July 20, 2020

Learn types of “speech” in Arabic language with examples.

By: Mustafa Siddiqui

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله

We’re going to dive into what is actually considered “speech” in Arabic. To start with, the definition in Arabic is:

الكَلامُ هُوَ اللَفْظُ المُرَكَّبُ المُفِيْدُ بِالوَضْعِ
كَلام (speech) is beneficial (مُفِيد), composite (مُرَكَّب) utterance (لَفْط), upon established rules (بالوضع).

The word كلام (kalaam) has two meanings, one in the the language, and one used in the science of grammar.

The linguistic كلام is whatever you get a benefit from because of it, whether it is an utterance or not (e.g. writing, drawing or pointing).
As for the كلام in the sense of grammar:
✔️ It must be an utterance
✔️ It must be composite
✔️ It must be beneficial
✔️ It must be set in the Arab way

“It must be an utterance”

It must be a sound that contains some of the alphabetical letters (ا through ي). Some examples are أحمد, يكتب, and سعيد. Each of these, when pronounced is a sound that contains four letters from the alphabet. Pointing, for example, is not called كلام by the grammarians because it doesn’t have sound, even if it called speech by the linguistic scholars because of the benefit attained by it,

“It must be composite”

It must be composed of two words or more. For example:

محمّد مُسافِرٌ – Muhammad is a traveler
العِلمُ نافِعٌ – Knowledge benefits
يَبلُغُ المُجتَهِد المَجدَ – The striver attains glory
لِكُلِّ مُجتَهِدٍ َنِصيبٌ – Every striver has a dividend
العِلمُ خَيرُ ما تَسعَى إلَيهِ – Knowledge is the best that you pursue

Each of these expressions is called “speech”, and each of them is composed of two or more words, as a single word is not called “speech” by the grammarians unless something else comes with it. This “something else” can be actual as in the previous examples. It can also be implied, as when someone says to you “Who is your brother?” and you say “Muhammad”. Then, this single word is considered as “speech” because the implication is “مُحَمَّدٌ أخِيْ” (Muhammad is my brother), as it is by implication three words.

“It must be beneficial”

It is appropriate for the speaker to pause such that the listener is not waiting for something else. If you were to say “إذا حَضَرَ الأُسْتاذُ” (“When the teacher comes…”), then this is not called speech, even if it was composed of three words because the listener is waiting for what you say after it (i.e. he’s thinking “What will happen when the teacher comes?”). If you were to say “إذا حَضَرَ الأُسْتاذُ أنْصَتَ التَلامِيْذُ” (“When the teacher comes, the students listen”), it becomes speech through attaining the full benefit.

“It must be set in the Arab way”

The words that are included in the speech are from the utterances that the Arabs have set for a specific meaning. For example, حَضَرَ is a word that the Arabs have set for a meaning (the occurrence of presence in the past tense). The Arabs have set the word مُحَمَّدٌ for a meaning, which is the entity of the person who named by this name. If you say “حَضَرَ مُحَمَّدٌ” (“Muhammad came”), it includes two words, each of which is from what the Arabs have set down. On the contrary, if you speak with speech from what the non-Arabs have put down, such as Persian, Turkish, Berber or a European language, then it is not called “speech” in the custom of the scholars of Arabic, even if the people of other languages call it that.

Examples of speech that fulfills all 4 of the conditions above:

الجَوُّ صَحوٌ – The weather is clear
البُستانُ مُثمِرٌ – The garden bears fruit
الهِلالُ ساطِعٌ – The crescent is shining
السَّماءُ صافِيَةٌ – The sky is clear
يُضِيءُ القَمَرُ لَيلاً – The moon lights up at night
يَنْجَحُ المُجْتَهِدُ – The one who strives will succeed
لا يُفْلِحُ الكَسُولُ – The lazy person will not be successful
لا إلَهَ إلا الله – There is no deity (worthy of worship) except Allah
مُحَمَّدٌ صَفْوَةُ المُرْسَلِينَ – Muhammad(S) is the elite of those sent
الله رَبُّنا – Allah is our Master
مُحَمّد نَبِيُّنا – Muhammad(S) is our prophet

Examples of single words

مُحَمّدٌ – Muhammad
إبراهِيمُ – Ibrahim
قامَ – He stood
مِنْ – from/of

Examples of speech that has more than 1 word but does not give a complete meaning:

مَدِينَةُ الإسْكَنْدَرِيُّة – The city of Alexandria (What about it??)
عَبْدُ اللهِ – The slave of Allah
حَضرَمَوتُ – Hadramaut
لَو أَنْصَفَ الناسُ – If the people were fair…
إذا جاءَ الشِتاءُ – When the winter comes… (What will happen when it comes??)
مَهْما أَخْفي المرائي – No matter how much the hypocrite hides…
أن طَلَعَتِ الشَمسُ – That the sun rises…

Questions to review

⃝ What is كلام (speech)?
⃝ What does it mean that it be an “utterance”?
⃝ What does it mean that it be “beneficial”?
⃝ What does it mean that it be “composite”?
⃝ What does it mean that it be set down in the Arab way?

Bring 5 examples that the grammarians would call “speech”

…. and you’ve just completed a lesson in Arabic studies. Maybe you saw some Arabic words that made you feel uncomfortable, but that’s okay. Things will become clearer in the next lessons إن شاء الله.

Until next time, السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

Mustafa Siddiqui

Mustafa Siddiqui is the author of Arabic Grammar Unlocked: A complete study of the Ajurroomiyyah. Learn more about Mustafa from his official website.

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