Praise & Disparagement
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Noonation (Nunation) الْتَّنْوِيْنُ (tanween) is the adding of a letter noon ن to the end of a noun. The main purpose of tanween is to confer the sense of "indefiniteness" on the noun, or to make the noun in the "indefinite state" النَّكِرَةُ .
Tanween used to appear in writing as a letter ن at the end of singular nouns, but grammarians decided long time ago that it was better not to write it to avoid confusion. They agreed instead to indicate it by doubling the mark of the case-sign, or the "move" (the short vowel), on the last letter.
Example on different cases:
a child (masc.)
The -an version of tanween will be followed by an extended 'alif in writing. When stopping on this particular tanween, it will be pronounced -aa instead of totally disappearing from pronunciation like the other two types of tanween. The -un and -in tanweens will not be pronounced at all when one stops at them, just similarly to the rule of not stopping on a moving letter.
N.B. most speakers of formal Arabic today do not change -an to -aa when they stop at it, rather it is usually kept a pronounced -an. So it might be said that this rule is a classical rule that is not a rule anymore in modern standard Arabic.
The -an tanween after a feminine taa'< will not be followed by an extended 'alif in writing; but the pronunciation rules are still the same.
A marked difference from English about the indefinite marker is that all nouns in Arabic can take it; whether singular, dual or plural. Dual and plural masculine nouns have inherent tanween in their structures. The tanween for these two types of words stands out with three characteristics:
Tanween for feminine and irregular plural nouns is just like that of singular nouns:
Tanween does not always indicate indefiniteness; tanween is used with people's proper names and those are always definite nouns. This is just one of the peculiarities of Arabic.
However, proper names do not take the definite article 'al- ; except if it was part of the name itself. Proper names of places, rivers etc. can sometimes take tanween but not always, because tanween is NOT used for proper names of foreign origin that have more than three letters.
Nouns that are the first part of a genitive construction, or in other words, nouns that are in the construct state, are always definite nouns and do not take tanween too, as we are going to see. The only definite singular nouns that take tanween are usually people's first names.
External Note: Aramaic Nouns
Knowing that the accusative Nunation (-an) becomes (-aa) in the state of pause makes it easier to explain why nouns in the Aramaic language always end with -aa.
Aramaic is a major Semitic language that was at one time the lingua franca of much of the ancient world. It is the language that Jesus spoke. A weird thing about Aramaic is that nearly all nouns in that language end with an -aa.
This -aa can be hard to explain, but for me as a speaker of Arabic, it looks as if the Arameans froze all their nouns in the indefinite accusative case.
This is like how languages such as Hebrew, the modern spoken Arabic, and Aramaic itself use the -een or -eem accusative declension for the masculine plural all the time, but never the nominative version -oon or -oom.
The Aramaic -aa became later a long O (-ō); like in Hebrew.