WHAT IS ANNEXATION?
Annexation is an important part of camping and stitching words together in sentences. If you're a family of more-than-the-number-of-beds-in-a-caravan, the humble (but not so subtle) annex is a helpful addition to your annual holiday. Like adding accommodation to accommodation, sometimes a word wants to team up with another word to form a combined entity within a sentence.
Annexation is adding words together.
It is used to indicate possession, or to further define something.
In Arabic, annexation creates a structure called Idafa.
An idafa is made up of two or more nouns. This includes pronouns and (because they're technically a subcategory of nouns) adjectives. No verbs allowed.
The first noun in the Idafa – like the caravan from your holiday – is the most important structural requirement. It is the focus of the phrase.
Anything annexed is purely additional information: noun number two (and three, and four, and five … etc, if they exist) is there to direct attention to the first noun.
Idafa: كُرسي جيسيكا (Jessica's chair / the chair of Jessica)
First noun: كُرسي (chair).
This is the main piece of information that is going to be further defined by the following noun.
Ooh, a chair! What chair? Whose chair?
Second noun: جيسيكا (Jessica). The information that adds to the first noun.
Chair just got annexed.
Idafa: مدينة نيويورك (New York City / City of New York)
First noun: مدينة (city).
Again, this is the main piece of information that is going to be further defined by the following noun.
A city. Is it any particular city? A defined city?
Second noun: نيويورك (New York). Again, this is the information that adds to the first noun.
New York City.
Just when you thought NYC was done claiming all the things, now it has idafa status under its belt.
English has three equivalent structures to the idafa: two possessive forms and the compound noun.
As we saw in the first idafa example, the possessive can result in a glorious apostrophe fest: Jessica's plant, Jessica's sister, Jessica's chair.
The second word is the main piece of information, and the first word modifies it. We know there is a chair. And it is owned by someone called Jessica.
Another thrilling way to get possessive is by adding a friendly preposition: 'of'.
The plant of Jessica, the sister of Jessica, the chair of Jessica.
You are effectively saying the same possessive phrase, but flipping around the order.
This is pretty straightforward: it involves putting two nouns together to make a unified word or phrase.
Sometimes there is a space between the words and sometimes the words are pushed together like a cheese toastie. And if you're particularly fond of the hyphen, that's another option. Although the hyphen doesn't get as much airtime as it used to.
Note: English allows for nouns to be fused together to create a single word, such as letterbox. In Arabic the nouns always stay as separate words, even though the components act as a joined phrase.
And, back to idafa.
Let’s think of case as a personality extension of the caravan and annex.
When you’re a caravan – or the first noun of an idafa – you’re free to do what you want. You can wheel around on the road. You can park yourself on some fresh grass. You can live like a nomad. You can anchor yourself to a caravan park beam. You can be this case or that case.
Depending on where he falls in a sentence, the first noun can be in any case.
The caravan – and first noun – can be nominative, accusative, or genitive. Now that’s something to write home about.
The annex – and the second noun – is more subdued. The annex loves routine and predictability. He is always parked behind the caravan and steers well clear of the road.
His decision around case preference is no different. The annex – and second noun – repeatedly gravitate toward the same case.
The second noun is always in the genitive case. As well as any additional nouns, if they exist.
We've established that the annexed noun has a strong bias towards a particular case, but why genitive?
Let's start by picturing the genitive case as a wad of genes (GENE-tive? Yep). Even though genetic material can technical alter with mutation, genes are mostly a fixed collection of information. Let's make a grand statement and say genes don’t change. And for a routine-clinging change-refusing noun, that sounds like a dream come true.
To identify words in the genitive case, we'll reacquaint ourselves with the short vowel kasra (see figure 5). A kasra (or double kasra) sits below the baseline at the end of the annexed noun. Kind of like tent pegs shoved into the ground to tame guy ropes. Which is a helpful image if annexes have guy ropes. Maybe that’s just a tent thing?
Even though the annexed noun is always technically genitive, the complete idafa structure behaves according to the case of the first noun. If the first noun is nominative, the entire idafa functions as nominative. And so on and so forth.
In the same way that the caravan is the superior residing area (locked doors, potential temperature control, possible electricity), the first noun is also the home of luxurious living and managerial decisions.
The first noun understands the importance of delegation. Instead of wearing the marker of definiteness or indefiniteness, he hands that over to the last noun.
If the last noun in the idafa is definite, the whole phrase is definite.
If the last noun in the idafa is indefinite, the whole phrase is indefinite.
How will you know if the last noun is definite? It will either be a proper noun, have Al (ال) prefixed, or have a possessive pronoun suffixed. More on definiteness here.
If it’s helpful, visualise the support structures of the annex resembling an alif and lam (the two components of the definite article) when the phrase needs to be marked definite.
The first noun in the idafa will never be seen wearing the definite article or an attached pronoun.
Or a cape. Or a beige sunhat.
He's a stylish minimalist. Something we can all aspire to.