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Interests: linguistics, comparative linguistics, Sino-Tibetan, Indo-European, Tangut, Berber Languages,
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Oh boy, those are a lot of questions! Albert: The "selective memory" problem seems fairly easy to solve. If you have a corpus of oral poetry, which has been handed generation after generation in an oral tradition, that would obviously stick around; While non-poetic dialects of Arabic that die out, would simply die out. There is also perhaps simply an issue of chronology: Most of the pre-Islamic poetry is attributed to the mid/end of the 6th century. Safaitic and Hismaic may very well have stopped existing by then (very difficult to date). "Is it really striking?" -- Well the Arab Grammarians don't seem to cite Kaʿb's poetry to talk about this distinction either, even though they were aware of the distinction. They apparently didn't analyse his poetry as evidence for it. David: Dr. Lucien van Beek of Leiden University showed in his PhD thesis that the treatment of the vocalic *r and *l in epic Greek follows a different trajectory than the spoken dialect. Which caused him to hypothesize that in Epic Greek the vocalic consonants remained that for a longer time. Previous, such differences were interpreted as "dialectal forms" in the Epic register. He is currently conducting a research, trying to figure out if more of these "dialectal forms" are not just archaisms in Epic Greek instead. I should have probably explained that, yes. Will be brainstorming with him soon, see how he feels about these things now that he's been doing research on it for a while. I agree that it doesn't seem a priori unlikely that you would use crossdialectal things in poetry. Etienne: As for the relationship between the modern dialects and Poetic/Classical Arabic (and others): This is something extremely underresearched. Because the dominating paradigm of understanding all variation in terms of "Old Arabic" (i.e. Poetic/Classical) and "Neo-Arabic" (i.e. all modern dialects, or to some authors all urban dialects), very little has been spent on this. For most of the past century most people simply assumed that the Neo-Arabic dialects developed from Classical Arabic. As we gained more knowledge of the dialects, and dialectologists started to object, it's become clear that this cannot be the case. Sadly, the discussion is rather ideological. Dialectologists seem generally really taken in by the idea that Owens presented: That Classical Arabic was simply a completely made up language by the grammarians with no basis in a once existing natural language. While I agree that Classical Arabic is a "construct" of sorts, its obvious archaic semitic features cannot be ignored. So while the status quo of the tradional arabists has been opposed, nobody has tried very hard to make a chronology that works starting from the right kind of starting assumptions (i.e. Poetic Arabic has some place in the history of Arabic; as do Pre-Islamic epigraphic dialects). As for your related question: The Neo-Arabic varieties do have a single common ancestor, but I would say that that is Proto-Arabic. I've been doing a little bit of work on the classification of the Neo-Arabic varieties, and I would say that the Egypto-Levantine and Pre-Hilali Maghrebi dialects probably share a single ancestor. They have a couple of obvious morphological innovations. The Najdi, Gulf, Hilali Maghrebi dialects and more generally "bedouin dialects" have a strong bundle of noticable shared phonetic innovations (*q > g; CvCvCv > CCvCv; loss of *i/u distinction; raising of *a > i in open syllables), and presumably share a single ancestor. But as for the Mesopotamian qəltu dialects, and the enormous variety of Yemeni dialects, I have absolutely no idea where to place those at the moment. The Arabic conquests and massive mixing and movement also does not necessarily make it obvious that the modern dialects are going to have a monogenetic origin from any of the Pre-Islamic varieties. You also seem to hint at the strikingly uniform "movement" of some of the developments in the modern dialects. Something that has been called "drift" amongst semiticists. Some developments are simply likely to happen multiple times because the context for them is similar in all Semitic languages. For example, case is marked with short final vowels and have an extremely low functional yield, thus syncope is likely to happen. Just a correction by the way: Ethio-Semitic did not lose its internal plurals! Amharic perhaps did, but it's alive and kicking in Tigré and Tigrinya. As a result my growing impression (for what this is worth) is that Modern Arabic varieties look like a lowest-common- denominator kind of (Arabian) Semitic, preserving features once universally present in Arabian peninsula Semitic varieties (internal plurals) and shedding those that were not (noun declension, nunation). Yes, that is kind of in line with ideas of the "Arabic koine" that gave rise to the modern dialects. A theory put forward by Ferguson in the '50s. There's truth to it, but it's been argued really badly. Ferguson assumed that before Islam everybody spoke Classical Arabic, and that the conquests caused a new simplified version of the language to develop, with reduced inflection etc. But since he can only envision developments