November 7, 2019 0

Arabic Grammar: Indefinite ‘IDaafa’ الإضافة النكرة

Arabic Grammar: Indefinite ‘IDaafa’ الإضافة النكرة

SabaaH al-kheir! Right now, we’re going to talk about Indefinite ‘iDaafas’ in Arabic or what we would call in the Arabic language الإضافة النكرة If you’ve been studying Arabic for a little while, you’ve probably encountered lots and lots of إضافات; they’re absolutely everywhere in the Arabic language. They’re a really essential structure that we see all of the time, and they’re used basically to express possession, or to talk about the relationship between two or more nouns. An  إضافة, as you’ll recall can only ever be made up entirely of nouns. Here are some simple examples. All of these are currently definite. كتاب الطالب, ‘the student’s book,’ or ‘the book of the student.’ ‘The book of the student,’ sounds a little strange in English, but in Arabic, we’re forced by the rules of making an إضافة to keep that structure. كتاب, ‘the book of…the student.’ غرفة النوم ‘the bedroom,’ or literally ‘the room of sleeping,’ ‘the room of sleep,’ and here رئيسة جامعتي ‘The president of my university,’ or ‘my university president.’ رئيسة is the word for president. It could be masculine or feminine depending. My college president happens to be a woman, so I’ve made it feminine with a ‘taa marbuuTa’ here. So all of these a ‘iDaafas’ are definite, and we know that because the last noun in each one is definite, either with ‘alif-laam’ in these cases, or with a possessive suffix: جامعتي. “MY college, MY university.’ Sometimes, though, we want to talk about the same collections of nouns in the same relationships, but without them being definite, and it’s pretty simple to do that in Arabic. We just remove the definite marker either the ‘alif-laam,’ or the possessive suffix at the end. So we wind up with كتاب طالب, ‘a book of a student, a student’s book,’ غرفة نوم, ‘a bedroom.’ Which one? We aren’t saying. or رئيسة جامعة ‘a college president,’ ‘a university president.’ If we’re using these إضافات in a sentence, we need to remember that they work just like all other nouns in Arabic They’re going to be modified by adjectives that need to be gendered just like the nouns. And since the principal noun of each of these إضافات is at the beginning, we need to make sure that we gender any adjectives correctly. For example, if I wanted to say ‘I have a big bedroom,’ I could say عندي غرفة نوم كبيرة كبيرة has to be gendered feminine, because غرفة Is a feminine noun. It wouldn’t really make sense to say غرفة نوم كبير That would mean like ‘the room of a…” or ‘a room of a big sleep.’ It would be very awkward and messy and incorrect. Or if I wanted to say ‘I took a short tea break,’ something that will happen if you travel to the Arab world I assure you, you could say: أخذتُ استراحة شاي قصيرة. ‘I took a short tea break.’ Here again, the break is what’s short, not the tea. It’s not as though I got a short glass instead of a tall one. So قصيرة has to be feminine because it’s referring back to this noun the first noun in the إضافة It may seem like a very subtle distinction between a definite and indefinite إضافة. It is, it’s a very simple thing to do, but when we’re writing and speaking, we really do need to make sure that we get the flavor that we want, definite or indefinite. If, for example, I said to someone أخذت استراحة الشاي القصيرة ‘I took the short tea break,’ it would raise the same questions that that sentence does in English. Well, did someone else take the long one? Did you get assigned different lengths? So, it is important for us to think hard about whether or not we are referring to a definite or indefinite collection of nouns, and to make sure that our ‘alif-laams’ and our possessive suffixes are where they need to be to convey that idea accurately and clearly.

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