Arabic Number of Nouns Arabic Singular Nouns

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Arabic  Number of Nouns   Arabic Singular Nouns

Nouns (continued)

Number of Nouns

Singular Nouns

 

The grammatical number of nouns is easily identified by their endings.

 

Singular nouns, including the grammatically singular but semantically plural irregular plural nouns, can have six different endings.

 

Singular Endings

Case

 Indefinite State

Definite/Construct State

Raf”

(nom.)

-un

-u

Nasb

(acc./dat./voc.)

-an

-a

Jarr

(gen./abl.)

-in

-i

 

Since that the rules of pause prohibit pronouncing a terminal short vowel when followed by a pause, the definite/construct endings are dropped from pronunciation when they occur terminal in speech. Moreover, even the indefinite endings which contain terminal letter noon‘s are dropped when they occur terminal in speech.

 

Short vowels are not letters, and they are indicated in transcription by the three short vowel marks that appear above or below the preceding letter. Since that the vowel marks are not usually written, the definite/construct endings are not usually shown in writing at all and they are left for the reader’s good sense.

 

The noon of the indefinite endings (the presence of this noon is called nunation) is a letter that has an obligatory written form. However, it was decided not to write the noon of the indefinite endings and replace it by doubling the mark of the preceding short vowel. Thus, the indefinite endings also became unwritten except for special purposes when the diacritic marks are added.

 

So since that the singular endings are not usually apparent in writing, written singular nouns can be identified by the lack of an apparent ending.

 

Examples:

رَجُل

rajul

 

Man

 

State

Case

Noun

Indefinite

Raf”

rajul(un)

رَجُلٌ

Nasb

rajul(an)

رَجُلً

Jarr

rajul(in)

رَجُلٍ

Construct

Raf”

rajul(u)

رَجُلُ

Nasb

rajul(a)

رَجُلَ

Jarr

rajul(i)

رَجُلِ

 

 

اِمْرَأَة

‘imra’a(t)

 

Woman

 

State

Case

Noun

Indefinite

Raf”

‘imra’a(tun)

اِمْرَأَةٌ

Nasb

‘imra’a(tan)

اِمْرَأَةً

Jarr

‘imra’a(tin)

اِمْرَأَةٍِ

Construct

Raf”

‘imra’a(tu)

اِمْرَأَةُ

Nasb

‘imra’a(ta)

اِمْرَأَةَ

Jarr

‘imra’a(ti)

اِمْرَأَةِ

 

 

رِجَاْل

rijaal

 

Men

 

State

Case

Noun

Indefinite

Raf”

rijaal(un)

رِجَاْلٌ

Nasb

rijaal(an)

رِجَاْلً

Jarr

rijaal(in)

رِجَاْلٍ

Construct

Raf”

rijaal(u)

رِجَاْلُ

Nasb

rijaal(u)

رِجَاْلَ

Jarr

rijaal(u)

رِجَاْلِ

 

The last example is a plural noun yet it has singular endings; this is because it is an irregular or broken plural noun (collective noun), and irregular plural nouns are grammatically singular. Although irregular plurals that refer to humans, like the example, are often treated as plurals in Standard Arabic, this does not include the declension of the noun itself which will still be declined as a singular noun (it will still have the same endings as a singular noun).

 

 

Dual Nouns

A dual noun الْمُثَنَّىْ is a noun that refers to two persons or things.

Dual nouns are easily identified by their common dual ending. The dual ending is inflected for two cases and two states as follows:

 

Dual Endings

Case

 Indefinite/Definite State

Construct State

Subject

(Raf”)

-aan(i)

-aa

Object

(Nasb & Jarr)

-ayn(i)

-ay

 

Unlike the singular endings, the dual endings are pronounced at pause except for the final short I vowel, and they are apparent in writing except also for the final short I vowel which is indicated by an optional diacritic mark.

