عالية - عليا

Idris

Senior Member
Urdu (Pakistan)
#1
I understand that both عالي are عليا are used for femenine nouns, but is there any difference between them or are they both same? I would think that عليا is used for "higher" and عالية for just "high".
 

Wadi Hanifa

Senior Member
Arabic
#3
I understand that both عالي are عليا are used for femenine nouns, but is there any difference between them or are they both same? I would think that عليا is used for "higher" and عالية for just "high".
عالية = high (feminine)
أعلى = higher (masculine and feminine)
عُلْيا = highest (feminine ... I believe in English this is called "superlative"?)
 

Kinan

Senior Member
Arabic
#4
Oh, عليا with "damme" does mean the highest, I thought he was asking about عليا with "fat7a".
 

Faylasoof

Senior Member
English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
#5
عالية = high (feminine)
أعلى = higher (masculine and feminine)
عُلْيا = highest (feminine ... I believe in English this is called "superlative"?)
I thought:

أعلی masculine singular elative = higher (highest)
عُلیا feminine singular elative = higher (highest)
<2a3aalin> أعالٍ or <3ulan> عُلی plural elative


عالیة fem. sing.; عالی / عالٍ masc. sing. ; عَوالی plural = high, lofty, sublime, exalted; outstanding.

In English we have: positive -> comparative -> superlative, e.g. in Arabic the equivalents being, کبیر (positive) -> أکبر (comparative) -> الأکبر (superlative).

But in Arabic grammars the term Elative (اسم التفضیل) is used to serve the function of both the comparative and the superlative, given that the latter can also be formed by using the Arabic “comparative” with the following noun in the genitive. This gives the superlative in fus7a at least. (No idea about the dialects. I assume the same happens there too).

This seems to have been the preferred choice by Arab grammarians rather than use the comparative + the definitive article to make the superlative in a sentence.

...
عليا is a feminine name, I don't believe it has a meaning.
If it is عَلیاء (with a fat7a & a hamza), then it means <loftiness, exaltedness>, as in أھل العَلیاء = august / lofty people; those of high social status.
 

Mahaodeh

Senior Member
Arabic, PA and IA.
#6
I thought:
If it is عَلیاء (with a fat7a & a hamza), then it means <loftiness, exaltedness>, as in أھل العَلیاء = august / lofty people; those of high social status.
Yes, it is indeed alyaa'. I would translate it as "a high place / a place of exalt".
 

Josh_

Senior Member
U.S., English
#7
Yes, like Faylasoof, I thought that عُلیا was just the feminine form of أعلی, like كبرى is the feminine of أكبر. lعالية, is of course, merely an adjective.

As far as positives, comparatives, superlatives, and elatives, Arabic does not have a true three tiered positive/comparative/superlative hierarchy (traditionally speaking anyway) as found in English, but rather only a two tiered صفة and اسم التفضيل system -- adjective/noun of preference -- which functions differently from the English system in form and meaning. But that is a topic best left to its own thread, one which I may undertake if I feel ambitious enough.

At any rate, since the Arabic system is different from the English one, the term "elative" was coined to deal with this in English treatments of Arabic grammar, rather than describing it in terms of positive, comparative, and superlative.
 

Wadi Hanifa

Senior Member
Arabic
#8
Yes, like Faylasoof, I thought that عُلیا was just the feminine form of أعلی, like كبرى is the feminine of أكبر.
What you guys are missing (and I should have mentioned this) is that أعلى can have two meanings, depending on whether or not it is definite.

Indefinite أعلى means "higher" (masc. and feminine) as I mentioned above, e.g. هذا أعلى من ذاك

Definite أعلى means "highest", e.g. سبّح اسم ربّك الأعلى, برج دبي هو أعلى مباني العالم, etc.
 

Faylasoof

Senior Member
English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
#9
What you guys are missing (and I should have mentioned this) is that
أعلى can have two meanings, depending on whether or not it is definite.
I do see this point. I myself mention the two meanings (but didn't elaborate):
I thought:
أعلی masculine singular elative = higher (highest)
عُلیا feminine singular elative = higher (highest) ....
I should have pointed out that عُلیا and أعلی both can mean higher and highest depending on how they are used and, independently, whether they have or lack the definite article.

But this I find confusing,
أعلى means "higher" (masc. and feminine) as I mentioned above, e.g. هذا أعلى من ذاك

How can the masculine singular (elative) be used for the feminine too?
Definite أعلى means "highest", e.g. سبّح اسم ربّك الأعلى, برج دبي هو أعلى مباني العالم, etc.
This also makes perfect sense! But what I was saying that the elative in Arabic serves two functions - both as a comparative and and superlative depending on how it is used + /- the definite article.

