of or
pertaining to English as a language. So right now we’re going to talk about how
we derive these forms. What we do is we take a name–again usually a proper noun
of place or affiliation–we remove ‘taa marbuuTa’ or ‘yaa-taa marbuuTa,’ ‘alif-laam’ if there’s a definite article, and any final ‘alif’ or
‘yaa-alif,’ and then we add ‘yaa’ or ‘yaa-taa marbuuTa,’ we just need
to remember to remove those extraneous parts, and then we add that ‘yaa’ or ‘yaa-taa marbuuTa,’ which tells us that we have now an adjective, instead of a noun. So
for example, if we take السّعودية, Saudi Arabia, we’re going to remove that ‘alif-laam,’ we’re going to remove that ‘yaa-taa marbuuTa,’ and then we’re going
to take our stem, so if we were referring to something masculine that was ‘Saudi,’ we
use the same word in English, we would then have سعودي. This shadda that tends to be emphasized more when formal Arabic is being spoken or read aloud, سعوديّ. In
most spoken Arabic it tends to be a little bit softer, but it’s a good habit
to get into writing the ‘shadda’ on all of your ‘nisba’ adjectives just to
remember that they’re there. Or for example if we take الأردن, Jordan’ we’re going to go’
through our steps. What do we need to remove? We have an ‘alif-laam,’ so we’re
going to remove that. So if we wanted to talk about a Jordanian woman, for
example, we would say أردنيّة. ‘yaa, taa marbuuTa.’ Or if we take أمريكا–this can be a tricky one, right, because we don’t actually have ‘alif laam,’
we only have that initial ‘alif.’ So we’re not going to remove it, it’s not an
article that we need to get rid of, but we do have ‘alif,’ so we’re going to
take that stem that we have left, so if we were talking about ‘American
literature,’ for example, الأدب, when we write الأدب الأمريكي. This is an
important point. Remember when we were talking about adjective agreement with
‘alif-laam,’ how our adjective needs to be definite as well? Forming a ‘nisba’ is
one thing, but we have to think about the grammatical context in which it occurs.
So in Arabic when we refer to a general concept like ‘literature,’ for example, it’s
usually definite, so we’re talking about the totality of American literature.
الأدب الأمريكي. Or one last example: موريتانيا. Here we have to remember that
we’re going to remove final ‘alif’ if it’s there, or final ‘yaa-alif’ if it’s there.
So we’re left with this stem. So if we wanted to talk about ‘the president of
Mauritania’ for example, or ‘a Mauritanian president,’ we would say رئيس موريتاني.

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