Examples, click on the Arabic word to hear it:

Stem Noun: mu”allim مُعَلِّم  = “teacher

One male teacher

mu”allim(un)

مُعَلِّمٌ

One female teacher mu”allima(tun) مُعَلِّمَةٌ
Two male teachers (subject) mu”allimaan(i)

مُعَلِّمَاْنِ

Two male teachers (object)

mu”allimayn(i)

مُعَلِّمَيْنِ

Two female teachers (subject) mu”allimataan(i)

مُعَلِّمَتَاْنِ

Two female teachers (object) mu”allimatayn(i) مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

You can see how the feminine taa'< -at  ought to be fully pronounced in the dual; since it is no longer terminal, there is no possibility that one pauses at it.

The case declension of dual nouns (and regular plural nouns) is special in that it involves only two cases instead of three (but this for all the states and there is nunation, so they are not diptota). The nasb and jarr marking of these nouns is identical, this is why these two cases of the dual (and regular plural) may be collectively called the “oblique case” by linguists.

Stem Noun: mu”allim مُعَلِّم  = “teacher

Raf” (subject)

The two male teachers are here.

mu”allimaan(i)

مُعَلِّمَاْنِ

The two female teachers are here. mu”allimataan(i)

مُعَلِّمَتَاْنِ

Nasb (object)

I saw the two male teachers.

mu”allimayn(i)

مُعَلِّمَيْنِ

I saw the two female teachers.

mu”allimatayn(i)

مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

Jarr (possession/object of preposition)

This is the two male teachers’ class.

I gave it to the two male teachers.

mu”allimayn(i)

مُعَلِّمَيْنِ

This is the two female teachers’ class.

I gave it to the two female teachers.

mu”allimatayn(i)

مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

 

 

Irregular Nouns

For description of irregular noun types, you may click here

 

I. Shortened Nouns

Shortened nouns are nouns that end with a long A vowel (-aa  ـا / ـى ).

 

۩ Shortened Nouns With Three Letters

The weak ‘alif of the ending will be changed back to its origin (either w or y) when attaching the dual ending. This form of ‘alif :  ـاwill be changed back to w, and this one: ـى  will be changed back to y. The short A vowel preceding the weak ‘alif will remain intact.

aa  -aWdual ending

aa  aY-dual ending

 

Endings of Triliteral Shortened Nouns

Singular

Dual

 Subject

 Object

-aa

ـَاْ

-awaan(i)

ـَوَاْنِ

-awayn(i)

ـَوَيْنِ

-aa

ـَىْ

-ayaan(i)

ـَيَاْنِ

-ayayn(i)

ـَيَيْنِ

 

۩ Shortened Nouns With More Than Three Letters

The weak ‘alif  will be always changed to y when attaching the dual ending, regardless of its origin.

aa  aY-dual ending

 

Endings of Shortened Nouns With More Than Three Letters

Singular

Dual

 Subject

 Object

-aa

ـَاْ

-ayaan(i)

ـَيَاْنِ

-ayayn(i)

ـَيَيْنِ

-aa

ـَىْ

 

A final weak ‘alif of any Arabic word with more than three letters takes this figure ـى  regardless of its true origin. This suits well the rules of declension. However, there is one exception, which is when the letter preceding the final weak ‘alif in such words is y ; in that case, the ‘alif takes the figure ـاeven though the rule still stands as it is.

Examples:

Dual

Singular

“asawaan(i)

عَصَوَاْنِ

“asaa

stick/cane (fem.)

عَصَاْ

“asawayn(i)

عَصَوَيْنِ

fatayaan(i)

فَتَيَاْنِ

fataa

boy (masc.)

فَتَىْ

fatayayn(i)

فَتَيَيْنِ

maqhayaan(i)

مَقْهَيَاْنِ

maqhaa

 café (masc.)

مَقْهَىْ

maqhayayn(i)

مَقْهَيَيْنِ

“atshayaan(i)

عَطْشَيَاْنِ

“atshaa

thirsty (fem.)

