Particulars as a type of word in Arabic
Particulars have often been subject of linguistic analyses, interpretations and definitions. They have become the focus of modern linguistic studies especially following the departure from the traditional tripartite classification of words and the inclusion of some words in particulars, which according to traditional word classification, belong to nouns and verbs. In the prevailing opinion of classical grammarians, particulars are words which express meanings through other words so that the full meaning of particulars is understood only when they are used in constructions with other words of complete meaning. According to a minority opinion among grammarians, particulars express complete meanings.
Speaking of the formal characteristics of particulars, grammarians usu- ally emphasize their lack of changeability and derivation, which implies the absence of affixes typical of changeable types of words. In terms of meaning, particulars are treated as words with incomplete meanings which, because of their unclear meanings, require words with complete meanings, with which they jointly express a complete meaning. In modern linguistic analyses par- ticulars are defined as functional words because they serve mainly to connect other words in order to link various parts of a sentence and in doing so, they express different relations among words. By establishing various relations of dependence with the words of complete meaning, particulars also express certain functional meanings such as negation (nafy), corroboration (ta’kīd), question (istifhām) etc. The connection which is thereby established between parts of the sentence is described as a special type of expression. From the point of view of syntax, the most significant feature of particulars is that they cannot be a constituent part of the sentence.
According to some modern Arab linguists led by Ibrahīm Anīs and Tammām Ḥassān, the traditional tripartite classification of words is too narrow since it does not include all types of words in Arabic. In their classifications they refer to particulars as adawāt and, in addition to particulars (ḥurūf) in the traditional classification, they include other types of words, which according to the traditional classification, fall into the categories of nouns and verbs. However, supporters of the tripartite classification use the term adawāt to describe “grammatical means” (adawāt naḥwiyya) which may be any of the three types of words used to establish a syntax relationship with other words, thereby creating different meanings, numerous functions and constructions within the sentence.