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Quranic Grammar - Vocative Particles

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A vocative particle (حرف نداء) comes before a noun and can place the noun into one of two grammatical cases. In the example below, the noun has been placed into the nominative case marfūʿ  (مرفوع). The dependency graph shows a syntactic analysis for verse (89:27). In the graph, the words (89:27:1) and (89:27:2) are related through a vocative dependency:

 (89:27:3)
l-muṭ'ma-inatu
who is satisfied,
 (89:27:2)
l-nafsu
soul!
 (89:27:1)
yāayyatuhā
"O

Fig 1. Vocative dependency in verse (89:27).

The following rules from traditional Arabic grammar determine the case ending for a noun that depends on a vocative particle (the addressee):

  1. When the noun following the vocative particle is a word representing a specific individual, or group of individuals, then the addressee will be in the nominative case marfūʿ  (مرفوع). If the noun is indefinite it will have only a single dammah. See verse (89:27) above.
  2. If the noun after the vocative particle refers to a general group of individuals then the addressee will be a singular noun in the accusative case manṣūb (منصوب).
  3. If the possessive construction of iḍāfa (إضافَة) follows the vocative particle then the addressee (the head of the possessive construction) will be found in the accusative case manṣūb (منصوب).

See Also

Language Research Group
University of Leeds
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