It just doesn’t sound right.

ear.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

The sound and pronunciation of a word is very important in Arabic, and this especially becomes a problem in the case of generating new words via the naht process. (Although it was mentioned before that one cannot do naht at their whim, the council of Arabic Language has permitted cases of naht to be submitted to them for review for the sake of meeting with the demands of modern terminology into the language).

Some of these problems are that when you combine two or more words in naht, some of the letters invariably have to be dropped. But which letters are dropped and which are retained is a crucial issue, for there are a number of linguistic ‘flaws’ related to words, some of which are that two letters following each other may be considered heavy on the tongue (al-thiqal), or adjacent letters may be discordant or inharmonious with one another. Thus, Ibrahim Anees offered some guidelines (published in Mujallat Majma’ al-Lughah al-‘Arabiyyah fee al-Qahirah, ed. 30) followed by classical scholars in the words they welcomed into the language, to help us judge whether new words are harmonious and acceptable to Arabic or not. Some of these are:

1. The letters Taa’ ط and jeem ج are not found in the same word.
2. The letters jeem ج and Saad ص are not found in the same word.
3. The letters Saad ص and Taa’ ط are not found in the same word.
4. The letters seen س and dhaal ذ are not found in the same word.
5. The letters seen س and zaa’ ز are not found in the same word.
6. The letters qaaf ق and jeem ج are not found in the same word.
7. The letter zaa’ ز will not come after the letter daal د in the same word.
8. The letter raa’ ن will not come after the letter noon ن in the same word.
9. Any word from a root of four or five letters must have at least one (sometimes two or three) liquid letters حروف الذلاقة (ie raa’, laam, noon, faa’, baaa’ and meem ر ل م ن ف ب)

In addition to helping us judge the quality of a word, these guidelines also serve to provide much fun in trying to find those ‘there MUST be some!’ words that prove this wrong. I was unable to think of any, but would welcome anyone else’s successes.

16 responses to “It just doesn’t sound right.

  1. 1. The letters Taa’ ط and jeem ج are not found in the same word.

    Within minutes I found this word in Hans Wehr dictionary: جلط Ja La Ta (to chafe, gall, abrade…)

    Wassalam.

  2. wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam

    Jazaakum Allaahu khayran, very perceptive, you are correct. It turns out there is a small number of roots that do have jeem and Taa’ in them, also other than the ones you mentioned. However, they are very few in number, and often have very few numbers of words actually used by that root (in the case of jalaTa, Ibn Faaris says it is only the one).

    Based on Anees’ guidelines, my guess is that such words are disliked though, as the letters are seen to be disharmonious.

  3. 6. The letters qaaf ق and jeem ج are not found in the same word.

    Here’s another one, جلق Ja La Qa (to shave one’s head, i think).

    Wassalam.

  4. I couldn’t find جلق jalaqa, but I found جلاق julaqa and جلق jilliq in Hans Wehr.

  5. “8. The letter raa’ ن will not come after the letter noon ن in the same word.”

    I think there’s a typo; there is a ن after “the letter raa'”.

    If you go in Hans Wehr to ن section and then to ن – ر you fill find about 8-9 words that break this rule.

  6. Assalaamu Alaikum,

    First of Jazaakumallahu Khayran for the intriguing website. It motivates beginners like myself to reach a mastery of the language.

    I was wondering if you shed some light on the word ankabut because I believe it’s a rare type which is based on 5 letters.

  7. Wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam,

    Wa iyyakum.

    I am sorry for replying to this so late, it got lost in the new comments list!

    You are right, there are some words – very very few in number – that are based on a five-letter root in Arabic. Most Arab linguists say that one of the criterion of knowing whether a word is originally arabic or has been arabicised from another language is that if it is from a 4 or 5 letter root, then it is not originally Arabic.

  8. mashaAllah, interesting post

  9. As-salaamu `alaykum

    I was reading one of my arabic books and wanted your help on something regarding naht

    It says in the book,

    و عن عبد الرحمن بن يزيد بن عبد الله قال
    “لا تكونن إمّعة”
    قالوا: و ما الإمعة؟
    قال: أن يقول أحد – أنا مع الناس إن اهتدوا اهتديت و إن ضلوا ضللت

    Is this a form of naht (i.e. imma3a coming from ‘anaa ma3a fulaan fulaan)?

    Jazaak’Allaahu khayran

  10. wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam,

    It is possible; Ibn Faris says that the root of it – hamzah, meem, ‘ayn, is not a real Arabic root.

    But there is difference of opinion among the scholars over whether the hamzah is integral/aslee to the word or not – if it is, it may suggest that the word comes from a real root and so it wouldnt be considered to be naht.

    Also, there are various forms of the word reported in the lexicons, under the root hamzah, meem, ‘ayn.

    Allaahu a3lam, I don’t know.

  11. muhammad al-amin

    as salaamu ‘alaykum

    i was just wondering if maybe i’m misunderstanding the example? al-faatiha has saad and taa

    3. The letters Saad ص and Taa’ ط are not found in the same word.

    [1:6] Ihdina alssirata اهدنا الصراط

  12. Wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam,
    I understood Ibrahim Anees to be referring to cases where the original letters of the word are Saad and Taa:

    The word SiraaT with a Saad (I apologise, I cannot type arabic on this computer), was originally siraaT with a seen; the seen was then turned into a Saad due to difficulty in pronouncing a seen with a Taa’.

    Again, I should just remind that these are all Ibrahim Anees’ own guidelines and deductions of what he considered to be correct and acceptable in Arabic. Perfection belongs to Allah alone…

  13. Salam to all

    صراط (Sirat) could be cited as an example of an exception to rule no 3, though I have read in some places that صراط is not really a genuine Arabic word and the original Arabic word is طريق and شريع may also be used.
    I must also say that your blog is fantastic. And even more so for somebody like me who has been searching for resources on Quranic etymology. Easily one of the best blogs as far as I am concerned. I have learnt a lot from it.

    Great Work. Keep it Up.

    سلام

  14. wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. What makes the site better for me is when other people also contribute with their contemplations and findings, al-Hamdu lillaah. Jazakum Allaahu khayran for that and your comments.

  15. Dear Sister,
    Assalamualaikum

    The letters Saad ص and Taa’ ط are not found in the same word.
    The instant I read it I thought of Siraat . It has both letters and in that order!
    I just stumbled on your site yesterday.
    Ma Sha Allah! It’s a great blog. Keep it up
    Jazzak Alllah Khair

  16. Excellent work…

    May allah reward you for this

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