Fusha to Shami 32: Tamyiiz

You are probably familiar with the fun (or not-so-fun) phenomenon of so-called tamyiiz (تمييز, sometimes translated into English as ‘specification’). In fuSHa, tamyiiz is one of the many uses of the accusative – you take a noun, stick it in the accusative, and it turns into something that can be (often clunkily) translated as ‘in terms of’ or ‘by way of’. This handy PDF gives some nice examples: يزداد ايمانًا ‘increase in belief’, يختلف علوًا ‘differ in height’, اجمل اسلوبًا ‘more pleasant with regard to style’. You’re probably most familiar with it from the last usage, with superlatives and comparatives.

Some arguable examples of the fuSHa forms are occasionally used in speech too (كتابةً kitaabatan ‘in writing’ for example) especially in higher registers, but productively tamyiiz constructions are formed in 3aammiyye without any case ending. This makes them more difficult to spot, but lots of examples of similar constructions do occur – and it’s important to understanding that you can recognise them.

Modifying verbs:

Tamyiiz constructions often appear modifying verbs in an adverbial sense. They can frequently but not always be translated with English ‘as’:

بشتغل مهندس béshtéghel muhandes – I work as an engineer (كـ here sounds funny and is a common non-native mistake)

جيت لجوء jiit lujuu2 – I came as a refugee [= I came refuge]

المصاري بجو شيكات élmaSaari biju sheekaat – the money comes in cheques

Sometimes they modify not the verb itself, but the object:

عطاني ياه هدية ‭3aTaani yaa hdiyye – he gave me it as a present

انت زودت الطين بلة اه inte zawwadt éTTiin bille aah – you’ve made the situation worse [increased the clay in terms of wetness]

They can modify participles, too – as in the following:

الكاس مليان مي élkaas mélyaan moyy – the glass is full of water

مبلول مي mabluul moyy – wet (with water)


عبيتو مي ‘I filled it with water’

انبليت مي ‘I got wet’

They can also modify the subject:

انقسمو قسمين n2asamu 2ésmeen – they were divided (into) two groups

I’m not sure my divisions into modifying the subject, object and verb are particularly scientific, but hopefully these examples give a decent impression of the breadth of possible semantics.

With question words

With questions with 2addeesh (‘how much’) and shu (‘what’), there is often a tamyiiz which narrows the specification of the question word. Unlike in English (‘what houses’, ‘how much change’), the tamyiiz typically appears later on:

قديش معك فراطة؟ 2addeesh ma3ak @fraaTa? – how much change do you have? [how much do you have (by way of) change?]

شو عندك افكار لتطوير البلد shu 3éndak 2afkaar la-taTwiir élbalad? – what ideas do you have for developing the country

They don’t necessarily have to be actual questions, either:

الله وحدو بيعلم شو ممكن تجيني أحاسيس و مشاعير aLLa wa7do bya3lem shu mémken tijiini a7aasiis w mashaa3iir – only God knows what feelings I might have [= what can come to me (by way of) feelings and feelings]

These are of course a subset of the versions above with subjects and objects.

Other uses in fuSHa

In fuSHa tamyiiz is also used for expressions of quantity (‘a glass of water’, ‘a kilo of sugar’) and for superlatives/comparatives where an afDal noun cannot be readily used (اكثر تعقيدًا ‘more complicated’ for example). In 3aammiyye the former is usually expressed with an iDaafe (kaasét moyy, kaast élmoyy) and the latter with a combination of a normal adjective and an afDal (معقد اكتر mu3aqqad 2aktar).

1 comment

Leave a Reply