The Arabic Morphology – A Deeper Dive In Arabic Linguistics

Dina Sarayra
Arabic Grammar
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Searching for Arabic morphology online? Search no more. We have the basics covered here for you. Arabic verb morphology has rules that it abides by and if recognized, everything will fall into place.

Let’s first define Arabic morphology which is referred to as صرف /sarf/ or تصريف /tasreef/ (the verb version of it). In Arabic morphology, some internal changes of a word take place and this is due to many reasons. Whatever led to that, there is a certain pattern that is followed by the Arabic language. For example, the morphological process of voweling Arabic words. Sometimes it is simply the addition of other Arabic letters to the “original” word. With /sarf/, we can recognize not only denotative meanings but connotative ones as well.


Having said that, we are going to be looking into three main sub-topics that deal with verb morphology: conjugation processes, verb paradigms and related connotations, and rules of irregularity.

There are four sections for simple conjugation and that includes the perfect tense, imperfect tense, command and prohibition, and derived nouns.

Let’s take a look at an example of perfect tense conjugation


Simple Conjugation – Perfect Tense

ArabicTransliteration
كتب/kataba/
كتبا/katabaa/
كتبوا/katabo/
كتبتِ/katabti/
كتبتا/katabta/
كتبن/katabn/
كتبتَ/katabta/
كتبتما/katabtoma/
كتبتم /katabtom/
كتبتُنًّ/katabtonna/
كتبتُ/katabto/
كتبنا/katabna/


Verb Paradigms

Verbs, as the case in English morphology, have a base form and related variations depending on many factors. In Arabic morphology, there are certain variations that verbs create when under specific conditions. In Arabic, there are two situations that lead to this and both are related to the middle letter vowel if it was in the ideal conjugation or not.

Arabic syntax and morphology uses the verb فعل /fa’ala/ meaning did, as in do, to put these variations into a structured form.

Let’s take a look at some examples of this

VariationExample
فعل /fa’ala/كتب /kataba/
فاعل /fa’il/كاتب /katib/
فعالة /fa’ala/كتابة /kattaba/
فعيل /fa’eel/كتيب /kateeb/
فعال /fi’aal/كتاب /kitab/



Irregularity Rules

Certain rules apply to irregular cases such as the Hamza verbs, the duplicated verbs, and glide irregularities. The rules of each vary, but these irregularities do occur and have specific ways that they are dealt with.

For example, sometimes a vowelled letter with no hamza is followd by a hamza which is vowelled. In that case, the hamza has the option of moving such as the case here:

نأم changes into نام

Another example is seen when a waw و turns into a ya’ ي if it is in a verb as the fourth letter (or after), with no match with a previous short vowel.


Arabic grammar has its twists and turns but once you look at it from far, you’ll see the big picture. Such as the case with mathematical theories, it is useless to read them and not actually use them, or in this case, practice them. With enough reading and writing practice, you’ll find yourself writing with the rules without you even realizing it. 


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