from Classical Arabic to the Modern Dialects, he treats a whole bunch of archaisms in the modern dialects that are absent in Classical Arabic as "innovations". Many people have taken his article to suggests that ALL modern dialects come from this Arabic Koine, which is something he has never actually said. He seems to have only envisioned the Egypto-Levantine and pre-Hilali maghrebi dialects. I agree with Ferguson that Egypto-Levantine/pre-Hilali Maghrebi seems plausible to me to go back to a single dialect bundle. Sam: Yes that's a huge ask! So there are a couple of problems: 1. Because early-Islamic Arabic has so far been understood as "middle Arabic", that is: attempts at Classical Arabic and failing sometimes, we have not allowed it to inform us about early Islamic Arabic as much as it perhaps should. This makes a timeline very difficult to establish. 2. All but one of the features you mentioned have disappeared in all the modern dialects (and ō, I suppose, which is lost universall and its loss can probably be seen already in early Quranic documents where we find spellings like مناه, زكاه etc.). So putting a date on any of these would only concern a subset of the dialects. - ē is present in Raziḥit (northern yemen) (although probably a parallel development from word-final *aya rather than a shared innovation with Hijazi Arabic). - ǵ is present in a bunch of dialects. The fact that in dissimilation in modern Maghrebi dialects the outcome of *ǵ is sometimes d suggests that this palatal non-affricate realization was carried all the way to Morocco before disappearing in most dialects. - Nunation is still present in many Najdi dialects bētin kbīr 'a big house'; And if the dialect itself has lost it, it is often still present in their poetic register. Several dialects in the Tihāmah still have it too bētun kabīrun or have lost the nunation, but still have a vowel that functions as nunation: bētu kabīru but im-bēt im-kabīr 'the big house'. - Loss of Hamzah: Much better research needs to be done on Pausal glottalization in Yemeni Arabic; But it seems that Ṣanʿānī Arabic has just retained many of the glottal stops (e.g. they say yaʔkul 'he eats'). - Loss of case marking: This is one that was actually lost! We might be able to traces that by carefully examining the early-Islamic papyri. But it seems to me that by the time Classical Arabic comes to dominate the written record case had not disappeared for everyone. - As for the lateral ḍād: It never shifts to a [dˤ], except in dialects that lose all interdentals. So instead you should see this development as [ɮˤ] > [ðˤ]. So the merger of *ḍ and *ẓ happens before the shift of *ḍ to [dˤ]. This is illustrated nicely in Ahmad Al-Jallad's paper: That being said, there are dialects even today where those two sounds have not merged, both in Southern Saudi and Northern Yemen. In Raziḥit, for example, the reflex of the *ḍ is a voiceless lateral affricate. === The Quran has the orthography distinction between ē and ā because people could hear it. Several reading traditions make the distinction; the rhyme clearly distinguishes it. I think this may very well be true into the first century, at least for some speakers. At some point you start seeing a ton of confusion in the papyri, which suggests that by then the distinction is lost. The fact that the distinction is maintained orthographically in "Classical Arabic" proper, is because by then a grammatical theory has developed to disnguish them. "If you say daʕā daʕawtu write it with alif, if you say banā banaytu write it with yāʾ." In some discussions I've read about ẓāʾ and ḍād, the conclusion was that by the time of the QCT, at least in that dialect, there was no distinction, but a distinction did exist in some dialects, and this was an obsolete feature that was reintroduced into the (prescriptivist, archaizing) CA. I disagree with this. There is absolutely no reason to think those two sounds had merged at the time of the QCT. Modern dialects have the distinction and the sounds behave different morphophonologically in the QCT. They are kept pretty well distinct even in the early Islamic papyri. It really takes some time for the distinction to really be noticeably lost (Classical Judeo-Arabic from the 10th century onwards quite often shows that the distinction is gone). As for the third option that CA is a prescriptivist written language: Well it is. But it is from the 9th/10th century onwards. We have yet to find a single piece of Classical Arabic written before that time. So it evidently wasn't a written language. I agree that a "pan-peninsular Koine" doesn't seem sensible. But it might have had a much smaller scope. Perhaps only the Najd and the Hijaz; While Northern Arabic was outside of that poetic koine. The question whether further south Arabic was spoken at all is problematic. Big picture, with "official" and unreliable histories, prescriptivist grammarians, poetic koinés, poetry "templates" and last but not least (accusations of) retrodated or corrected poems, the big picture (at least in my head) is starting to look less like a chronology and more like a story with time-travel. Hah! I like that. I think I need a table (of features, tribes, dates and examples) or a chart of some kind, (even one filled with *, **, ? and ?!?), not for my education, but for my own sanity. Well if you do feel free to share it with me!
