The Case of امّحق: Form VII Assimilation


root: م-ث-ل / verbal noun of form III / definition: assimilation (phonology)

There’s less than three weeks until my study abroad module begins which means I’ll be jetting off very soon for a relaxing break an intensive period of Arabic study in Jordan. It really can’t come soon enough because I’ve forgotten almost all of the عامية we covered last term, *sigh*.

Currently though, I’m having lots of fun with creative writing, and I’m about a third of the way through crafting a short story in Arabic which is due next week. However—and I’m not sure how I feel about this—I’ve realised I can only seem write about one theme: misery. But I’m told the best stories are the most miserable ones anyway…

After flicking through the dictionary a lot today to find the most fittingly-depressing words for my story, I came across the word that inspired this post.

If you go to the Hans Wehr and find the root م-ح-ق, you’ll see something interesting (well, interesting for me—I remind myself that drawing syntax trees essentially became a hobby of mine in my undergrad, while the same task garnered groans of despair from the rest of the Linguistics class—to each (linguist) their own).

So the form VII verb derived from م-ح-ق has two realisations:



Why? Because of assimilation.

We’ve briefly looked at assimilation before in the case of form VIII verbs (in these two posts), where the ت of the verb form pattern (افتعل) changes to sound more similar to an adjacent letter. Note: assimilation just makes things easier to pronounce.


  • اِصطَفَقَ (from the root ص-ف-ق—the ت becomes ط to sound more similar to ص)
  • اِزدَهَرَ (from the root ز-ه-ر—the ت transforms into د to assimilate with ز)
  • اِدَّعى (from the root د-ع-و—the ت doesn’t just become more similar to the د, it totally assimilates into it (becomes identical), leaving us a doubled د sound, i.e. a shadda appears)

The last example is that of complete assimilation, which is what’s going on with اِمَّحَقَ. It occurs because the ن of the form VII pattern (اِنفَعَلَ) assimilates into the first root letter, م—giving us a verb with a shadda on the first root letter.

After coming across this example of form VII assimilation, I—like any normal person—decided to check all the other dictionary entries for roots beginning with م to find more examples of form VII’s ن assimilating into the root letter. I found:

…from the root م-ح-و

…from the root م-ل-س

I also found examples where the Wehr does not mention an assimilated realisation of the form VII verb from a root beginning with م, like for the roots م-ح-ص and م-ل-خ.

I’m not sure if assimilated forms do exist for انمحص and انملخ and are just not recorded (perhaps the verbs themselves are less common, thus so are the assimilated forms). But I imagine—seeing as assimilation is a phonological simplification—that the assimilated forms are, or have been, in use by Arabic speakers.

Well, that’s it for this post! Make sure to check out last week’s quadriliteral root exploration, accompanied by a discussion about whether (and how) the root could be an example of a compound quadriliteral or a different type of quadriliteral altogether.

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