So taking Idris’ query, عُلیا, which will serve us well and show its usage:

Comparative
هى إمرأة عُلیا = she is a nobler woman

Superlative
هى عُلیا إمرأة ٍ = she is the noblest woman (comparative + genitive noun)

OR

هى الإمرأة العُلیا= she is the noblest woman

Traditionally, Arab grammarians preferred the first superlative form over the second, but the latter is perfectly OK though used rarely in CA, it seems.

..and there is also this form too:
هى عُلیا النساء = she is the noblest of the women
 

Josh_

Senior Member
U.S., English
#10
What you guys are missing (and I should have mentioned this) is that أعلى can have two meanings, depending on whether or not it is definite.
Yes, I realize that, but the way you wrote it sounded like you were saying that أعلى only meant higher and علياmeant highest.
Definite أعلى means "highest", e.g. سبّح اسم ربّك الأعلى, برج دبي هو أعلى مباني العالم, etc.
أعتقد أنك تعني برج الخليفة هو أعلى مباني العالم.:)ـ

How can the masculine singular (elative) be used for the feminine too?
When used in a strict comparative or superlative sense (X is greater than Y) it seems that only the أفعل form is used -- هو أكبر من أخيه وهي أكبر من أختها, and هي أكبر إمرأه, for example. I suppose this is because in this case, the elative is not used in a strict adjectival sense and therefore does not need to agree with the noun.

The feminine and plural forms, on the other hand, seem to be only used in an adjectival sense -- الصحراء الكبرى and بريطانيا العظمى for example.

At least that's how I have come to understand it. That seems to be the general usage in MSA. I have not studied enough CA to know all possible structures. That said, I must say that هي عليا إمرأة sounds very odd (based on my understanding from what I explained above) since it is made feminine to agree with إمرأة, as though it were an adjective, yet it isn't an adjective, for if it were it would come after the noun.
 
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Wadi Hanifa

Senior Member
Arabic
#11
Yes, I realize that, but the way you wrote it sounded like you were saying that أعلى only meant higher and علياmeant highest.
Yes, and I apologize for that. كنت أجاوب على قدّ السؤال.
أعتقد أنك تعني برج الخليفة هو أعلى مباني العالم.:)ـ
My apologies for that as well. :)
When used in a strict comparative or superlative sense (X is greater than Y) it seems that only the أفعل form is used -- هو أكبر من أخيه وهي أكبر من أختها, and هي أكبر إمرأه, for example. I suppose this is because in this case, the elative is not used in a strict adjectival sense and therefore does not need to agree with the noun.
Indeed. You can't say هذه عليا من تلك but rather هذه أعلى من تلك.
This also makes perfect sense! But what I was saying that the elative in Arabic serves two functions - both as a comparative and and superlative depending on how it is used + /- the definite article.
Not exactly. Definiteness by iDaafah will work just as well (see my برج دبي برج خليفة بن زايد example).
Comparative
هى إمرأة عُلیا = she is a nobler woman
I don't know about this one. If you're saying "nobler," then you should just say أعلى as Josh explained.
هى عُلیا إمرأة ٍ = she is the noblest woman (comparative + genitive noun)
Ah, but you see the muDaaf ilayh must also be definite (forgot to mention this):
الرياض كبرى مدن المملكة
القاهرة من كبريات المدن في العالم

Your example should rather be هي عليا النساء.

You see, the way the Arabs probably saw it was that there can be infinitely many "comparatives," but there should really only be one "superlative," hence the requirement of definiteness. And since the superlative is being compared to "everything else," you can't compare it to something indefinite but to the whole "class" of things it is being compared to (such a class being definite by definition ... the most indefinite you can get is to say something like أريد موظفاً يكون أفضل طلاب جامعته). You seem to be translating from English ("she is the best woman"), but in Arabic, you have to say something like "she is the best of women".
OR

هى الإمرأة العُلیا= she is the noblest woman

Traditionally, Arab grammarians preferred the first superlative form over the second, but the latter is perfectly OK though used rarely in CA, it seems.
Are you sure? What about إنّ هذا لفي الصحف الأولى? I don't think there's a preference between الصحف الأولى and أولى الصحف, other than the general rule of word order in Arabic, in which you begin with what is more important (or with what is already known).
..and there is also this form too:
هى عُلیا النساء = she is the noblest of the women
Oh so you know it already! I doubt you can say هي عليا امرأة in Arabic. Do you have a textual example in mind?
 