Toggle Commented 13 hours ago on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
Sure; Muslims writing about these early accounts did not have the ability to read or analyse pre-Islamic Arabic material. So by definition their account is not based on facts. But one of the things that they used as facts, the Pre-Islamic poetry is certainly not in its entirety a Islamic-period forgery. It is clear that there are genuine pre-Islamic elements to it. This is why I've been asking myself what exactly the Pre-Islamic poetry represents: An archaic, purely poetic register; or just poetry in one of the actual spoken languages in the Pre-Islamic period.
Toggle Commented yesterday on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
Hey Hugo; These answers might have to become a blog post on their own. But let me try to draw the picture. Classical commentatores: 8th/9th century collectors of the poetry who analysed and explained the meaning and morphology of these poems. As for the dialectal situation. Muslims account: Before Islam everybody spoke a language more or less identical to "Poetic Arabic" with some dialectal variation. With the conquests new people started to speak it and this language was corrupted, so that now there were languages spoken close to the vernaculars as we find them today. The 'Leiden School' account: Before Islam there were already a large variety of forms of Arabic. All of those that we find in the Epigraphic records are very different from Poetic Arabic. In the levant we find Safaitic; A form of Arabic with a much reduced case system a h- definite article and has no nunation. Retention of the final triphthongs Also Hismaic, which lacks a definite article altogether; retains the *aya final triphthong but seems to have merged the 8awa final triphthong (similar to Quranic Arabic). Likewise appears to have a reduced case system and lost nunation. In the Soutern Levant, where the old Nabataean Kingdom used to be we find Nabataean Arabic, which has an unassimilating definite article al-; A functioning case system nom. -o, acc. -a, gen. -i; But lost nunation. During the written history of Nabataean Arabic, we can see a breakdown of its case system taking place. The outcome of this breakdown is however quite different from the outcome that we find in the modern Arabic dialects. We find forms of Nabataean Arabic through a large part of the peninsula. But one has to wonder to what extent it was a conventionalized writing style (the contents of such inscriptions are usually just names) or actual evidence that Nabataean was spoken from Syria all the way to Najrān. In the Hijaz (although still mostly absent in the Pre-Islamic epigraphic record) there appears to have developed a distinct Arabic dialect which had a reduced case system (but different from the Safaitic, Hismaic or Nabataean system), no nunation, retention of a distinction between the *awa and *aya triphthongs and most notably the loss of the glottal stop/hamzah. This is the language that the Quran is written down in. After Islam, this Hijazi Arabic written register becomes very popular, and essentially the written language of the early empire. At some point the literary language that we come to call "Classical Arabic" essentially supplants Hijazi Arabic, at least in literary works around the 9th/10th century. The question however is: Where does this Classical Arabic come from? So far we have no evidence for this language in the pre-Islamic record. This might suggest a number of things: 1. Classical Arabic is the standardized variety of a spoken language that was close to "Poetic Arabic", which existed before Islam, but we are simply looking in the wrong place for its writing, or the language was quite simply unwritten. 2. Classical Arabic is the standardized variety of a highly archaic intertribal poetic language that we call "Poetic Arabic", which existed -- at the very least -- among the Hijazi Arabic speakers, and the Tamīmī speakers of the east. 3. A combination of 1. and 2. is also imaginable. "Poetic Arabic" may have been the spoken variety of some tribe, whose written record doesn't exist/we haven't found; Their culture of poetic odes already became so popular before Islam, that other people started composing poetry in that language (with some added dialectisms). === Whether there was a "Poetic Koine" or not; One thing is clear: Not all Arabic speakers were part of that poetic culture; and there is very little reason to think that 1. the Arabic before the Grammatical tradition in the 8th/9th century was trying to approximate that language (usually assumed by Arabists). 2. the modern dialects can only have developed from dialects that were part of the "Poetic koine" culture (also usually assumed by Arabists). It is clear that many dialects cannot be derived directly from Classical Arabic, nor from Hijazi Arabic, or even a single source. === What these past two large posts have been about, is trying to figure out some method or approach that could give us more of an insight to what extent the Pre-Islamic poetry is "genuine" and to what extent it represents a single natural language/dialect, or rather a mixed intertribal artificial/poetic register. I'm not sure if I have an answer to this yet. But I think the evidence presented in this post speaks in favour of the idea that it indeed was an intertribal poetic register. I hope that clears some things up.
Toggle Commented 2 days ago on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
I agree that it's really not that hard to imagine such a thing were to happen if the networks between these tribes were close enough to aid intimate enough knowledge of the poetry of other tribes.
