Arabic Case Inflection – Arabic Nasb – Ref- Cer
Unlike the other living Semitic languages such as Hebrew, formal Arabic is a language that exhibits vigorous case and mood inflection. Case inflection means that a noun (which includes in Arabic adjectives) has multiple declensions, or endings, for different grammatical cases.
For example, the noun‘al-walad الْوَلَد= “the child” is not written completely this way. We have to complete the noun by adding the appropriate case-ending for the grammatical case.
There are three grammatical cases in Arabic, so this word can have three different case-endings.
Case Declension of a Regular Singular Noun
These designations of the cases are the ones traditionally used to refer to the Arabic/Semitic three cases. However, these designations do not adequately express the multiple usages of each case. The “accusative” case, for example, is used for about ten cases other than the actual accusative (the direct object case).
The Arabic names for the three cases are the following:
Names of Arabic/Semitic Grammatical Cases
|Western Name||Arabic Name|
|= the raising|
|= the erecting|
|= the dragging|
In order to see description of each case and its uses, you may go to this page.
Case-inflected & Non-case-inflected Words
Not every Arabic word goes under case or mood inflection (case inflection is for nouns, including adjectives, and mood-inflection is for verbs). There are Arabic words that do not show any changes with regard to grammatical case or mood.
Each Arabic word belongs to either one of two categories:
Built words كَلِمَاْتٌ مَبْنِيَّةٌ: words that do not exhibit case or mood inflection.
Arabized words كَلِمَاْتٌ مُعْرَبَةٌ: words that do exhibit case or mood inflection.
The “built words” are generally the pronouns, the perfective (past) and imperative verbs, and all the particles.
Case inflection is called in Arabic ‘i”raab إِعْرَاْبٌ = “Arabization.” This speaks of the mentality of ancient Arabs who held very dear eloquence in their language.
However, most regular speakers of Arabic are, and were, not very talented in Arabizing their talk. Case inflection is no longer present in the modern spoken dialects of Arabic. It is still taught at schools as part of studying the formal Arabic, but there are really not many regular speakers who are good enough at it.
For most words, the case/mood-inflected endings will be nothing but different short vowels. Some words, however, show variations in letters, like the case inflection for the dual and masculine plural endings already mentioned in previous sections. Thus, most of the case/mood-inflected endings do not appear in writing, because short vowels are not usually written.
Case inflection in Arabic is difficult, and it is not important for a beginning learner to spend much time on it. In these pages, the case-inflected parts of words will be called the “case-signs.” This designation is inspired from the Arabic one, and it is better than “case-endings” because the case-inflected parts are not always the “endings” of the words.
Case-signs will be always colored in pink. You can see the case-signs of all the kinds of Arabic words on this page.
Arabs Don’t Stop on What is Moving
In Arabic, letters that are followed by short vowels are called “moving letters.” Letters that are not followed by short vowels are called “still letters.” Some words end with still letters, others end with moving letters.
While speaking proper Arabic, you cannot finish talking by pronouncing a moving letter, that is, you must make the final letter “still” by dropping the final short vowel if there were one.
This is the old saying: “Arabs do not stop on a moving العَرَبُ لا تَقِفُ عَلَىْ مُتَحَرِّكٍ.”
جَاْءَ الْوَلَدُ إِلَىْ الْمَدْرَسَةِ الْيَوْمَ
The boy came to school today
*You may click on the Arabic phrase in order to hear it pronounced.
|jaa’a l-waladu ilaa l-madrasa||
jaa'(a) (‘a)l-walad(u) ‘ilaa (‘a)l-madrasa(ti)
|جَاْءَ الْوَلَدُ إِلَىْ الْمَدْرَسَةِ|
|jaa’a l-waladu ilaa l-madrasati l-yawm||
jaa'(a) (‘a)l-walad(u) ‘ilaa (‘a)l-madrasa(ti) (‘a)l-yawm(a)
|جَاْءَ الْوَلَدُ إِلَىْ الْمَدْرَسَةِ الْيَوْمَ|
The short vowels between brackets were not pronounced unless they were followed by other sounds. This kept the lastly uttered letters always still letters.
Long vowels, on the other hand, must be pronounced. This is because long vowels are still letters. we made this clear in the vowels section (a long vowel is a short vowel followed by the corresponding still consonant).
The femininetaa'< -a(t) ـة has its own comparable rule. If you stop on the taa'<, it will become -a or -ah rather than -at. If you continue speaking after it, you should fully pronounce it.
Although the rule for ـةis not obligatory, it is so widely observed that almost nobody today stops on a fully pronounced -at .
Throughout these pages, I am putting the short vowels and the ـة at the end of words between brackets, to help you remember the rule of not to stop on a moving letter or on a fully pronounced feminine taa'<.