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A proverb, specifically for those silent ones among us!

  • 1349

Back with another proverb, or saying if you like to call it. The upcoming proverb is one of my favorites and I think it can benefit some of you who are after some little bites of grammar as well. Also, we might also see a contrast of translation between English and Arabic. One of the tips that I've always heard and encountered in my life as I was/am learning English is that "never translate word by word, but rather understand the meaning and translate accordingly." I think this is true in between any two languages in general. Anyway, enough talking and let's get to the bite!

سَكَتَ دَهْـرًا وَنَطَقَ كُفْرًا!

Translation: (He has) been silent for ages, and uttered blasphemy!

Transliteration: sakata dahran wa naŧaqa kufran.

Moral: You might think some people are wise because they do not speak much, but wait until you hear their words to judge their character.


سَكَتَ: He kept silent/been silent.
دهْـرًا: Ages, life-time.
وَ: And.
نَطَقَ: Utter, say.
كُفْرًا: Blasphemy, blasphemous, blasphemously.


In this proverb, we have two verbs in the past tense, which seems to me that it is something that Duolingo probably did not introduce to learners yet. Anyway, it is not such a big deal. The past tense for the masculine 3rd person, in Arabic, is considered the infinitive form of the verb from which other manipulations occur to create various other verbs, tenses, as well as nouns.
We come by the first verb (سكت:sakata) which is an intransitive verb (i.e. does not need an object to complete its meaning). You see how this translates in English, because it seems to be that English does not have a verb for being silent. There is always an additional prepositions or other verbs in addition to "silent" or "silence" to complete the meaning, and of course excluding here "shut up" which does not quite transfer the meaning of being silent here. The next word we encounter is (دهرا:dahran); A word that has at its end the most baffling vowel in the Arabic language and script, and which many people here on Duolingo are asking about and do not quite understand: Tanwin, or Nunation. Nunation or Tanwin can be in 3 flavors, either -an, -in or un, depending on the position and the status of the word. It is believed that the nunation was a nasal sound in ancient times but it developed to sound like full "N" sound. Tanwin or nunation is an important mark in Arabic grammar and linuistics. I always tell inquirers that Tanwin is a sign that comes with indefinite nouns (nouns that has no AL, the definite article). However, its uses are beyond that, and here we see one of these uses. The word (دهرا:dahran) is a modification for the word (دهر:dahr) which stands for (life, life time, life long, age of time). This word here is transformed from a simple noun, into an adverb by adding this Tanwin to its end (the Arabic name for this status is حال which stands for adverb or status). Adverbs (in single words like this) do come most of the time with Tanwin to their ends, and with Fatħa flavor (meaning: -an). And by the way, Tanwin in Fatħa flavor is the only Tanwin that one should write using an extra Alif after the last letter in the word (with exception for few letters and special cases, like in the case of Ta' Marbúŧah ة ). This is because in Arabic, and probably for poetic purposes, such words can be spelled with long "A" sound at the end instead of saying the Tanwin, specially at the end of the sentences. Anyway, we see here how the adverb was created from the noun, and I'm not sure if there is any single word (as an adverb) in English that would translate that. Thus, I had to translate it using a simple phrase like "for ages".
Next, we have the conjugating particle which connects the two phrases or sentences here: (وَ:wa), meaning "and." Unfortunately, some native Arabic speakers and writers still don't know much about the orthography of their language, to the extent of writing this single letter article in a wrong way. This article must always be connected to the next word after it, yet I do see many people who write it separately on its own with a space after it. There are many articles (specially prepositions) in Arabic that are made by a single letter, and such articles are naturally connected to the next word, and و is NOT an exception. People get the idea of separating it because و naturally when writing it in any place in a word, does not connect to the letter after it, and thus they think they should put a space between و and the word coming after. This is not the case, and و must be written as being part of the next word just like any other single-letter preposition in Arabic (e.g. فـ, بـ, لـ).
I guess then there is not much to be said about the second verb more than what we said about the first one. The verb (نطق:naŧaqa) is used for uttering a sound or a word. But let's move to the last word on the list: (كفرًا:kufran). Again, we have an adverb here which is derived from the word (كُفْر:kufr), which translates to blasphemy, disbelief, or apostasy. With the same manner with (دهرا:dahran) before, the status of the simple word was raised to an adverb that describes the verb (نطق:naŧaqa).

For a purpose, in the previous lines, I've typed the Tanwin in the adverbs on the letter before the Alif. Actually, and honestly, this is not I usually type or write it. I usually place the Tanwin on the Alif itself. There is a debate, in fact, among Arabic scholars as to whether the sign of Tanwin should be placed on the actual letter ending the word (like the other 2 flavors of Tanwin), or on the Alif. Each team has its own clues and its own arguments. So, generally speaking, and since such debate did not conclude (and would never be I guess), the writer usually has the freedom on the placement of this Tanwin sign; Either on the last letter before Alif, or on the Alif itself.

I hope this text was a bit easy for you to digest, vocabulary-wise and grammar-wise. I could have been talking a bit deeper about the grammar here but it would be really unnecessary for such a simple proverb. I'm going to post this now and hit the sack. It already passed midnight here! Good Night تصبحون بخير

July 24, 2019



Wow, I'm not even learning Arabic yet but this was very interesting and thorough. I hope you continue to write these :)

  • 1349

Thanks. Good luck with it.

I will try to post some whenever I get the time (and the good proverb to post about). Thanks!

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