Lebanese Arabic: internal vowels of defective (third-weak) verbs in الماضي

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Italian - Italy

In the "Grammar of Beirutian Language" by Kamal Osman (pdf version -> http://www.kamal-osman.com/wp-content/uploads/grammar_of_the_beirutian_language.pdf, pages 87-90), it seems that - at least in Beiruti Arabic - the internal vowels of defective simple verbs (i.e. fa3al form) can be realized in two ways without differences in meaning, for example:

7ama/7emé (to protect)
2ara/2eré (to read)

Of course this applies to all the grammatical persons of al-madi, not only to the huwwé form. Is this accurate? Do defective verbs have two possible forms without differences in meaning?

Thanks a lot in advance.
  • Tom1991

    New Member

    There is no difference in meaning between 7ama/7emé or 2ara/2eré.

    I think it has something to do with Imale (امالة) which is very common in Lebanese dialect.

    You can find out more about Imale here or in this book on page 95.
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    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I don't think it has anything to do with imaale specifically - many of these variants are also found in other Levantine dialects with much less advanced imaale (béki for example), and a similar phenomenon exists with verbs that end with a consonant (2é3ed vs 2a3ad). That said, Lebanon does seem to have more regional variants of fa3a verbs which are formed on fé3i instead: 3éTi, 7éki, 2éri... Possibly what this represents is a tendency to collapse the fa3a forms into fé3i ones, and this may be related to an advanced imaale which both systematically affects final vowels rather than just ـة and results in the merger of many final -a to -i (or alternatively as in some Lebanese dialects brings final -i closer to -e in the first place). But I don't know how wide-ranging Lebanese imaale is.


    Senior Member
    English (US) / Arabic (Lebanon)
    Point of note: I think the paper is by an Alexander Hourani, not a Kamal Osman. It's not a good paper analysis-wise, but given that the author is a native speaker, the raw examples are at least all trustworthy.
    I guess you could call it imaale, but that term's a bit too blankety for its own good -- what this really is is the result of a tendency to collapse a once-rigid fe3e–yef3a/fa3a–yef3e conjugation-paradigm system into fe3e across the board as analeeh mentions. That is, either fe3e–yef3a, which for now can sometimes stay as is, or fe3e–yef3e. For people who have some degree of the distinction, including most non-Lebanese Levantines, the following four voweling pairs may exist -- some of which are (fun fact) fossilized preservations of fus7a's internal-voweling passive:
    • شفى_يشفي شفي_يشفى
      • shafa–yeshfe to heal (transitive)
      • shefe–yeshfa to be healed
    • عمى_يعمي عمي_يعمى
      • 3ama–ye3me to blind
      • 3eme–ye3ma to go blind
    • هدى_يهدي هدي_يهدى
      • hada–yehde to provide with a gift, or also (esp. in set phrase "allah yehdiik") to stop someone from sinning, to make someone settle down (religiously)
      • hede–yehda to settle down
    • حمى_يحمي حمي_يحمى
      • 7ama–ye7me to protect
      • 7eme–ye7ma to heat up (intransitive) (unrelated)
    With the exception of the last pair, I sometimes have to think if I want to select the "right" present-tense form for these, because the -e form likes to come out instinctively no matter the intended meaning. It's no surprise that the system's collapsing, or collapsed, for many -- these are the only four cases of conflict out of many, many third-weak verbs that are free to vary between fa3a, fe3e, yef3a, and yef3e without ambiguity.

    Note that this fe3e–yef3a/fa3a–yef3e pair of paradigms (seeds of a tongue-twister?) is a subset of Levantine's larger system of "fa3al–yif3il and fa3al–yif3ol" vs. "fi3il–yif3al" system, which also has an established history of being leveled somewhat into fi3il–yif3il. For sound verbs, the following four pairs exist in Levantine, and I think that at least for now they're relatively stable (in Lebanon):
    • خلق_يخلق
      • 5ala2–ye5lo2 to birth, esp. divine creation
      • 5ele2–ye5la2 to be born
    • هلك_يهلك
      • halak–yehlok to exhaust
      • helek–yehlak to be exhausted
    • خرب_يخرب
      • 5arab–ye5reb to destroy (ye5reb baytak "God ruin your house/family")
      • 5ereb–ye5rab to break, i.e. to stop working (comparatively mundane)
    • وصل_يوصل
      • waṣal–yūṣol to connect (transitive) (said of an inanimate object... like a connector)
      • weṣel–yūṣal to arrive
    And this should help justify the split between 7ama/7eme, even if it isn't maintained any longer in some areas of Lebanon. Worth noting, BTW, that with the exception of وصل_يوصل all of these sound-verb examples use فعلان fa3lēn for the participle of the fe3el–yef3al verb and فاعل fē3il for the participle of the fa3al–yef3el form.
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