Root Exploration: د-ل-ه-م


root: ض-ح-ك / verbal noun of form I / definition: laughter

After two hours and countless retakes, my classmate and I finally managed to record 20 minutes of Arabic conversation today for an assessment. Yes, that’s two hours of attempts for 20 minutes of usable footage. Honestly though, most of the retakes started soon after “أهلا” because one of us would burst into laughter for some reason or other.

At least my classmate is an editing pro and I have no doubt that our introduction (featuring a walk down the stairs and miming a conversation) will be a Spielberg-esque feat. Not sure we get marks for that though…

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Affinity to Quadriliterals


root: ج-ذ-ب / verbal noun of form VII / definition: affinity, attraction

I have such an affinity to Arabic quadriliterals (four-letter roots). Are there really that many in the dictionary that they can’t be ignored, or are my eyes just drawn to them whenever they’re present on the page?

Either way, I usually task myself with noting them down when they pop up, as though creating my own mini dictionary of quadriliterals that will set sail in my ocean of vocab notes, never to be seen again.

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Arabic Observations: “Diamonds” and the Definite Article


root: ق-ر-ء / verbal noun of form I / definition: reading

As I was doing my reading for yesterday’s literature class, I came across a familiar word: الأَلماس. I instantly recalled that it meant “diamond”… but then I remembered another word for “diamonds” that I had learnt: الماس.

So, I headed to the Hans Wehr for a little linguistic investigation. Both entries (ألماس and ماس) are listed alphabetically in the dictionary, and the only difference between them is the أل… Can you see what’s going on here?

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Step-by-Step Arabic Literature Translation #9


root: ح-ق-ق / noun / plural: حَقائِق / definition: reality, truth

Well, well, well… it’s been quite a while since we had a literature translation post, hasn’t it? (On consulting the calendar, that “while” appears to be nearly six months—time must have taken a shortcut somewhere…)

Time anxiety aside, in this post we’ll be going word-by-word through a short extract from Naguib Mahfouz’s novel العائش في الحقيقة (literally: “Living in Reality”).

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The False/Adjective إضافة


root: ض-ي-ف / verbal noun of form IV / definition: addition, genitive construction

So we all know the إضافة, right? It’s a construction where nouns are put together, with certain rules, to indicate possession. Well… Did you know we can actually use adjectives inside إضافة constructions?

I know this probably sounds contradictory to everything your enthusiastic—and sometimes frustrated—teachers drilled into your head about the إضافة (“adjectives go outside the إضافة! Nouns only!), but hear me out:

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The Meaning of لم يكن لـ


root: ب-د-ع / adjective / definition: creative

I was tempted to write another literature-inspired post this week (especially considering I just completed my first piece of creative writing Arabic homework which was so fun to do!), but how long can we go without some good old grammar?!

A long while ago, when I was reading ألف شمس ساطعة, an interesting grammatical structure popped up in the second chapter. The sentence read:

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Reading Arabic Literature: Snippets From This Week


root: س-ب-ع / noun / plural: أَسابيع / definition: week

Conveniently for this reading literature series, I’ve just started Arabic literature classes at university this term—which means lots more reading for me and lots more vocabulary for these posts!

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Two Arabic Verbs Meaning “to Harbour Feelings”


root: ش-ع-ر / noun / plural: مَشاعِر / definition: feeling, emotion

After writing a 4000-word essay in a matter of days and sleepily submitting it at midnight, I’m finally feeling ready to jump into term two at university!

And speaking of feelings (…smooth transition there), this week I wanted to show you two Arabic verbs that mean “to harbour feelings (towards)”.

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“Once Upon a Time” in Arabic


root: ق-ص-ص / noun / plural: قِصَص / definition: story

Once upon a time… It’s the typical opening of the stories I’m sure most of us used to read when we were younger. But what’s the Arabic equivalent of this phrase? And how does it make sense grammatically?

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Diminutives in Arabic


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?

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