Arabic Observations: Compound Quadriliteral Arabic Verbs


root: د-م-ج / verbal noun of form VII / definition: merging

I’m super excited as I begin this post, because not only is it part of my beloved Arabic Observations series, it’s all about quadriliteral roots!

Quadriliteral Arabic verbs (i.e. those from four-letter roots) can fall into different categories. For example, some are reduplicated (like عَسعَسَ / يُعَسعِسُ, to darken) and some are derived from other languages (like تَلفَنَ / يُتَلفِنُ, to telephone).

There’s also a category of quadriliteral verbs that are compounds—i.e. they’re formed by merging two different roots together.

In one of my favourite grammar books, A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic, the author mentions two examples of form I compound quadriliterals:

  1. عَبشَمَ / يُعَبشِمُ (to worship the sun): derived from the root ع-ب-د (the root of worship) and ش-م-س (the sun)
  2. جَلمَدَ / يُجَلمِدُ (to be petrified): derived from ج-ل-د (to freeze) and ج-م-د (to harden)

This made me think: how many other quadriliteral verbs are derived from two three-letter roots? Is this how all of the quadriliteral verbs (that aren’t reduplicated, nor derived from other languages) came about?

So I decided to do some dictionary exploration, and discovered the following possible derivations:

طَمأَنَ / يُطَمئِنُ

root: ط-م-ء-ن

form: I

meaning: to reassure, set someone’s mind at rest

derived from:

  • م-ء-ن: to supply with
  • ط-م-ن: calm

What’s interesting with this verb is that in the Hans Wehr dictionary, it’s noted that طَأمَنَ / يُطَأمِنُ has the same meaning as طَمأَنَ / يُطَمئِنُ. Now, in the case of طَأمَنَ, the root would be ط-ء-م-ن (a different order from ط-م-ء-ن) and therefore could be a compound derived from ط-م-ن and ء-م-ن (to reassure).

تَبَهرَجَ / يَتَبَهرَجُ

root: ب-ه-ر-ج

form: II

meaning: to adorn yourself

derived from:

  • ب-ه-ج: to be beautiful
  • ب-ر-ج: to display your beauty, make yourself beautiful

تَدَحرَجَ / يَتَدَحرَجُ

root: د-ح-ر-ج

form: II

meaning: to roll down, deteriorate

derived from:

  • د-ح-ر: to collapse
  • د-ر-ج: to do gradually

After all, deterioration is essentially a gradual collapse!

فَرقَعَ / يُفَرقِعُ

root: ف-ر-ق-ع

form: I

meaning: to explode

derived from:

  • ف-ق-ع: to burst
  • ف-ر-ق: to separate, scatter

اِقشَعَرَّ / يَقشَعِرُّ

root: ق-ش-ع-ر

form: IV

meaning: to shudder, have goosebumps

derived from:

  • ق-ش-ر: the skin or external shell of something
  • ش-ع-ر: to feel

The alternatives to ش-ع-ر could also be ق-ع-ر (to hollow out, to scream) or ق-ش-ع (to dissolve)—it depends on how you want to metaphorise the feeling of a shudder!

اِبرَنشَقَ / يَبرَنشِقُ

root: ب-ر-ش-ق

form: III

meaning: to bloom, flourish

derived from:

  • ر-ش-ق: elegance
  • ب-ر-ق: to brighten

عَرقَلَ / يُعَرقِلُ

root: ع-ر-ق-ل

form: I

meaning: to obstruct

derived from:

  • ع-ر-ق: to be deep-rooted
  • ع-ق-ل: to detain

When I think of “obstruct”, I think of “obstacles”, which are things that hold you back and are firmly in place, right?

تَدَهوَرَ / يَتَدَهوَرُ

root: د-ه-و-ر

form: II

meaning: to decline, sink

derived from:

  • ه-و-ر: to fall down, crash
  • د-ه-ر: a stretch of time or د-و-ر: to move, take a turn

Sinking or declining can be described as a crashing over a period of time, or moving down.

I’m sure there’s a lot more of these to explore, but these are just the ones I’ve looked up this evening!

Do you know of any more compound quadriliteral verbs, and from which roots they’ve possibly been derived? Let us know in the comments below!

I’ll see you on my next post, إلى اللقاء!

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