Toggle Commented 2 days ago on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
One of the reasons why Poetic Arabic is often viewed as a supertribal poetic register, is the fact that the language seems to be 'the same' across different poets. In my IQSA blogpost I already challenged this idea. It seems very well possible that much of the dialectal variation that... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Phoenix's blog
Dear Albert, I appreciate the provocative suggestion that I'm simply asking the wrong question. :-) My hesitation is based on several reasons 1. The language of the poetry cannot be completely confabulated in the 9th century by the Arab grammarians. It contains several true archaisms which were probably lost already, at least in most spoken dialects, by the time they write it down. So if the "Poetic Arabic" is not just the language of the Bedouins at the time and in the region, it must come from somewhere. The somewhat worrying thing in all this is: We have yet to find anything that looks like "Poetic Arabic" in the pre-Islamic epigraphic record. This perhaps suggests that "Poetic Arabic" is indeed a purely oral poetic register, and this is why it is escaping our notice. That's an argument from silence of course; but it's a fairly forceful if we're not looking in the wrong place for it (which we might very well be). 2. A healthy skepticism of the traditions is of course warranted, but I'm a little reticent to just plain throw out all the data that we have on the pre-Islamic poets. The fact that the pre-Islamic poetry is attributed to people, about whom things are known (Tribe, date of death etc.) and likewise with early Islamic poetry. The fact that the epic poetry of the Greeks is also attributed to a mythical Homer of course shows that we should not necessarily believe such accounts. But, it's becoming more and more clear to me that the history writing in the Islamic tradition isn't complete fiction, and unless there is a very obvious ideological reason for a wholesale fabrication, I don't quite see how they would have pulled it off. I think we can technically 'answer' these kinds of questions. There's a lot of work to be done in terms of stylometrics, probably, and likewise a careful examination of how consistent certain poems are attributed to one person, and it isn't constantly jumping around. But even if 90% of the material is problematic, and 10% is unassailable, we still have to contend with the fact that multiple people of multiple tribes were composing poetry before Islam in a language which was perhaps dialectally diverse, but still closer to each other than, e.g. to Quranic Arabic or modern vernaculars.
I've arrived at a stage in my research where I need to kind of figure how how I think about the "Poetic Koine"-theory of Arabic. As I am not quite sure what my stance is yet, I decided to just throw some words at this blog post and see where... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2018 at Phoenix's blog
Thanks for these great questions! First of all I should say that I've changed my mind quite a bit on what the orthography seems to suggest. I don't think it's true that it's only religious vocabulary that has the construct phrases. It's actually surprisingly productive. Instead we should conclude that the Quranic feminine ending was basically like it is in the modern dialects today. i.e. -ah in the definite and indefinite, while it is -at in the construct form. I discuss this argument in this twitter thread: (and in my forthcoming article on case, for which you'll have to wait a bit longer). --- Now to your point about Persian. Yes, I have been wondering the same thing. I agree with you that assuming it is the construct form that is being generalized is unsatisfying. It, in fact, not just Persian that shows a feminine ending -at in all contexts. Also Arabic loanwords in Berber quite consistently have this. And in Berber, they actually always have the definite article; therefore an analogy with the construct form is literally impossible, e.g. llilət 'night', ssənslət 'spine', lḥəṣbət 'pebbles', etc. So, if Iranians borrowed from Shammari-like speakers, then the Berbers did so to. If that is the case, that suggests that Shammari-like dialects were actually extremely widespread. And there's the rub... Besides this 'Xeno-Arabic' evidence, there is very little evidence for such a situation -- at least in the Islamic period. So the question then becomes: Is it realistic to assume that there was an Arabic variety, which was apparently very dominant and widespread among the conquerors, which left no noticeable trace in any actual 'Arabic' writing of the Islamic period. I'm not sure what the answer is to that, but I agree with you that the Persian/Berber evidence needs a more satisfying explanation than we have now, if we do not argue for the presence of Shammari-like dialects. Me and my colleague Adam Benkato discuss it briefly in footnote 10 in this article: To be continued :-) My aim is to look more closely at Arabic loanwords in Persian soon; So I might develop a proper opinion soonish. Q7:56 is surprising to me too. My best guess is that qarīb min has fossilized into a 'fixed prepositional phrase', and hence qarīb was no longer felt like an adjective. But not sure, and since it's the only time in the Quran the phrase is used, it's impossible to check. You're not the first one to find this surprising! === With the caveat that the paradigm I would now reconstruct for the feminine, I would say the paradigm of the feminine adjectives would be identical to that of feminine nouns. so: indefinite nom/acc/gen qarībah definite nom/acc/gen al-qarībah construct nom/acc/gen qarībat
Toggle Commented Apr 14, 2018 on The Qurʔānic feminine ending at Phoenix's blog
One of the seven canonical readers as established by Ibn Mujāhid was Abū ʕamr, the reciter of Basra. His reading tradition is probably the most unusual one among the seven, lacking the hamzah in more places than any other reading tradition and having an extensive assimilation across word boundaries, which... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2018 at Phoenix's blog
Thought about this some more. I think I'll write this up as an article when I have some time. I kind of went past the most important point. 1. This word having a a ġ or not brings us no closer to proving it is either from Geez or from Aramaic directly. 2. I see absolutely no reason why it would have gone Aramaic > Geez > Arabic; Occam's razor says it makes more sense to just assume Aramaic > Arabic. 3. The traditional explanation: "the ġ come from ṭaġē (< ṭaġaya)" does not hold up, since that is also likely a loanword, since ṭaġā < ṭaġawa is the native cognate. 4. It is possible that the ġ is an retention in an archaic form of Aramaic. But even if we decide that is impossible, the data is still in favour of Aramaic, as the corresponding verb ṭaġē is more likely to come from Aramaic thant Geez, because the corresponding verb in Geez is ṭaʕawa which would have been more likely to be loaned as ṭaʕ/ġā.