عَطْشَىْ

“atshayayn(i)

عَطْشَيَيْنِ

dunyayaan(i)

دُنْيَيَاْنِ

dunyaa

lowest/nearest (fem.)

دُنْيَاْ

dunyayayn(i)

دُنْيَيَيْنِ

musatshfayaan(i)

مُسْتَشْفَيَاْنِ

mustashfaa

 hospital (masc.)

مُسْتَشْفَىْ

musatshfayayn(i)

مُسْتَشْفَيَيْنِ

 

 

II. Extended Nouns

Extended nouns are nouns that end with a long A vowel followed by a terminal glottal stop or hamza(t) (-aa'<  ـَاْء ).

۩ Extended Nouns With Four Letters or Fewer

In extended nouns with four letters or fewer, the final hamza(t) ء is always an original letter. When attaching the dual ending, the ء will be changed back to its origin (w or y) if the ء itself is not the origin.

-aa‘<  aadual ending

-aa‘<  aaWdual ending

-aa‘<  aaYdual ending

 

Endings of Extended Nouns With Four Letters or Fewer

Singular

Dual

 Subject

 Object

-aa‘<

ـَاْء

-aaaan(i)

ـَاْءَاْنِ

-aaayn(i)

ـَاْءَيْنِ

-aa‘<

ـَاْء

-aawaan(i)

ـَاْوَاْنِ

-aawayn(i)

ـَاْوَيْنِ

-aa‘<

ـَاْء

-aayaan(i)

ـَاْيَاْنِ

-aayayn(i)

ـَاْيَيْنِ

Unlike the shortened ‘alif whose figure denotes its origin, the origin of the hamza(t) of anextended ‘alif cannot be told from its written figure.

It is possible, though not ideal, to keep the hamza(t) of theextended ‘alif always without change when attaching the dual ending. This is typical of Modern Standard Arabic.

Examples:

Dual

Singular

daaaan(i)

دَاْءَاْنِ

daa‘<

disease (masc.)

دَاْء

daaayn(i)

دَاْءَيْنِ

binaayaan(i)

بِنَاْيَاْنِ

binaa‘<

building (masc.)

بِنَاْء

binaaaan(i)

بِنَاْءَاْنِ

binaayayn(i)

بِنَاْيَيْنِ

binaaayn(i)

بِنَاْءَيْنِ

samaawaan(i)

سَمَاْوَاْنِ

samaa‘<

heaven (fem.)

سَمَاْء

samaaaan(i)

سَمَاْءَاْنِ

samaawayn(i)

سَمَاْوَيْنِ

samaaayn(i)

سَمَاْءَيْنِ

 

۩ Extended Nouns With More Than Four Letters

In extended nouns with more than four letters,there is a chance that thehamza(t) ء of the extended ‘alifis an additional letter (i.e. the extended ‘alif is a suffix).

 

If the hamza(t) is an original letter, it will be changed back to its origin (w ,  y, or kept ) when adding the dual suffix.

-aa‘<  aadual ending

-aa‘<  aaWdual ending

-aa‘<  aaYdual ending

 

However, it is possible to always keep the hamza(t) unchanged when attaching the dual ending. This is typical of Modern Standard Arabic.

Examples:

Dual

Singular

‘inshaaaan(i)

إِنْشَاْءَاْنِ

‘inshaa‘<

construction (masc.)

إِنْشَاْء

‘inshaaayn(i)

إِنْشَاْءَيْنِ

bannaayaan(i)

بَنَّاْيَاْنِ

bannaa‘<

builder (masc.)

بَنَّاْء

bannaaaan(i)

بَنَّاْءَاْنِ

bannaayayn(i)

بَنَّاْيَيْنِ

bannaaayn(i)

بَنَّاْءَيْنِ

mi”taawaan(i)

مِعْطَاْوَاْنِ

mi”taa‘<

giving, generous (masc./fem.)

مِعْطَاْء

mi”taaaan(i)

مِعْطَاْءَاْنِ

mi”taawayn(i)

مِعْطَاْوَيْنِ

mi”taaayn(i)

 مِعْطَاْءَيْنِ

 

When the-aa'< is a feminine marker, the hamza(t) is always turned into w when attaching the dual ending.

