In Arabic we rarely change the spelling. The Alif there is part of the definite article الـ. It is a type of Alif which is called "Hamzat Wassl" (hamza of connection). This Alif is somewhat like schwa and when (b-) comes attached to it, it drops down in sound, but it's written as usual without any change in orthography.
The night: الليل
at the night: بالليل
The two "L" you see here are one belonging to "AL" the definite article, and the other one to the original word (Layl).
The first (L) if (Layl) ليل gets Shadda (or double letter: ـّ) because it is one of the "solar letters" ..... it's a set of letter that, when "AL" comes before them, they get Shadda and suck in "L". Examples:
- Sun: šams شمس; the sun: aš-šams الشّمس
- Garlic: þúm ثوم; the garlic: aþ-þúm الثّوم (þ = th as in THor).
- Button: zir زر; the button: az-zir الزّر
- Rice: ruz رز; the rice: ar-ruz الرّز
Not exactly. In Arabic orthography, prepositions and modifiers that are made of a single letter are not left cut off and separate just like that. All single-letter articles get attached to the heading word.
Saying this, i have to mention that one of the most common mistakes that Arabs do when writing their own language is to write وَ (wa: and) and leave a space after it then type the next word. Many people think that this article or single letter should be written alone unattached because of the orthographic nature of this letter (as you may know by now, there is a number of letters in Arabic that do not attach from both sides but only from one side, and و is one of them). Some of such articles or prepositions:
- فـَ (fa: then)
- كَـ (ka: like/as)
- لـِ (li: to/for/imperative)
- لَـ (la: emphatic article)
As you can see, some article do have more than one use and their meaning is formed by the context. Anyway, that's another story, for another time.
Gosh, TJ_Q8, it's complicated! Thanks for the detailed answer. One thing, though, in English grammatical terminology, "article" only denotes THE, A, (sometimes SOME is included). I'm not sure how one would call those short words in Arabic. Maybe PARTICLE? But no, as particle denotes little words that can't be fitted into any other grammatical category, such as "to" in the infinitive. Though since it looks as if the ones you cite are all prepositions or adverbs, perhaps you could replace ARTICLE here with ADVERB? But you've set me off on an exploration of particles, and it's fascinating. They're treated differently in different languages. Apparently German has very many, and French very few. I would have thought the vocative يا is a particle, do you agree?
Well, when it comes to divisions and grammar, Arabic has a completely different system in almost every aspect, very different from the Western system in teaching and analyzing languages (which I read once that it was based on Classical Greek system).
The word, in Arabic, can be classified in one of three classes as basic classes: a) Ism (noun) اسم, b) Fi3l (verb) فعل, c) Harf حرف (literally: letter).
Away from the (a) and (b), the class (c) despite its name, "Letter", it actually includes various "tools" (not sure though if AL is included but I presume it is). So, despite its name as "Letter" in Arabic, that does not mean it just includes articles or particles that are composed of a single letter. Example: إلى (ilá: to) is called حرف جر (letter of drag) - explaining this name will make more branches of explanations here, so no need to delve in it right now.
Sometimes, we use the word أداة (adát: tool) as well to denote such particles, or articles. The vocative يا is called أداة مناداة (tool of calling) and equally referred to in some books as حرف مناداة (a letter of calling). The definition article (AL) is commonly referred to in books as أداة تعريف (adát ta3ríf: tool of definition), but strangely I don't see this particular article named as حرف تعريف in grammatical books in Arabic.
As you can see, the terminology and hierarchy of the Arabic grammar or how it works is quite different (and it developed from systems initiated in classical or golden times) and, to what I see, these terminologies and divisions fit this particular language better than Western system or hierarchy. I do get some hard time sometimes explaining aspects of the language in terms of the Western system so I tend to approximate, though the approximation is quite afloat and does not pin the exact meaning that I intend or want to deliver.
As for "adverb" well the typical translation for this word in Arabic is حال (Hál) and strictly speaking, this word is used only for these words that describe the condition of the verb only; So, I can't use this term for those bits of letters that I've discussed above.
My goodness, I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. Thank you so much for this detailed answer. I'm going to have to learn something about this before I can answer. I found this diagram, which confirms what you said, and is a beginning for me: https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-GJBTCdPX_bg/W87hdEFCmeI/AAAAAAAABBc/XD0BKsOXPMsfYlVv_Xbd7yGK6uwYs36_QCLcBGAs/s1600/table-diagram-parts-of-speech-arabic-vs-english.JPG
I have a lot of trouble understanding all these differences between by night, at the night .. I don't understand when to put prepositions because I'm French and I don't speak English very well so it's even more difficult for me to learn arabic from english. Can you help me ?
Duolingo is making things a bit harder and easier in the same time. In fact, the timing of the event (as in the sentence above) can be stated in different ways and all are considered correct:
- بالليل (billayl)
- في الليل (fillayl)
- ليلًا (laylan)
All three would be acceptable in Arabic. They all mean the event happens or happened during the night (at night). However, I don't know about the English side of the story. I guess (by night) and (at night) are not equal.
I am not entirely certain, but I would hear "by" being used more for deadlines.
"Please have this assignment done by noon tomorrow"
It can be finished much sooner, even submitted on the day of, but does not have to be when its due
"Please do the assignment at noon tomorrow"
It is scheduled to be started then, not earlier