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Tense and Negative Affixes in Arabic Dialects and MSA Posted by on May 8, 2018 in Dialect, Grammar, Language, Vocabulary

Two obvious differences between Arabic dialects and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) are the parsing marks and certain affixes. In MSA, the time of the action of the present verb is indicated through the parsing marks. In dialects, it is known through prefixes. Likewise, MSA sentences are negated using separate negative particles. In dialects, the original form of these particles is reduced, while at the same time it is augmented with a suffix. This post is about tense and negative markers in Egyptian, Levantine, and Yemeni dialects as opposed to MSA.

Tense Markers in MSA:

In MSA, the aspect (time) of the present form of the verb is indicated by the parsing mark. If it ends in DHammah, i.e. indicative, it means the time of the action is the present; if it ends in fatHah, i.e. subjunctive, the time of the action is future; and if it ends in sukuun, i.e. jussive, the time of the action is also future, as in these examples:

أَشْرَبُ القَهْوَةَ كُلَّ صَبَاح. .I drink coffee every morning Present – fact
لَنْ أَشْرَبَ القَهْوَةَ اليَوْمَ. .I will not drink coffee today Future
لا تَشْرَبْ القَهْوَةَ اليَوْمَ. .Don’t drink coffee today Future
أَبِي يُشَاهِدُ التِّلْفَاز. .My father is watching TV Present – progressive
أَبِي يُرِيْدُ أَنْ يُشَاهِدَ التِّلْفَاز. .My father wants to watch TV Future
إِنْ يُشَاهِدْ أَبِي التِّلْفَاز يَشْعُرْ بِالنُعَاس. If my father (will) watch TV, he will feel .sleepy Future

Progressive Markers in Dialects:

In Egyptian, namely Cairene, بـِ is added to the start of the present form of the verb to indicate that the action is ongoing, as in these examples:

فَادِي بِيِكْتِب رِوَاِية. .Fadi is writing a novel
بِتِشْرَب إِيْه؟ ?What are you drinking
هَنَادِي بِتِطْبَخ كُوْشَرِي. .Hanadi is cooking kushari
اِحْنَا بِنِبْنِي البَلَد. .We are building the country

In Levantine, the affix عَمْـ (which may be considered a particle if separated from the verb عَمْ) is added to the start of the present verb to indicate that the verb is in the present continuous.عَمْ  may also be use with prefix b- or bi- to the indicate the continuity of the action, as in these examples:

بَشَّار عَمْ بِيِكْتِب رِوَاِية. .Bashar is writing a novel
بَشَّار عَمْيِكْتِب رِوَايِة. .Bashar is writing a nove
شُوْ عَمْتِعْمَل؟ ?What are you doing
شُوْ عَمْ بِتِعْمَل؟ ?What are you doing
رُوَيْدَة عَمْ تُطْبُخ. .Ruwaida is cooking
نَحْنَا عَمْ نِقَاتِل الإِرْهَابِيِيِن. .We are fighting the terrorists

In Yemeni, بِـ is added to the start of the present tense verb to indicate the continuity of the action, just like the Egyptian dialect, as in these examples:

عَلِي  بِيْبِيْع قَات. .Ali is selling qat
مَا بِتِشْرَب؟ ?What are you drinking
بِلْقِيس بِتِطْبَخ سَلْتِة. .Bilqees is cooking salta
اِحْنَا بِنْقَاتِل الإِرْهَابِيِيْن. .We are fighting the terrorists

Future Marker in Dialects:

In Egyptian, the future is marked by adding حَـ to the start of the present tense form of the verb. This prefix literally means ‘will’, as in these examples:

حَأَتَّصِل لَك بَالمَسَاء. .I will call you in the evening
حَيِشْتِرِي فَلافِل. .He will buy falafel
حَتِعْمَلِي إِيْه؟ .What will you (female) do
حَنْصُوْم يَوْمَ الإِتْنِيْن. .We will fast on Monday

In Levantine, حَـ may be used as is the case with the Egyptian. However, the particle رَحْ is more common. Both mean ‘will’, as in these examples:

رَحْ اِقْرَأ الأَخْبَار. .I will read the news
حَقْرَأ الأَخْبَار. .I will read the news
شُوْ رَحْ تِعْمِل؟ ?What will you do
شُوْ حَتِعْمِل؟ ?What will you do
 رَحْ نْصُوْم يَوْمَ التَنِيْن. .We will fast on Monday

In Yemeni, one of two prefixes may be used to express the future. These are عَـ or شَـ. However, عَـ is more common. They are added to the start of the present form of the verb. Both literally mean ‘will’, as in these examples:

شَأَتَّصِل لَك بَالمَسَاء. / عَأَتَّصِل لَك بِالمَسَاء.