-aa‘<  aaWdual ending

 

 

Dual

Singular

khadraawaan(i)

خَضْرَاْوَاْنِ

khadraa‘<

green (fem.)

خَضْرَاْء

khadraawayn(i)

خَضْرَاْوَيْنِ

samraawaan(i)

سَمْرَاْوَاْنِ

samraa‘<

brunette (fem.)

سَمْرَاْء

samraawayn(i)

سَمْرَاْوَيْنِ

moomiyaawaan(i)

مُوْمِيَاْوَاْنِ

moomiyaa‘<

mummy (fem.)

مُوْمِيَاْء

moomiyaawayn(i)

مُوْمِيَاْوَيْنِ

 

 

III. Defective Nouns

Defective nouns are nouns that end with a long I vowel (-iy ـِيْ ) whose terminal y belongs to the root.

Defective nouns take the dual ending just as regular nouns.

-iY  iYdual ending

 

Endings of Defective Nouns

Singular

Dual

 Subject

 Object

iy

ـِيْ

iyaan(i)

ـِيَاْنِ

iyayn(i)

ـِيَيْنِ

 

Examples:

Dual

Singular

qaadiyaan(i)

قَاْضِيَاْنِ

qaadiy

a finalizing/finalizer (masc.)

→ a judge (masc.)

قَاْضِيْ

qaadiyayn(i)

قَاْضِيَيْنِ

daa”iyaan(i)

دَاْعِيَاْنِ

daa”iy

Inviting/inviter (masc.)

دَاْعِيْ

daa”iyayn(i)

دَاْعِيَيْنِ

 

 

Annexed Duals

There are five dual nouns in Arabic of which there are no singulars; these are called the “annexed duals” مُلْحَقَاْتُ الْمُثَنَّىْ .

Annexed Duals

Meaning

Object Case

Subject Case

Two (masc.)

‘ithnayn(i)

اِثْنَيْنِ

‘ithnaan(i)

اِثْنَاْنِ

Two (fem.)

etymology:

 

thnataani

thnatayni

‘ithnatayn(i)

اِثْنَتَيْنِ

‘ithnataan(i)

اِثْنَتَاْنِ

thintayn(i)

ثِنْتَيْنِ

thintaan(i)

ثِنْتَاْنِ

Both (of) (masc.)

kilay

كِلَيْ

kilaa

كِلا

Both (of) (fem.)

kiltay

كِلْتَيْ

kiltaa

كِلْتَاْ

The last two words lack their final -n(i) because they exist only in the construct state that is used to form genitive constructions. Dual nouns (as well as the regular masculine plurals) lose their final -n(i) in the construct state; this will be covered later.

 

Etymology Note

This is just my personal conjecture.

Dual Endings

-awni

Subject

ـَوْنِ

-ayni

Object

ـَيْنِ

 

The dual suffix -aani, like the feminine -at, apparently had an original augmentative/diminutive meaning that was not restricted to the dual number.

Many noun structures in Arabic have -aan suffixes denoting what appears to be an augmentative meaning (and infrequently a diminutive meaning).

For example, -aan suffixes occur in verbal noun, participle/agent noun, and irregular plural structures:

Example

Structure

Deprivation

حِرْمَاْنٌ

fi“laan(un)

verbal noun

فِعْلانٌ

Big loss

خُسْرَاْنٌ

fu“laan(un)

verbal noun

فُعْلانٌ

Boiling

غَلَيَاْنٌ

faalaan(un)

verbal noun

فَعَلانٌ

Thirsty

عَطْشَاْنُ

falaan(u)

participle/agent noun

فَعْلانُ*

Children

وِلْدَاْنٌ

fi“laan(un)

irregular plural

فِعْلانٌ

Herds

قُطْعَاْنٌ

fu“laan(un)

irregular plural

فُعْلانٌ

*Diptote.

