All dialects: اسطاع يسطيع

< Previous | Next >

wriight

Senior Member
English (US) / Arabic (Lebanon)
The Fus7a verb استطاع يستطيع "be able [to...]" has a really old variant اسْطاع يسْطيع, which must've been the prevailing spoken form of the word for quite some time. Its only well-known descendant today is the verb seta'–jista' in the Maltese language.

Other than in Maltese, where can اسطاع يسطيع or descendants of it be found?

Possible leads:
  • What got me thinking about this in the first place is the Lebanese verb سطع, which more-or-less means "touch": ما تسْطَعْني is "don't touch me!" (Two people I've asked find it weird for the object to be a human being instead of something inanimate, apparently, which might mean something? Others have no issue with it, though.) It's suspicious for a few reasons, e.g. it has a really weird/unique set of conjugations for some speakers that could potentially be explained by an origin in اسطاع, but of course the problem is that "be able" and "touch" are pretty far apart in meaning. For that reason it could also just go back to the verb سَطَعَ, which still isn't a perfect match semantically but does have a few closer-ish meanings like "to spread".
  • But either way, when I started searching for سطع online to check that hunch, I stumbled upon this tweet by someone Egyptian: walhy homa 2lolk 3ala 2adr ma tosta3 ma2lolksh 7lo klo 😂 ("God, they told you to do as much as you can, they didn't tell you to solve the whole thing 😂"), where I believe tosta3 can't represent anything other than تسطَع -- it seems like the phrasing was influenced heavily by the Fus7a on the worksheet in the picture, أجب قدر ما تستطيع, but I don't think there would be a reason to repeat تستطيع as "tosta3" if تسطع weren't a verb that the tweeter already uses colloquially. This seems like it could be some solid evidence that سطع يسطع exists with the meaning of "be able"*, and if it is, it doesn't seem like there's much it could go back to other than اسطاع يسطيع. Is anyone else familiar with this verb in Egyptian Arabic?
(*I also realized while I was writing this post that the Maltese verb is, letter-for-letter, سَطَع يِسْطَع if spelled in Arabic :eek:)
 
Last edited:
  • Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    If it's present in Maltese, then it's highly probable that it used to be found in urban Maghrebi dialects and probably in Andalusian Arabic which contrary to Maltese, faded out. I'm not aware of any Maghrebi dialect which conserved such word, at least with this meaning.
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    But either way, when I started searching for سطع online to check that hunch, I stumbled upon this tweet by someone Egyptian: walhy homa 2lolk 3ala 2adr ma tosta3 ma2lolksh 7lo klo 😂 ("God, they told you to do as much as you can, they didn't tell you to solve the whole thing 😂"), where I believe tosta3 can't represent anything other than تسطَع -- it seems like the phrasing was influenced heavily by the Fus7a on the worksheet in the picture, أجب قدر ما تستطيع, but I don't think there would be a reason to repeat تستطيع as "tosta3" if تسطع weren't a verb that the tweeter already uses colloquially.
    This is just a college student unable to read fuS7a properly (sadly an extremely common thing in the younger generations). He read تستطيع as tosta3 :( For your translation, this walhy is like "well" rather than an actual oath, so I wouldn't translate it as God.
    This seems like it could be some solid evidence that سطع يسطع exists with the meaning of "be able"*, and if it is, it doesn't seem like there's much it could go back to other than اسطاع يسطيع. Is anyone else familiar with this verb in Egyptian Arabic?
    The verbs استطاع - اسطاع are not used in Egyptian Arabic (at least as far as I know, regarding Alexandria and Cairo). For "can" we use the verb قدر - يقدر (the past form is pronounced eder in Cairao and adar in Alexandria, the present form is ye2dar in both, and the د is closer to the ض, Alexandrians even pronounce the qaf/hamza as an ألف مُفخَّمة).
    But there is the expression في استطاعته (in his ability) that some people use.

    For Classsical Arabic, the only instance I know of where اسطاع is used, is in سورة الكهف (verse 82): ذَلِكَ تَأْوِيـلُ ما لَـمْ تَسْطِعْ عَلَـيْهِ صَبْراً and I remember hearing once that this form was used instead of تستطع -which was used in the previous verses- because it came after the explanations were given, so now that things became clear, a simpler form of the verb was used (or something in that meaning).
     

    wriight

    Senior Member
    English (US) / Arabic (Lebanon)
    This is just a college student unable to read fuS7a properly (sadly an extremely common thing in the younger generations). He read تستطيع as tosta3 :(
    Oh no :( Do you really think so? I thought it was too much of a coincidence that it matched the Maltese and (possibly) Lebanese conjugations so well. Is this particular kind of misreading common or something like that?

    If so, then maybe اسطاع really did survive nowhere but in Malta. (I tried checking a couple sources for Cypriot Maronite Arabic/Sanna for completeness, since its origins are really close to Maltese's and it also has plenty of archaisms like this, but I mostly only found قدر and في for "can".)

    For your translation, this walhy is like "well" rather than an actual oath, so I wouldn't translate it as God.
    Thanks!!

    For Classsical Arabic, the only instance I know of where اسطاع is used, is in سورة الكهف (verse 82): ذَلِكَ تَأْوِيـلُ ما لَـمْ تَسْطِعْ عَلَـيْهِ صَبْراً and I remember hearing once that this form was used instead of تستطع -which was used in the previous verses- because it came after the explanations were given, so now that things became clear, a simpler form of the verb was used (or something in that meaning).
    Yeah, it appears a couple ayahs of this surah, and I've heard that it's also in some Jahiliyyah (maybe also Classical-era??) poetry like طرفة بن العبد. Here's another explanation that may be interesting.
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Oh no :( Do you really think so?
    Yes, unfortunately. :( If the verb, in any of its form, were used in colloquial Egyptian, I would've thought this strange reading was an influence of the dialect, but we don't use the verb, so I can only believe that this is just the influence of a lack of education (regardless the fact he was "good" enough at school to be able to يدخل كلية الهندسة). Misreading and spelling mistakes abound among young generation, للأسف الشديد :(
    Yeah, it appears a couple ayahs of this surah, and I've heard that it's also in some Jahiliyyah (maybe also Classical-era??) poetry like طرفة بن العبد. Here's another explanation that may be interesting.
    Your link doesn't explain this as much as it says that it's an effect of different readings being recorded in the same text (if I understood the posts correctly). Among the replies there are two that repeat what I've said before, that the difference reflects different nuances: the harder action is expressed with the longer form, and the easier one is expressed with the simpler one. You are of course totally free to accept the explanation you find more logical to you. :)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top