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Faylasoof

Senior Member
English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
#12
I must apologise for two things. Firstly, due to what appears to me to be a technical hitch, my attempts to give this reply in “mutli-quote” form proved to be singularly disastrous! Consequently, I’m replying as below. The best I can. Secondly, in my last post I should have been clearer of what I meant.
...When used in a strict comparative or superlative sense (X is greater than Y) it seems that only the
أفعل form is used -- هو أكبر من أخيه وهي أكبر من أختها, and هي أكبر إمرأه, for example. I suppose this is because in this case, the elative is not used in a strict adjectival sense and therefore does not need to agree with the noun...
It is indeed so that the comparative takes the أفعل form – a rule I’m most familiar with - and my problem was that I was not thinking of the absolute comparative for the example Wadi Hanifa gave. Now I know what was meant!
...Indeed. You can't say هذه عليا من تلك but rather هذه أعلى من تلك.
Agree! Only the latter works!
... Definiteness by iDaafah will work just as well (see my
برج دبيبرج خليفة بن زايد example).
Yes, I see your point. In fact, I too was trying to say this. Had a look at my post again and it didn’t come across very well.

So what I meant to say was that in the examples below, the superlative can be made in either of the two ways:
e.g.

هو أعلى رجل في المدينة

هو الرجل الأعلى في المينة

He is the noblest man in the city.

Both are correct of course but the first seems to have been the preferred choice by Arab grammarians. I assume this is still the case.
...If you're saying "nobler," then you should just say
أعلى as Josh explained.
For this, I’m really relying on an example that I found in Fischer’s A Grammar of Classical Arabic. According to Fischer, in post-classical Arabic*, فُعلا also appears with indefinite substantives: درجة عُلیا (= a higher / the highest step). This is just like إمرأة عُلیا (a nobler woman) that I mention above.
(* The term “post-classical” seems to be defined variously by different people so not sure when, according to him, the post-classical period started).
...I doubt you can say
هي عليا امرأة in Arabic. Do you have a textual example in mind?
Well, not exactly! What I have is:

ويا بني غافر عُلیا قريش لكم
أصل وأنتم لذاك الأصل اغصان

(أبو مسلم الرواحي)

When I first saw this I was initially surprised and thought if one can have عُلیا قريش, then it might also be possible to have عليا إمرأة ! But I must say, there is the important difference of قريش being definite!

Having said all this, seeing something like درجة عُلیا(with an indefinite substantive) prompted me to think that perhaps عليا إمرأة might also exist.

... and needless to say that عالية and عليا are used differently.
 

Wadi Hanifa

Senior Member
Arabic
#13
هو أعلى رجل في المدينة

هو الرجل الأعلى في المينة

He is the noblest man in the city.

Both are correct of course but the first seems to have been the preferred choice by Arab grammarians.
Again, I see no reason or evidence to believe that one was "preferred" to the other.
also appears with indefinite substantives: درجة عُلیا (= a higher / the highest step). This is just like إمرأة عُلیا (a nobler woman) that I mention above.
Yes, you can say things like حدّ أقصى حدّ أدنى and the like. The stuff I was talking about with respect to definiteness was when you had an iDaafa type structure: أعلى الرجال, أقوى رجال الحيّ, etc.

It actually hadn't occurred to me that this may be a purely modern phenomenon. I have no idea either way. It would be great if someone can shed some light on this.
Having said all this, seeing something like درجة عُلیا(with an indefinite substantive) prompted me to think that perhaps عليا إمرأة might also exist.
But the analogy is imperfect because you've reversed the order. You can't say عليا امرأة based on درجة عليا, but you can certainly say امرأة عليا.
 

Mahaodeh

Senior Member
Arabic, PA and IA.
#14
I don't know how dependable this site is, but it seems good enough. According to the site, there are four cases:

أن يكون مجردا من أل التعريف والإضافة, fully indefinite; in this case it must be singular masculine in all cases.

أن يكون نكرة مضاف إلى نكرة, also must be singular masculine in all cases.

أن يكون معرفا بأل, in this case it must conform with المفضل.

أن يكون مضافا إلى معرفة, in which case it can be either case.

