#1
Old 03-07-2005, 10:06 PM
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"Ibn" vs. "bin"

What is the difference between "ibn" and "bin" in Arabic (which mean, I believe, "son of")? When is either used?

When reading about Arab personalities, I sometimes see "ibn," sometimes "bin." I don't know if the latter is a non-Arabic convention: In Pakistan I learned about "Muhammad bin Qasim," not "Muhammad ibn Qasim," which may be the same thing. On the other hand, I found that Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, is consistently referred to as "Ali ibn Abi Talib" (which, I guess, means "Ali the son of the father of Talib"). However, in doing a search, "Ali bin Abi Talib" can also be found.

What's the difference? When is each used and where?

WRS
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#2
Old 03-07-2005, 10:58 PM
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I'm hoping Johanna or someone else with a knowledge of Arabic will come around soon and enlighten me. Please?

WRS
#3
Old 03-07-2005, 11:00 PM
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It's a somewhat arbitrary choice made when transliterating Arabic to Western writing.

http://randomhouse.com/wotd/inde...?date=20011012
Quote:
This means that in the Arabic script, ibn is the same word as bin. The difference we see comes from choices made in transliterating Arabic into English. In fact ben, another spelling, also occurs in English versions of Arabic names. Ibn acknowledges the form in Modern Standard Arabic that adds an initial letter "alif" to the two-letter root BN. This "alif" represents a glottal stop--a sound like the initial sound of both syllables of uh-oh. When saying an Arabic name in normal, continuous speech, that glottal stop is typically elided (passed over), so that ibn sounds like bin.
#4
Old 03-07-2005, 11:41 PM
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Just a couple things about the OP.

1. Urdu, the language of Pakistan is written in Arabic script, but is an Indo-European language not related to Arabic.

2. You seem to be confusing "Abi" with "Abu", the latter meaning "father of". I've not seen "Abi" used although it's possible that is another transliteration issue.
#5
Old 03-08-2005, 12:22 AM
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In my very limited experience, "ibn" drops its initial 'alif and becomes "bin" between the names of son and father. By this logic, it's "Muhammad Bin Qasim" because Qasim is the father's actual name, whereas it's "Ali Ibn Abi Talib" because "Abi Talib" is a descriptor of the father rather than his given name.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
Just a couple things about the OP.

1. Urdu, the language of Pakistan is written in Arabic script, but is an Indo-European language not related to Arabic.

2. You seem to be confusing "Abi" with "Abu", the latter meaning "father of". I've not seen "Abi" used although it's possible that is another transliteration issue.
Muhammad bin Qasim was actually from modern-day Iraq, so I don't think we have to worry about Urdu in this case.

By my reading, "abu" is the first term of a possessive idafa construction ("the father of x") and is in the nominative case. An "abi" after "ibn," however, is itself the first part of a compound second term of an idafa ("the son of the father of x"), and so takes the genitive case.
#6
Old 03-08-2005, 01:22 PM
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The explanation provided by DarrenS pretty well covers the OP question. Let me just throw in a little more for a fuller account of the whole matter:

The actual word for "son" in Classical Arabic, the base form, is *bnu. However, you can't start a word with two consonants, so we stick the prothetic vowel i- in front to make it pronounceable: ibnu. What's more, the final short vowel is conventionally dropped in transliteration. It is pronounced only in very, very formal speech, like the Quran and maybe in classical poetry. This gives us the familiar form of ibn. (Sorry, but it's even more complex than that. As a standalone word, it would take the indefinite form ibnun. The ending in -un is called tanwn, which means putting an "n" on it. When the word is definite, it loses the -n, thus: al-ibnu 'the son' or ibnu ummihi 'the son of his mother'. The indefinite usage would look like this: ibnun lah 'a son of hers'.)

Now, are you ready for more complexity? OK.

In Classical Arabic sandhi, when the word immediately before it ends in a vowel, the prothetic i- is dropped and we're back to the base form. For example: Alamu annahu bnun lah 'I know that he is a son of hers'... or Alamu annahu bnu hadhihi al-marah 'I know that he is the son of this woman'. In pronunciation, you run the two words together and it sounds like "annuhubnu." The vowel at the end of the previous word is plugged into the socket at the beginning of (i)bnu. Or the name of Jesus son of Mary in the Quran: s bnu Maryam, pronounced sabnu, although orthographically the two words are always written separately with a space in between. But the initial letter alif, which indicated the initial vowel, is dropped, so the word is written with just the b and the n. Are you with me so far?

Since the initial vowel can drop out, and the final vowel is conventionally ignored, that leaves us with only the two consonants *bn. You can't pronounce such a vowelless word, so to make it pronounceable, they drop an epenthetic vowel -i- into the middle. This gives us "bin," which isn't really a word in Classical Arabic, but it plays one on TV.

Have I totally lost you by now, or am I making any sense?
#7
Old 03-08-2005, 01:28 PM
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As for the question of abu or abi: it's quite simple.

There are three noun cases in Arabic: nominative, accusative, and genitive.

abu is nominative (subject of a sentence).
aba is accusative (direct object).
abi is genitive (possessive).

The same case endings work for ibnu, ibna, ibni, along with all the other variant forms mentioned above. The same case endings work for almost all nouns in Classical Arabic, except for the diptotes (which only use two case endings) and the indeclinables (which only use one).
#8
Old 03-08-2005, 11:35 PM
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Oh my. If God didn't exist, I might have had to bow and worship you, Johanna. Thank you for that very thorough explanation.

One more question: is the initial alif actually omitted in writing?

Would 'Ali ibn Abu Talib be written as [ayin][laam][yeh] [alif][beh][nun] [alif][beh] [to-eh][alif][laam][mim] or as [ayin][laam][yeh] [beh][nun] [alif][beh] [to-eh][alif][laam][mim]?

Or is this simply a matter of pronunciation?

WRS
#9
Old 03-10-2005, 02:34 AM
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Thanks, WeRSauron. You're a sweetie.

When part of a patronymic nasab, yes, the alif is indeed not written. This is not true of most words that begin with alif waslah. Only this one word, AFAIK.

First of all, the guy's name is Ali ibn Abi Talib. You can't say "ibn Abu", it isn't grammatical. He's the son of Abu Talib, so Abu has to go in the genitive case, Abi, to show possession. The Arabic genitive ending in -i is coincidentally the same as the Latin masculine-neuter genitive of the second and fifth declensions, making it easier to remember for Latin students learning Arabic. Abu/Aba/Abi is an unusual word because the final vowel of the case ending, the irb, is written out with the letters waw, alif, or ya. Almost all words show the irb with short vowels, which can be ignored. Therefore Abu is the only word where most non-grammarians ever have to deal with irb, which is why "ibn Abi" is such a common error among non-Arabs. So the full name is spelled

ayn-lam-ya ba-nun alif-ba-ya Ta-alif-lam-ba.

The bare ba-nun tends to get read as "bin" for the reason I explained above, even though in Classical Arabic it's read "bnu."
#10
Old 03-10-2005, 03:02 AM
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Thanks! That was extreme helpful! :-)

WRS
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