Gender Agreement: Non-Agreements

Excerpt Number Non-Agreement Examples
6 المي متل البحر دايماً لونها أزرق وصافية
6 السمنة البلدي
21 الشديد المدن
27 أول زياره
82 بمحمية اللأزرق المائية

Click a row in the table to see it in context.

This chart shows the examples in the excerpts of gender disagreement. Because gender is an integral part of Arabic grammar, it's not often that grammar mistakes concerning gender occur and the results of the study concur with this. Out of the 100 excerpts, there were 111 phrases tagged that showed either gender agreement or disagreement and of those 111, only 5 showed instances of disagreement. These disagreements themselves are anomalies and each have a reasonable explanation, see below, for why they might have occurred and how they can easily be changed.


Original: المي متل البحر دايماً لونها أزرق وصافية

Translation: The water is like the sea always, its color blue and clear

Explanation: The error here occurs with the object pronoun that is attached to the word 'color' (لونها). Because there is no gender neutral object pronoun in Arabic, object pronouns must agree in gender. Literally, this sentence says, "The water is like the sea always, her color blue and clear." However, the gender disagreement is that the noun in which we are referring to, the sea, is a masculine noun. Therefore, the correction should be that we put singular masculine object pronoun, as opposed to the current singular feminine object pronoun, attached to the word 'color' (fixed: لونه) so that the sentence would read literally, "The water like the sea always, his color blue and clear."

Correction: المي متل البحر دايماً لونه أزرق وصافية

Original: السمنة البلدي

Translation: Municipal obesity

Explanation: This phrase in Arabic is called 'ism wa Sfeh' and it refers to a nounal phrase, or a phrase that contains a noun and an adjective that is describing the noun. In Arabic, 'ism wa Sfeh' phrases but always agree in gender. Since the noun in the phrase (السمنة) is a feminine noun, as we know by the ending marker on it. The adjective (البلدي) must also be feminine and contain the same marker, as we can see it does not here, which is why it's a gender disagreement.

Correction: السمنة البلدية

Original: الشديد المدن

Translation: Strong cities

Explanation: This is another 'ism wa Sfeh'*1 phrase. Something to note about 'ism wa Sfeh' phrases: usually in Arabic adjectives come after in word order the nouns they are describing. However, this rule is flexible in dialect and we can make the assumption that the speaker is using a flexible word order on purpose to convey the same meaning.

In this case, the noun (المدن) is a non-human plural i.e. 'cities' and in Arabic, the adjectives of non-human plural nouns should always be conjugated as feminine. So the adjective in this phrase (الشديد) needs a feminine marker (fixed: الشديدة).

Correction: الشديدة المدن

Original: أول زياره

Translation: First visit

Explanation: We have to make a logical assumption in this instance of disagreement; the second word (زياره) ends in a letter that is not the feminine marker, even though it is a feminine noun and should end in this marker. However, the letter is does end in is a very similar looking letter to the feminine marker, the only difference being it is missing the two dots above it. While it is not common convention to leave dots off of letters in Arabic, especially in Modern Standard, it is often that when Arabic speakers are writing in dialect they often use the letter without the dots to refer to the feminine marker (the same symbol but with the dots) because it can be assumed that we, as Arabic speakers, know what they mean through context and spelling. The phrase with the feminine marker would looks very similar, as you can see in the correction below.

A note about this phrase is that it isn't abiding by the conventional rules about adjectives coming after the nouns they are describing but again, we can make the assumption despite the loose word order because of context.

Once we've made both inferences about the phrase, it still has another case of gender disagreement. The word in the phrase that means 'first' (أول) is part of a special group of adjectives and superlatives, called (j3ma takseef?*) that change slightly depending on if they are masculine or feminine. Because the noun, 'visit' is a feminine noun, the use of the feminine version of 'first' would be more appropriate.

Correction: أول زيارة

Original: بمحمية اللأزرق المائية

Translation: at Blue Wetland Reserve or at Azraq Wetland Reserve

Explanation: This is a very interesting case of something that I thought was gender disagreement but technically isn't. First, we have to fix a presumed type in the phrase. The second word has a repeated letter that makes no sense to be there and so we must chalk it up to a type. The corrected original:

بمحمية الأزرق المائية

I had originally thought this was a gender disagreement because in Arabic, colors have feminine and masculine spellings. In this phrase, both nouns 'reserve' (محمية) and 'wetland' (المائية) are feminine and I had been thinking that they needed the feminine form of the word 'blue' (masculine: الأزرق) (feminine:الزرقاء ) in order to make sense for 'blue' to be an adjective of 'reserve'. However, knowing 1. the context of the sentence to be "I am working currently at the (Blue Wetland Reserve/Azraq Wetland Reserve) as an officer..." and 2. that these are excerpts from real Jordanians, it occured to me that what I thought was supposed to be meaning 'blue' could actually have been the name of the reserve. The transliterated (the way we would say it in Arabic) version of the masculine word for blue is 'Azraq'. A quick Google search revealed that Azraq Wetland Reserve is an actual oasis for migratory birds near the town of Azraq in the eastern desert of Jordan and thus not technically a gender disagreement because it is a proper noun in a sense. I did, however include it in the count of gender disagreements because of the grammatical implications and because it's an interesting case of how we understand gender disagreements.

Therefore, there is no correction and the original should stand as is (with the fix to the typo.)

You can visit the Lonely Planet site for Azraq Wetland Reserve here.

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Jordanian Arabic by Amber Montgomery is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.