The site gives examples from the Quran so I guess that is classical. According to the above, this is how it should be:

فاطمة أعلى من هند ومثله فاطمة أعلى مقاما
فاطمة أعلى امرأة في المدينة
فاطمة هي العليا مقاما ومثله الطالتان هما العليتان مقاما
فاطمة أعلى نساء المدينة ومثله فاطمة أعلى النساء ويجوز كذلك فاطمة عليا نساء المدينة أو فاطمة عليا النساء

This also means that عليا امرأة is definitly wrong. As for امرأة عليا as well as درجة عليا, this is not اسم تفضيل because it has the meaning of اسم الفاعل and it actually means امرأة عالية ودرجة عالية so it's not relevant. This case is similar to ربكم أعلم بكم - لا تزر وازرة وز أخرى.
 
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Faylasoof

Senior Member
English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
#15
Again, I see no reason or evidence to believe that one was "preferred" to the other.
Oh! This is not my assertion but some grammar books mention this. In fact, the best explanation (not evidence per se) is provided by Haywood and Nahmad’s A New Arabic Grammar (which incidentally deals with both Modern and Classical). They seem to justify this point by arguing that in the Superlative, the Arabs preferred to use the Elative as a noun, followed by a genitive, rather than as an adjective. (Examples are given like the ones we are discussing). They further elaborate that as the Elative is being used as a noun, there is no need to put the Elative in the feminine or plural (i.e. when dealing with a feminine or a plural noun – more examples are given).

But the analogy is imperfect because you've reversed the order. You can't say
علياامرأة based on درجةعليا, but you can certainly say امرأةعليا.
Ah! But this was not the original analogy! That was between عليا إمرأة and عُلیا قريش. Not that I was suggesting that just because the latter exists therefore the former has too. The rest was just an afterthought.

I don't know how dependable this site is, but it seems good enough. According to the site, there are four cases…

I don’t know either how reliable is this site! But as for the examples you present, I have no issue with them either! I‘ve already made clear above the use ofأعلى for absolute comparisons. (Actually, as I mention above too, Haywood and Nahmad give good reasons why and how أعلى is used in comparisons). But the use of عليا by some (e.g. الرواحي) I thought was odd but that is how it has been used certainly in classical literature. No idea about MSA.

This also means that
علياامرأة is definitly wrong. As for امرأةعليا as well as درجةعليا, this is not اسمتفضيل because it has the meaning of اسمالفاعل and it actually means امرأةعاليةودرجةعالية so it's not relevant. This case is similar to ربكمأعلمبكم - لاتزروازرةوزأخرى.
Going to Fischer’s book on classical Arabic grammar - a work that is considered very reliable as it has stood the test of time - the meaning of درجة عُلیا is a higher / the highest step. He puts highest in brackets, perhaps suggesting that this was meant some of the times but unfortunately doesn’t provide an example!

As for عليا إمرأة, I can only say that my initial thought about this was as a result of seeing the lines of أبو مسلم الرواحي where he uses عُلیا قريش.

It may well be that عليا إمرأة is just plain wrong but I’ve found the use of عُلیا قريش puzzling by this poet and I’m still puzzled as to why he chose this form.

BTW, I’ve seen عُلیا قريش used by some others too (in prose) so it wasn’t just a one off.

Time and again classical Arabic grammar has surprised me. For example, the use of the feminine singular perfect with a male broken plural, even when it was referring to male rational beings! Or the use of the broken plural adjective (instead of the adjective in the feminine singular) with a broken plural noun even if these do not refer to male humans! Points we have either discussed already (the former) or could some other time.

Thank you both Wadi Hanifa and Mahaodeh for your responses!
 

Mahaodeh

Senior Member
Arabic, PA and IA.
#16
Ah! But this was not the original analogy! That was between عليا إمرأة and عُلیا قريش. Not that I was suggesting that just because the latter exists therefore the former has too. The rest was just an afterthought.
Ok, maybe we should put عليا امرأة in a sentence before we decide whether it's superlative or not. عليا قريش seems extermely weird, and regardless of whether it is اسم تفضيل or not, it is in fact a very rare case (never seen such a thing before and I have read quite a lot of classical work) for a modern poet (born in the 19th century AD) so we can't really build on it, can we?
Going to Fischer’s book on classical Arabic grammar - a work that is considered very reliable as it has stood the test of time - the meaning of درجة عُلیا is a higher / the highest step. He puts highest in brackets, perhaps suggesting that this was meant some of the times but unfortunately doesn’t provide an example!
I disagree with Fischer; first of all, you can not decide that it is اسم تفضيل without putting it in a sentence that shows the case, without that we will all disagree on what it is because each will put it in a sentence in his mind and decide. Second, الدرجة العليا is "the highest step" or "the higher step" depending on context - actually, it could be "the high step" depending on context; درجةٌ عليا is "a high step".
It may well be that عليا إمرأة is just plain wrong but I’ve found the use of عُلیا قريش puzzling by this poet and I’m still puzzled as to why he chose this form.
He's a poet, he chooses words that match الوزن والقافية :)
 