.I will call you in the evening

عَيِشْتَرِي قَات. / شَيِشْتَرِي قَات.

.He will buy qat

مَا عَتِعْمَلِي؟ / مَا شَتِعْمَلِي؟

?What will you (female) do

عَنِصُوْم يَوْمَ الإِثْنَيْن. / شَنِصُوْم يَومَ الإثْنَيْن.

.We will fast on Monday

Negative Markers in Dialects:

In Egyptian, the negative particle for the nominal sentence is مِشْ. It is normally place before the predicate الخَبَر, as in these examples:

أَنَا مِشْ مُوَافِق. .I am not ok with that
هُوَ مِشْ طَالِب. .He is not a student
هُمَّ مِشْ زَعْلَانِيْن. .They are not angry
الغُرْفَة مِشْ مُرَتَّبَة. .The room is not tidy

مُشْ is also to negate the future form of the verb, as in these examples:

مِشْ حَأَتَّصِل لَك بَالمَسَاء. .I will not call you in the evening
 مِشْ حَيِشْتِرِي فَلافِل. .He will not buy falafel
مِشْ حَنْصُوْم يَوْمَ الإِتْنِيْن. .We will not fast on Monday

The verbal sentence is negated using a prefix and a suffix with the same verb. The prefix is مَـ, and the suffix is ـش, as in these examples:

فَادِي مَبِيِكْتِبش رِوَاِية. .Fadi is not writing a novel
مَبِتِشْرَبش لِيِه؟ ?Why aren’t you drinking
هَنَادِي مَبِتِطْبَخش كُوْشَرِي. .Hanadi is not cooking kushari
اِحْنَا مَبِنِبْنِيش البَلَد. .We are not building the country

In Levantine, the nominal sentence is negated using مِشْ or مُو. However, مُو is more common. Both literally mean ‘not’, as in these examples:

أَنَا مِشْ مُوَافِق. / أَنَا مُوْ مَوافِق.

.I am not ok with that

هُوِ مِشْ طَالِب. / هُوِ مُوْ طَالِب.

.He is not a student

هُمِّ مِش زَعْلَانِيْن. / هُمِّ مُو زَعْلَانِيْن.

.They are not angry

الغُرْفَة مِشْ مُرَتَبِة. / الغُرْفِة مُوْ مُرَتَبِة.

.The room is not tidy

The verbal sentence in Levantine is negated using the separate particle مَا, as in these examples:

مَا رَحْ اِقْرَأ الأَخْبَار. .I will not read the news
بَشَّار مَا عَمْ بِيِكْتِب رِوَاِية. .Bashar is not writing a novel
نَحْنَا مَا عَمْ نِقَاتِل الإِرْهَابِيِيِن. .We are not fighting the terrorists

In Yemeni, مَشْ (with faHah on the مـ) is used to negate the nominal sentence, as in these examples:

أَنَا مَشْ مُوَافِق. .I am not ok with that
هُوْ مَشْ طَالِب. .He is not a student
هُم مَشْ زَعْلَانِيْن. .They are not angry
الغُرْفَة مَشْ مُرَتَّبَة. .The room is not tidy

The verbal sentence in Yemeni dialect is negated using the negative particle مَا before the verb, and, like the Egyptian, the suffix ـش is added to the end of the verb, as in these examples:

 مَا شَأَتَّصِلش لَك بَالمَسَاء.

مَا عَأَتَّصِلش لَك بِالمَسَاء.

.I will not call you in the evening
بِلْقِيس مَا بِتِطْبَخش سَلْتِة. .Bilqis is not cooking salta
اِحْنَا مَا بِنْقَاتِلش الإِرْهَابِيِيْن. .We are not fighting the terrorists

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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!


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