Haywood and Nahmad’s Arabic grammar textbook is an absolute must for anyone who accepts the proposition that the best way to learn or teach Arabic to an English-speaking student is through an Arabic textbook presented in English.
This New Grammar of the Arabic Language is based on Rev. Thatcher’s Arabic Grammar of the Written Language. The authors explicitly acknowledge their debt to Thatcher, and comparing the works side by side one can immediately see clear similarities, such as the order in which the information is presented and the vocabulary.
The authors set themselves the task of making Thatcher’s grammar more accessible to an audience less well versed in tradition English grammar than the student’s of Thatcher’s time. By doing so, they presented the grammar more clearly and lucidly than Thatcher was able to.
In addition, they expanded the vocabulary given at the back of the book to a very useful 4000 words, expanded the translation exercises and the supplementary reading at the end, and included useful appendices which discuss Arabic dialects and give suggestions for further study.
Haywood and Nahmad also re-ordered some of the grammar to make the translation exercises more natural and “realistic” as early as possible. For example, they introduce some of the basic forms of the perfect verb and the basics of the iḍāfah construction relatively early, before they are fully covered in later chapters.
This re-ordering works well, and means that the book can be used both as a basic level reference work and as a teach yourself Arabic book for the independent student. Unlike Thatcher’s Arabic Grammar however, Haywood and Nahmad doesn’t have a key published at the back – you’ll have to buy it separately!
There are unfortunately some mistakes in the book (many carried over from Thatcher!). Students who are keen to avoid them should be able to identify them through cross-referencing and checking with other reference grammar books (like Wright’s Grammar) and dictionaries, though checking the vocabulary alone is a hugely time-consuming process!
For example, the book gives ḥajar as a collective noun meaning ‘stones’, with ḥajarah as the singular. This is simply incorrect, as ḥajar is a singular noun. Again, it implies very strongly that it would be incorrect to use the Sound Masculine Plural of the verb kabīr (meaning ‘big’), as it isn’t found in the dictionary – which is simply to misunderstand how Arabic dictionaries work.
The whole treatment of plurals is in fact a little confusing, but perhaps the single gravest error is in the chapter dealing with numbers, which confuses altogether which numbers are masculine and which are feminine.
These errors notwithstanding, this is a fine work, and a great book to learn Arabic from. We strongly recommend that you first work through our Arabic Grammar materials, which corrects many of the mistakes found in Haywood and Nahmad, and clarifies many of the points of grammar, and then progress to this book for further practice.