root: ص-غ-ر / adjective / definition: small
A diminutive is a modified word used to express smallness. Think of the English word duckling, derived from duck.
In Arabic, the diminutive is referred to as التَّصغير—a verbal noun meaning “to make smaller”. So how can we recognise and form diminutives in Arabic?
If we take the letters ف-ع-ل to represent the root of a word, diminutives in Arabic most often take one of the following forms:
…the only difference being the ـة in the second one, making the word feminine.
Here are some examples:
نَهْر = river
نُهَير = small river, creek
بَحْر = sea
بُحَيْرة = lake (literally: “small sea”)
قَبْلَ = before
قُبَيْلَ = shortly before
بَعْدَ = after
بُعَيْدَ = shortly after
لُقْمة = mouthful, bite
لُقَيْمة = morsel
حَسَن = good
حُسَيْن = good… but smaller
بَيْت = house
بُوَيْت = small house
The noun بيت actually comes from the root ب-ي-ت, yet we see a و replace the root letter ي in the diminutive form, for ease of pronunciation.
اِبْني = my son
بُنَيَّ = my little son
Note that اِبن comes from a two-letter root, ب-ن, and therefore the alif doesn’t feature in the diminutive form.
The diminutive form on its own—without the possessive suffix—would be بُنَي. So when we add the possessive suffix ـي for “my”, we end up with two يs in a row which merge into one ي with a shadda (and fatha) on top: يَّ.
رُوَيداً is an adverb which I assume is derived from a diminutive too. Why not take a look at this page in the Hans Wehr and see if you agree?
That’s all for this now, I hope you enjoyed the post!
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