Wadi Hanifa

Senior Member
Arabic
#17
Oh! This is not my assertion but some grammar books mention this. In fact, the best explanation (not evidence per se) is provided by Haywood and Nahmad’s A New Arabic Grammar (which incidentally deals with both Modern and Classical). They seem to justify this point by arguing that in the Superlative, the Arabs preferred to use the Elative as a noun, followed by a genitive, rather than as an adjective. (Examples are given like the ones we are discussing). They further elaborate that as the Elative is being used as a noun, there is no need to put the Elative in the feminine or plural (i.e. when dealing with a feminine or a plural noun – more examples are given).
إن هذا لفي الصحف الأولى
يوم نبطش البطشة الكبرى إنّا منتقمون
ومناة الثالثة الأخرى
لنريك من آياتنا الكبرى
وأنه أهلك عاداً الأولى
الذي يصلى النار الكبرى
etc.

If anything, this form seems to be more common in the Quraan than the noun+muDaaf ilayh. I really don't buy that there's any preference per se. It's just a matter of word order: one order is appropriate for some situations, and the other is more appropriate for others, depending on what you want to emphasize.
Ah! But this was not the original analogy! That was between عليا إمرأة and عُلیا قريش.
***
As for عليا إمرأة, I can only say that my initial thought about this was as a result of seeing the lines of أبو مسلم الرواحي where he uses عُلیا قريش.

It may well be that عليا إمرأة is just plain wrong but I’ve found the use of عُلیا قريش puzzling by this poet and I’m still puzzled as to why he chose this form.
But you've already answered the puzzle yourself in a previous post: قريش is definite (because it is a proper noun). So, it is not analogous to عليا امرأة either.

I disagree with Maha also. I don't see anything wrong, weird, or even archaic in عليا قريش, and it never even occurred to me when I first saw it that there could be anything wrong. It certainly isn't a matter of poetic license either. Perhaps what the two of you are missing is that قريش is not only a proper noun but also a collective noun, similar to العرب. It is a tribe composed of many clans. Maybe if you change it to something like عليا بني تميم, the picture will become clearer. The analagous situation is thus not عليا امرأة but the عليا النساء example given by Maha above.
Time and again classical Arabic grammar has surprised me. For example, the use of the feminine singular perfect with a male broken plural, even when it was referring to male rational beings!
Yes there is a currently active thread discussing this very issue. This also occurs in modern vernacular Arabic, especially in reference to large groups, e.g. قالت العرب, جاءت الرجال, سمعت الناس, etc.
Or the use of the broken plural adjective (instead of the adjective in the feminine singular) with a broken plural noun even if these do not refer to male humans!
Again, this is permitted in both Classical and vernacular Arabic. The Quran says وينشئ السحاب الثقال, and ordinary people often say things like بيوتٍ كبار, نخيلٍ طوال, etc. You can also use the regular feminine plural: قطع متجاورات. Today I saw a document that said 12 قسطاً متساوين. I'm not sure it's correct in CA or MSA but I suspect that it might be. Either way it shows that people don't always instinctively use the singular feminine rule.
Ok, maybe we should put عليا امرأة in a sentence before we decide whether it's superlative or not.
ريحي بالك you simply can't say عليا امرأة.
I disagree with Fischer; first of all, you can not decide that it is اسم تفضيل without putting it in a sentence that shows the case, without that we will all disagree on what it is because each will put it in a sentence in his mind and decide. Second, الدرجة العليا is "the highest step" or "the higher step" depending on context - actually, it could be "the high step" depending on context; درجةٌ عليا is "a high step".
Well I think he was simply saying that it can mean highest, and it can also mean higher. People certainly use درجة عليا to mean "highest grade," and حد أقصى to mean "a maximum" (e.g. خمس سنوات كحد أقصى, يجب وضع حد أدنى من المتطلبات, etc.).
 

Faylasoof

Senior Member
English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
#18
إن هذا لفي الصحف الأولى
يوم نبطش البطشة الكبرى إنّا منتقمون
....If anything, this form seems to be more common in the Quraan than the noun+muDaaf ilayh. I really don't buy that there's any preference per se. ....
As I see it, the fine examples you provide from the Quran are perfect for the point you make about Quranic usage but we cannot use these to generalise and say that Arabic literature as a whole also shows the same. This is not a statistically significant observation.

