I'm not sure of the model that Duolingo is using but in Arabic, the sentence is flexible - but there is the "norm" and there is the "literature" or "eloquence" versions or styles.
Just to add, there are two types of sentences: Nominal and Verbal. Away from the extensive studies that had been done on such classification but the most modern one and what is taught in schools is: Nominal sentence is a sentence that stars with a Noun, and Verbal is the sentence that starts with a verb. But things can be quite flexible. Just an example:
Ahmad went to the market - I can state this in various ways:
ذهب أحمد إلى السوق
أحمد ذهب إلى السوق
إلى السوق ذهب أحمد
إلى السوق أحمد ذهب
أحمد إلى السوق ذهب
Changing the order of the words does not change the meaning but changes the rhyme and the sounds. However, the most normal and common one would be the first and second ones: ذهب أحمد إلى السوق (literal: went/Ahmad/to/the market), or أحمد ذهب إلى السوق (literal: Ahmad/went/to/the market). The first is Verbal version, and the second is Nominal version.
I think MSA prefers VSO-order prior to SVO? And what about Arabic newspapers?
all works providing the words declension is done properly. In Nominal sentences in Arabic you can have a sentence starting out without any verbs at all; e.g. الشمس مشرقة (aš-šamsu mušriqatun: the sun is shining). In English you have to use (is) to connect the sentence but in Arabic you don't use any verbs. Literally, the sentence is: the sun/shining - and Shining here is considered to be another noun, in the place of a predicative.
I don't read newspapers usually, but i don't think they are differ much from the general literature.
Is قِطّة a female cat or a generic wors for cats ? How would a call a male cat ?
Yep, female cat. Male cat would be قط (qiT).
Also, هِر (Hir) and هِرّة (Hirrah) -for male and female respectively- are used sometimes.
i thought ة was supposed to be pronounced as "a"? Why does the speaker seem to sometimes say it as "tan"? Is this some rule i missed?
First of all, ignore the audio. It is wrong in its spelling.
The letter ة is actually a merge of 2 sounds. It's called Ta'-Marbúta تاء مربوطة (tied Ta). Most feminine words end with this letter. In isolated form or when the word comes at the end of the sentence (where dropping the last vowel in the word is permitted, MSA-wise) this letter gains its "H" sound. Thus, قطة at the end of the sentence would be (QiTTah).
Anyway, when the word ending with this letter needs to be moved with the vowel at its end (i.e. declined), this "H" changes to "T" automatically. For example, if I want to say (the cat of Arwa), which is a genitive relation between CAT and ARWA, then it would be قِطّةُ أروى (QiTTatu Arwá).
As for the -un (or -an, or -in) sound at the end of some words, this is actually called Tanwin or Nunation. It is one of the types of vowels and for some reason I don't know, Duolingo is not using the marks for this Tanwin on letters. Anyway, to keep it short, you can think of Tanwin or Nunation as a mark for indefinite nouns, just like the English a/an before an indefinite word. Example:
The cat: القطةُ (al-qiTTatu).
A cat: قطةٌ (qiTTatun).
Hope this clarifies things. And by the way, in the audio, the speaker (which is automated) should say (qiTTatun jadeedatun) and not (qiTTatan jadeedatan).
Oh, i didnt know the audio was automated, that explains a lot. Is this an/in/un required for grammatically correct arabic, or would the sentence still be correct if I said "3ind Arwa qiTTa jadiida"?
Thanks for the explanation!!
Well, grammatically speaking, yes. As in any language, grammar is grammar and it is there to rectify and guide the usage of the language.
However, in Arabic and with the spread of dialects, it is not critical. This is what Duolingo-Arabic is about actually as I noticed; They are merging dialectical Arabic with Standard Arabic on many occasions. In dialects, the last vowels are almost always omitted and grammar is not strict. So, your suggested sentence would still be understood by an Arab.