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Arabic Numbers 1—10: MSA vs. Dialects Posted by on Oct 5, 2017 in Arabic Language, Grammar, Pronunciation, Vocabulary

Deemed as one of the most difficult languages to learn, some may wonder what makes Arabic so. Well, one aspect of difficulty is the variation between the standard formالفُصْحَى  (formal, educational form) and the dialectal, colloquial, conversational form العَامِّيَّة. As to numbers, as is the case with most variations, the difference is morpho-phonological. That is, some words are blended (in the case of 11-19), and sounds are pronounced differently.

Image by Babak Fakhamzadeh on flickr.com

The MSA الفُصْحَى:

In MSA, cardinal numbers have masculine and feminine forms. The feminine is derived from the masculine by adding the feminine marker ‘taa marbuuTah’ ة / ـة to the end, hence ثَلَاث becomes ثَلاثَة and أَرْبَع becomes أَرْبَعَة and so forth.

وَاحِد waaHid (m) 1
وَاحِدَة waaHidah (f)
اِثْنَيْن ithnayn (m) 2
اِثْنَتَيْن ithnatayn (f)
ثَلَاثَة thalaathah (f) 3
ثَلَاث thalaath (m)
أَرْبَعَة ’arba‘ah (f) 4
أَرْبَع ’arba‘ (m)
خَمْسَة khamsah (f) 5
خَمْس khams (m)
سِتَّة sittah (f) 6
سِتّ sitt (m)
سَبْعَةَ sab‘ah (f) 7
سَبْع sab‘ (m)
ثَمَانِيَة thamaaniyah (f) 8
ثَمَان thamaan (m)
تِسْعَة tis‘ah (f) 9
تِسْع tis‘ (m)
عَشْرَة ‘ashrah (f) 10
عَشْر ‘ashr (m)
NB: ‘ = ع      ’ = أ

Levantine الشَّامِيَّة:

Except for numbers 1 and 2, numbers from 3 to 10 have the same form both masculine and feminine, hence speakers of this dialects say تِسْعَه بَنَات tis‘a banat ‘nine girls’ and تِسْعَه وِلَاد tis‘a wilaad ‘nine boys.’

وَاحَد waaHad (m) 1
وَحْدِه waHde (f)
تْنْيِن tniin (m) 2
تِنْتِيْن tintiin (f)
تْلَاتْه tlaate 3
أَرْبَعَه arba‘a 4
خَمْسْه khame 5
سِتّه Sitte 6
سَبْعَ sab‘a 7
تْمَانْيْه tmaanye 8
تِسْعَه tis‘a 9
عَشْرَة ‘ashra 10
NB: ‘ = ع

Egyptian المِصْرِيَّة:

This dialect resembles the Levantine, except that for consonant clusters. In Egyptian, a sequence of two consonants is broken by inserting a vowel before or after a consonant, hence tniin, tlaate, and tmaanye in Levantine become itniin, talaata, and tamanya, respectively. Breaking of consonant clusters by vowel insertion is common in Egyptian Arabic.

وَاحِد waaHid (m) 1
وَحْدَة waHda (f)
اِتْنِيْن itniin 2
تَلاتَة talaata 3
أرْبَعة arb‘a 4
خَمْسْة khamsa 5
سِتّة sitta 6
سَبْعْة sab‘a 7
تَمَنيْه tamanya 8
تِسْعْة tis‘a 9
عَشَرة ‘ashara 10
NB: ‘ = ع

Peninsular الجَزِيْرَة وَالخَلِيْج:

Peninsular Arabic, which includes Yemeni Arabic, Saudi Arabic, and Arabic of other Gulf States, resemble to a great measure that of MSA. Variation in pronunciation is really scant, as seen in the list.

وَاحِد waaHid (m) 1
وَاحِدِة waaHidih (f)
اِثْنَيْن ithnayn (m) 2
ثِنْتَيْن thintayn (f)
ثَلاثَة thalaathah (f) 3
ثَلاث thalaath (m)
أَرْبَعَة arba‘ah (f) 4
أَرْبَع arba‘ (m)
خَمْسَة khamsah (f) 5
خَمْس khams (m)
سِتَّة sittah (f) 6
سِتّ sitt (m)
سَبْعَة sab‘ah (f) 7
سَبْع sab‘ (m)
ثَمَانِيَة thamaaniyah (f) 8
ثَمَان thamaan / thimaan (f)
تِسْعَة tis‘ah (f) 9
تِسْع tis‘ (m)
عَشَرَة ‘asharah / ‘ashrah (f) 10
عَشْر، عَشَر ‘ashr / ‘ashar (m)

Moroccan المَغْرِبِيَّة:

A distinctive feature of Moroccan Arabic is over-clustering. That is, short vowels of MSA are oftentimes dropped and replaced by a sequence of sukoons, i.e. a cluster of two or more consonants. This phenomenon is what make this variety of Arabic difficult to follow / understand. Take the case of khmsa, stta, sb‘a, and thmnya, in each word there is a cluster of three consonants. This makes the dialect difficulty to mimic and understand by other speakers of Arabic.

وَاحِد waaHid (m) 1
وَاحِدة waaHida (f)
جُوْج juuj 2
تِلاتة Tilaata 3
رْبْعَة rb‘a 4
خْمْسَة khmsa 5
سْتَّة stta 6
سْبْعَة sb‘a 7
ثْمْنيَة thmnya 8
تْسْعُود ts‘uud 9
عْشْرَة ‘shra 10

As for juuj, which is sometimes pronounced as juuz, it is taken from the MSA word zawj ‘a pair of’. This word is common in Yemeni Arabic as well and used in pretty much the way as by Moroccans. ts‘uud is an interesting case.

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About the Author:Ibnulyemen

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. Besides Arabic and English, I speak French and some German. I have a strong flair for languages; most of my foreign language competency has been self-learning. For Arabic, I have a strong command of its formal aspects. So, if you have any question about Arabic grammar or morphology, feel free to ask any question you may have. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential and interactive fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. Arabic dialectal expressions and vocabulary will be highlighted whenever pertinent to the topic of each post. Enjoy learning!


Comments:

  1. Bob Barker:

    I ask about the Modern Standard Arabic words for the number “two”.
    In this post they are given as اِثْنَن اِثْنَتَيْن but all the other sources at my disposal give them as اِثْان اِثْنَتَان .
    Can anyone explain?

    Also they are labelled m and f but, as I understand it, the m form is used with feminine words and the f form with masculine. Is this correct?

    • Ibnulyemen:

      @Bob Barker Rob, Shukran for dropping by!

      the difference between اثنين and اثنتين are in the accusative / genitive case(s), while اثنان and اثنتان are in the nominative, that is منصوب and مجرور vs مرفوع. In colloquial Arabic, Arabs opt for the accusative/genitive form for most part. it is more the unmarked form (i.e easy). This is why اثنين and اثنتين are listed in the post.

      As regards the second question, yes they are labelled as (f) and (m) but their agreements with the noun they precede is a reverse agreement. That is to say, a feminine form of number is used with masculine nouns and vise versa. More on this in a future more elaborate post!

      hope this clarifies your query.