Nahw – An Introduction to the Science of Arabic Grammar
أهَمُّها النَّحوُ إذ لَولاه أصلُ التَفاهُم
The most important of the sciences associated with the Arabic language is نحو, for without it no communication can exist : Ibn-e- Khaldun
نحو is the science of Classical Arabic which describes:
- How to arrange words to make meaningful sentences
- How to determine the grammatical structure of a sentence(by determining the positioning of حرف ، فعل، اِسم ) by change in the last letter of a word
Recall that a sentence in Classical Arabic is defined as a group of words conveying a complete idea and which has a Subject/Predicate relationship. Whenever we want to convey something to our listeners we first form a mental image into our own minds and then describe that image in words to other people. The ‘something’ or the ‘primary’ part of the idea is the Subject of the sentence and its ‘description’ is the Predicate of the sentence. The Subject is called مُسنَد إليهand the Predicate is called مُسند in Classical Arabic grammar. In English Language it is fairly easy to differentiate between the Subject and Predicate in a sentence by using the word is. As an example, note the sentence ‘Amr is standing’. Here Amr is Subject and standing describes what is happening with the Subject. As another another example note the sentence ‘The cat ate the rat‘. Here it is very obvious that the cat is the subject and ‘ate the rat‘ is the predicate, the rat being the object of eating . In English there is a sequence of words which determines which part is the Subject and which is the Predicate. However, in Arabic there is no such rule that a Subject has to come before the object i.e. there is no sequence rule. At first this might seem a little odd; however, this is what gives the language its flexibility, where using only a few words one can express themselves in variety of ways.
So how do we determine which is Subject and which is Predicate in a sentence? To make this easier, Scholars of نحو have divided sentences into two types, based on the first word, and have named the Subject and Predicate in each differently:
- جمله أسميّه (Nominal Sentence): This is the kind of sentence which begins with an اِسم e.g. الوَلَدُ قاﺋِﻢٌ (The boy is standing). The Subject, الوَلَدُ , is called مُبتَدا , and the predicate, قاﺋِﻢٌ,is called خَبَر
- جُملَة فِعلِية(Verbal Sentence): This is the kind of sentence which begins with a فعل e.g.ذَهَبَ حامِدٌ . Here حامد is فاعل and ذَهَبَ is فعل
Exactly how we determine which is the Subject and which is the Object will be dealt with once we define the concept of Grammatical States in Arabic, where we will make use of all the terms defined above and will see which grammatical state each fits in.