The explanation by H&N seems reasonable. The masculine elative أعلى when used as a noun makes it simpler to make superlatives. It is not the only way to do this but is used frequently and, according to them, was preferred. I assume they based it on some data but as I have not seen it I'd rather not comment and leave it at that, or else I shall find myself in the unenviable position of having to defend the view someone else!
But you've already answered the puzzle yourself in a previous post:
قريش is definite (because it is a proper noun). So, it is not analogous to عليا امرأة either.
No! You misunderstood me here!
It may well be that عليا إمرأة is just plain wrong but I’ve found the use of عُلیا قريش puzzling by this poet and I’m still puzzled as to why he chose this form.
What I'm curious to know is the use of عليا instead of أعلی. Does it have any significance? Perhaps not. The reason might be quite trivial,i.e. stylistic variation. But I still wonder and want to know. Is there a nuanced difference between the two?
I disagree with Maha also. I don't see anything wrong, weird, or even archaic in عليا قريش, ...... Perhaps what the two of you are missing is that قريش is not only a proper noun but also a collective noun, similar to العرب. It is a tribe composed of many clans. Maybe if you change it to something like عليا بني تميم, the picture will become clearer. The analagous situation is thus not عليا امرأة but the عليا النساء example given by Maha above.
I agree with you here! No I haven't ignored this fact. Anyway, more below!

This I too presented earlier:
..and there is also this form too:
هى عُلیا النساء = she is the noblest of the women
I knew this to be correct.
ريحي بالك you simply can't say عليا امرأة.
I'm definitely not insisting on this! Just trying to work out hows and whys of an عليا construction (more below).
Well I think he was simply saying that it can mean highest, and it can also mean higher. People certainly use
درجة عليا to mean "highest grade," and حد أقصى to mean "a maximum" ...
This was my feeling too about Fischer’s suggestion for درجة عليا. As I said:
... the meaning of درجة عُلیا is a higher / the highest step. He puts highest in brackets, perhaps suggesting that this was meant some of the times ....(italics and emphasis added)
So we agree on this too and here is Ibn Khaldun with his قلعة عليا, by which it appears he means the highest citadel:

الكرجى وقد كان أغار على نواحى كنجة فعاث في أعماله وحاصر قلعة سكان ففتحها عنوة وكذلك قلعة عليا ثم حاصر قلعة كاك

(5 كتاب العبر لإبن خلدون ، جلد)


Just going back a little, I mentioned earlier:
I thought:
أعلی masculine singular elative = higher (highest)
عُلیا feminine singular elative = higher (highest)
<2a3aalin> أعالٍ or <3ulan> عُلی plural elative
Given our recent discussions, أعلی and عُلیا are elatives with both an adjectival and a noun function.

In comparatives, أعلى من can be used as a rule but never عليا من. (Speculating here, this might be so because at some point during the development of the Arabic language, in great antiquity, the masculine elative أعلى and not the feminine عليا was chosen / came to be exclusively used for this).

For superlatives we can use either أعلى or علياdepending. This is what I was trying to work out. All the grammar books that I’ve seen hardly ever make a mention of this use of عليا.

Here is another example. This time from Baladhuri quoting pre-Islamic poetry, so the عليا construction seems very old:

أولاد شيبة أهل المجد قد علمت
عليا معد إذا ما هزهز الورع

(أنساب الأشراف للبلاذري - قصة الفيل ، جلد1 )

( There are some more examples / points I wish to present but this post is already getting long, so shall present them later. )
 
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Wadi Hanifa

Senior Member
Arabic
#19
As I see it, the fine examples you provide from the Quran are perfect for the point you make about Quranic usage but we cannot use these to generalise and say that Arabic literature as a whole also shows the same. This is not a statistically significant observation.
Well, firstly, you spoke of what "the Arabs prefer." We have few resources on that question other than the Quran and pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry. Arabic literature is not quite relevant, though seeing that the Quran is the prototype for Classical Arabic, one can hardly call Quranic evidence insignificant. Either way, I'm sure a quick survey of any large Classical tract will show you that there is no evidence of this preference.
No! You misunderstood me here!

What I'm curious to know is the use of عليا instead of أعلی. Does it have any significance? Perhaps not. The reason might be quite trivial,i.e. stylistic variation. But I still wonder and want to know. Is there a nuanced difference between the two?
The poet is telling Bani Ghaafir that they originate from the "upper" or "higher" clans of Quraysh. As a non-human entity, the plural of a clan is usually referred to in the singular feminine in Classical Arabic. So, it could be understood as عليا عشائر قريش, or عليا بيوت قريش, etc.