Other common nouns with -aan suffixes are:

rahmaan(un) رَحْمَاْنٌ≈ “a merciful” (agent noun of “have mercy”)

insaan(un)  إِنْسَاْنٌ= “a human being”

qur’aan(un) قُرْآنٌ  = “a reading (out), the Koran”

Many of such -aan nouns are often considered to be loanwords from other Semitic languages (often Aramaic). The -aan suffix is commonly used in Semitic languages as an adjectival suffix.

Proper nouns with -aan suffixes are nomina diptota (e.g. عُثْمَاْنُ ، حَمْدَاْنُ ، سَلْمَاْنُ). Fa“laan(u) adjectives are diptota when their feminine form is fa“laa; which are most of them.

The suffix -aan is common in Aramaic as a diminutive suffix.

 

E.g.

ktovaan= “a booklet, little book”

baytaan  = “a little house”

The -aan develops later to ōn then to -oon (-ūn).

The suffix ōn is commonly found in Syrian Arabic (due to Aramaic influence).

For example,

jardōn= “rat”  (Standard Arabic: جُرَذٌ)

 

 

Extra Note: Modern Variations

In modern spoken Arabic, the dual declension is still productive. However, there is no case declension in modern spoken Arabic, so the dual ending retains only forms derived from the classical object form.

The most common form of the dual ending in modern spoken Arabic is:

-ain (-ēn)

Examples:

yōmain = two days

ktaabain = two books

televizyōnain = two televisions

This is the mainstream form. Other forms include:

-een

-iyen

The classical object form is preserved in rural Syrian (but without the final short I). However, it is not an “object” form anymore:

-ayn

In modern spoken Arabic, the dual (and masculine plural) endings are not inflected for state as they retain the final -n in the construct state.

E.g. in urban Syrian Arabic:

ktaabain (‘e)l-walad = (the) two books (of) the boy

ktaabain-ee = (the) two books (of) me

 

Other Semitic languages that we know of had the dual marking, but it was not productive in any of them. It was limited to very few words for things that usually come in pairs like two eyes, two hands, two days, etc.

Examples:

  Subject Object
Old Akkadian “two eyes” ‘eenaan ‘eeneen
Aramaic “two hundred”

maathain

Hebrew “two days”

yōmayim

 

 

Exercise 1

Can you change the following singular nouns to dual nouns in the subject case?

 

Pen (masc.)

قَلَم

Paper (fem.)

وَرَقَة

Fulgurating

(fulguration) (masc.)

سَنَاْ

Forum (masc.)

مُنْتَدَىْ

Black (fem.)

سَوْدَاْء

 Self-sufficing

(self-sufficiency) (masc.)

اِكْتِفَاْء

Medication (masc.)

دَوَاْء

Judge (masc.)

قَاْضِيْ

 

 

Answers

 

قَلَمَاْنِ

وَرَقََتَاْنِ

سَنَوَاْنِ

مُنْتَدَيَاْنِ

سَوْدَاْوَاْنِ

اِكْتِفَاْءَاْنِ

دَوَاْءَاْنِ

قَاْضِيَاْنِ

 

Exercise 2

Can you change the following dual nouns to singular nouns?

 

Two apples

تُفَّاْحَتَاْنِ

Two bones

عَظْمَيْنِ

Two ranges

مَدَيَاْنِ

Two gorgeous (women)

حَسْنَاْوَيْنِ

Two afflictings (two afflictions)

بَلاءَيْنِ

Two giftings

إِهْدَاْءَاْنِ

Two sponsors

رَاْعِيَتَيْنِ

 

 

Answers

 

Apple (fem.)

تُفَّاْحَة

Bone (masc.)

عَظْم

Range (masc.)

مَدَىْ

Gorgeous (fem.)

حَسْنَاْء

Afflicting (affliction) (masc.)

بَلاء

Gifting (masc.)

إِهْدَاْء

Sponsor (fem.)

رَاْعِيَة