Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi everybody! Nora here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Arabic questions.
The Question
So I get asked the question a LOT, because this is one of those things that are specific to Semitic languages.
And the question is: How are Arabic words created?
Explanation
Derivation is the core of 99% of Arabic words. All words of Arabic origin come from 3 letter base words, called "roots." In this lesson, we’ll learn how derivation works in Arabic.
Arabic is a fusional language, meaning that changes can happen in the body of the word itself to create other words of related meaning. In other words, letters are inserted not just as prefixes or suffixes to the root, but also in between the root letters to form new words.
Let's take a look at one of the most basic verbs in Arabic: the verb “to read.”
The root of the verb “to read” is ك ت ب (k t b). The root just on its own is the singular past tense form of the verb. This is also the form we use to look a word up in a classical Arabic to Arabic dictionary.
Let's see how we can form a huge number of words out of this root.
كَتَبَ
“he wrote” (root)
kataba
كاتِب
“a writer”
kātib
كِتاب
“a book”
kitāb
كِتابَة
“writing”
kitābah
مَكتَب
“a desk”
maktab
كُتَيِّب
“a pamphlet”
kutayyib
مَكتَبَة
“a library”
maktabah
اِكتِتاب
“contribution of funds”
iktitāb
Now let’s see the variations of the verb “to cook”:
طَبَخَ
“he cooked”( root)
ṭabaḫa
طَبخَة
“a meal”
ṭabḫah
مَطبَخ
“a kitchen”
maṭbaḫ
طَبّاخ
“a chef”
ṭabbāḫ
طَبخ
“cooking”
ṭabḫ
مَطبوخ
“cooked”
maṭbūḫ
As you can see, letters are often inserted in between the root letters, not just as prefixes or suffixes to form new words. This makes it a bit different from English, where we usually add “-ing” or “-er” to create new words.

Outro

If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! إلى اللقاء (ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)

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