Moreover, a tribe and its subsections is usually referred to in the feminine singular, so عليا قريش could simply be understood as a subsection of قريش. However, I don't think it would be wrong to say أنا من أعلى قريش, but in this case it will be understood that you mean "I am one of the highest members of Quraysh," rather than "I belong to the highest part of Quraysh."
So we agree on this too and here is Ibn Khaldun with his قلعة عليا, by which it appears he means the highest citadel:

الكرجى وقد كان أغار على نواحى كنجة فعاث في أعماله وحاصر قلعة سكان ففتحها عنوة وكذلك قلعة عليا ثم حاصر قلعة كاك


(5 كتاب العبر لإبن خلدون ، جلد)
No, here this is just the name of the castle (an iDaafa structure).
 

Faylasoof

Senior Member
English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
#20
Well, firstly, you spoke of what "the Arabs prefer." We have few resources on that question other than the Quran and pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry. Arabic literature is not quite relevant, though seeing that the Quran is the prototype for Classical Arabic, one can hardly call Quranic evidence insignificant.
Please allow me to clarify. The statement, "the Arabs prefer", is not mine! I’m just quoting Haywood and Nahmad. The former was an Englishman who knew Arabic well and spent a lot of time in the Arab world. The latter was a native Arab. Both wrote a grammar of Arabic that is still highly valued. So my assumption was that they knew what they were talking about. It is true – and I said this too earlier – that they don’t provide evidence for the statement, but then no textbook ever does.

BTW, I didn’t mean to say that the evidence from the Quran is not important. I myself look up (and present on this very forum) Quranic usages and agree that the Quran, pre- and early Islamic poetry are very important. But I assumed that Arabic literature was also something we can’t ignore.

According to my reading so far of academic literature concerning the development of the language, Classical Arabic is defined (by some western Arabists, so you can take this with a pinch of salt) as the Arabic of the 8th and the 9th centuries. This is perhaps due to it following the strict(er) rules of Arabic grammar, which had been more or less codified by then. According to this, all that precedes this period is formally regarded as pre-classical or peri-classical (I assume because it had more lax usage – the Quran being an exception according to some) and the later period as post-classical. I myself always thought that the Quran is Classical Arabic but so also the “classical literature” that followed it

Anyway, I agree with this,

Either way, I'm sure a quick survey of any large Classical tract will show you that there is no evidence of this preference.
We’ll need to look up academic journals for that, I guess. Quite possibly this has been done already.

The poet is telling Bani Ghaafir that they originate from the "upper" or "higher" clans of Quraysh. As a non-human entity, the plural of a clan is usually referred to in the singular feminine in Classical Arabic. So, it could be understood as عليا عشائر قريش, or عليا بيوت قريش, etc.

Moreover, a tribe and its subsections is usually referred to in the feminine singular, so عليا قريش could simply be understood as a
subsection of قريش……."I am one of the highest members of Quraysh," rather than "I belong to the highest part of Quraysh."
That is more or less how I too understood it but was wondering whether to translate عليا قريشmore like “the uppermost / highest (parts)” of the Quraysh (i.e. a superlative plural) rather than as “upper / higher” (a comparative). Now I know.
This too I understood to be as you say.

Now, may I have your opinion on this.

How should one translate the pre-Islamic verses (below) quoted byالبلاذري?

The first verse seems simple enough, whereشيبةis a reference to Abdul Muttalib, the Prophet’s grandfather. But I was trying to figure out what معد in عليا معد meant.

أولاد شيبة أهل المجد قد علمت
عليا معد إذا ما هزهز الورع


<ma3ad> = flank, side (of a man);
<ma3d> = swift (camel); bulky, coarse
<Ma3ad> = the ancestor of Banu Adnan.
<ma3id, plural of ma3ida> = stomach

The 1st and 2nd are grammatically not possible.
The 3rd could be if we have بني معد, but with بنيelided. But I’m not quite sure if it gives the right meaning.
The 4th would fit grammatically but in the context seems odd!
5th – none of the above.
 

cherine

Moderator
Arabic (Egypt).
#21
Hi Faylasoof,

The way I understand عليا معد is like عليا قريش the higher part/class of a bigger clan, Ma3add being a big tribe as you said: the ancestors of Banu Adnan.

As a side note, regarding عليا being superlative: as far as I know, 3ulya is superlative when it's definite. But when it's in an iDaafa structure, like عليا معد، عليا قريش، قلعة عليا ... it is not superlative. For example, in the verse كلمة الله هي العليا it's clear the العليا is superlative.
 

Wadi Hanifa

Senior Member
Arabic
#22
Please allow me to clarify. The statement, "the Arabs prefer", is not mine! I’m just quoting Haywood and Nahmad. The former was an Englishman who knew Arabic well and spent a lot of time in the Arab world. The latter was a native Arab. Both wrote a grammar of Arabic that is still highly valued. So my assumption was that they knew what they were talking about. It is true – and I said this too earlier – that they don’t provide evidence for the statement, but then no textbook ever does.
But, you see, "what the Arabs preferred," i.e. how they speak around the time that Islam appeared (until about 200 H) is not identical with "Classical Arabic literature," which came afterwards and was much more standardized. If you believe that Arabic speech in 100 H was any less "lax" than it was 100 years before Islam, then you are mistaken.

That's why the Quran (and ancient poetry) are our best evidence of "what the Arabs preferred." It might not be anywhere near a complete picture, but it's the best we've got.
wondering whether to translate عليا قريشmore like “the uppermost / highest (parts)” of the Quraysh (i.e. a superlative plural) rather than as “upper / higher” (a comparative). Now I know.
This too I understood to be as you say.
I understand it as superlative, i.e. "the highest [noblest] part of Quraysh."
How should one translate the pre-Islamic verses (below) quoted byالبلاذري?

The first verse seems simple enough, where شيبة is a reference to Abdul Muttalib, the Prophet’s grandfather. But I was trying to figure out what معد in عليا معد meant.

أولاد شيبة أهل المجد قد علمت
عليا معد إذا ما هزهز الورع
Glorious sons of Shaybah
The nobles of Ma'add [literally, "the highest of Ma'add" -- meaning the noblest of the northern Arabian tribes] know that ... etc.

(I don't really know what the rest of the verse means, and I suspect the meaning is incomplete without the next verse)
 

Faylasoof

Senior Member
English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
#23
Thanks for a comprehensive reply, Wadi!
But, you see, "what the Arabs preferred," i.e. how they speak around the time that Islam appeared (until about 200 H) is not identical with "Classical Arabic literature," which came afterwards and was much more standardized. If you believe that Arabic speech in 100 H was any less "lax" than it was 100 years before Islam, then you are mistaken.
The suggestion of laxness of style is what some Arabists have been saying.
Again, concerning what is "classical" / "pre- and post-classical" is, I guess, also somewhat arbitrary though I see how some are defining them.

BTW, I do not necessarily agree with everything that I read.
That's why the Quran (and ancient poetry) are our best evidence of "what the Arabs preferred." It might not be anywhere near a complete picture, but it's the best we've got.
I don't dispute this! But we'll need a more comprehensive analysis to determine whether Haywood and Nahmad's suggestion of "what the Arabs prefer" is even remotely correct. In fact, I’m not sure whether they are taking everything into account; from pre-Islamic literature to the present (i.e. MSA). But this only they can answer.
Hi Faylasoof,

The way I understand عليا معد is like عليا قريش the higher part/class of a bigger clan, Ma3add being a big tribe as you said: the ancestors of Banu Adnan.
...
Thanks for this Cherine!

I've found the rest of what نفيل said:

أولاد شيبة أهل المجد قد علمت
عليا معد إذا ما هزهز الورع
وشيخهم خير شيخ لست تبلغه
أنى وليس به سخف ولا طبع
يا حرب ما بلغت مسعاتكم هبعا
يسقى الحجيج وماذا يبلغ الهبع

I thought it best to give all 6 verses in the hope this helps you get a sense of what all this means. I can make some sense of some of the verses but not everything!
 
French
#24
What about الدِّرَاسَاتُ العُلْيَا ?
I'm not an expert but it looks like an adjectif isn't it? Or is it an implicit comparative like the higher studies (compare with...)
 
Arabic (Egyptian)
#25
As a side note, regarding عليا being superlative: as far as I know, 3ulya is superlative when it's definite. But when it's in an iDaafa structure, like عليا معد، عليا قريش، قلعة عليا ... it is not superlative. For example, in the verse كلمة الله هي العليا it's clear the العليا is superlative.
do you mean only عليا or any word?
I didn't see عليا but I saw (as an example) فضلى
You can say هن فضليات النساء (an idaafa structure)
 

Mahaodeh

Senior Member
Arabic, PA and IA.
#26
What about الدِّرَاسَاتُ العُلْيَا ?
I'm not an expert but it looks like an adjectif isn't it? Or is it an implicit comparative like the higher studies (compare with...)
Yes, it's a comparative that is used as an adjective. When read it should be understood as "higher/highest studies" not "high studies".
 
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