Is the NENA situation really relevant? I believe the development that we see in NENA must postdate bəḡaḏkəp̄aṯ, but Quranic Arabic (and Classical Arabic for that matter) show no evidence for lenition. ṭāġūt not ṭāġūṯ; malik not malix; talmūd, not talmūḏ; ʕadn not ʕaḏn; malakūt not malaxūṯ.
It seems by now an unchallenged fact that ṭāġūt 'Idol' is a loanword from Classical Ethiopic ṭāʕōt 'id'. This word itself must certainly be a loanword from Aramaic ṭāʕū, ṭāʕūṯā 'error, idol', an abstract derivation (with the typically Aramaic abstract suffix -ū(t)) from the verb ṭʕā 'to go astray'. I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2018 at Phoenix's blog
Hi Yunran! Wow... No I don't even understand my own post anymore. Last time I looked at Indo-European seriously was years ago. Let alone Pre-Proto-Indoeuropean. It's a fascinating topic though, but I'm going to have to actually completely reread the article, which I might do at some point. I ended up writing a BA Thesis on consonant gradation, however. I think that was after I wrote this blogpost? I found a fairly large list of pretty clear cases of roots that occur in unaspirated/aspirated pairs. But never really got it to come together as a particularly round story. Ever now and then I float my results with some people that are still actually working on Indo-European, in the hopes to do something of a collaborative article... but no-one has taken the bait yet :-(
Anyone familiar with Classical Arabic and a modern dialect like Cairene or Damascene Arabic will instantly notice that the verbal system behaves a little different from what one might be used to. Verbs that are traditionally CaCaCa verbs, like waqaʕa 'to fall' have transitioned[1] to CiCiC verbs (< *CaCiCa), Cairene... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
There are fairly extensive books discussing in detail the so-called šāḏḏ readings (lit. unusual, i.e. non-canonical). Most notably Xālawaihi and al-ʕukbarī. Also quite often in Quran commentaries, non-standard readings of certain verses are discussed, even sometimes aiding in the interpretation of the verse (in those cases it usually does not come down to such minor linguistic variations, but actual differences in what word is suppose to be read altogether). It's very rare, however, for Ibn Mujahid to discuss non-canonical readings at all, which he does do here. --- And yes, it is somewhat similar to the way standard German, or standard Dutch came to be. Standard Dutch also has somewhat surprisingly dialectal forms. We will say la "drawer" but ladekast "dresser" with the archaic form of la in the compound. While lade can be used as a somewhat literary form of la in writing, saying **lakast would simply be incorrect. --- But an example like this one here, where what would be a perfectly regular, and quite predictable plural (which is rare in Arabic) suddenly is replaced by a minor deviation from the standard pattern, is very difficult to understand the origin of. Why is there suddenly a dialectal form, where using the only minorly different regular form would not have affected any understanding at all. It doesn't change the meaning, it doesn't change the consonantal text. It's weird that the Quranic readers had an opinion on this at all. Where exactly that comes from is probably lost to history... But hopefully, if enough of these forms are collected, one might be able to start making sense of it.
The Quran attests the word معيش maʕāyiš 'ways of life, livelihoods' twice, Q7:10 and Q15:20. This is the plural of معيشه maʕīšah 'way of life, livelihood'. While this would be exactly the form that I would predict for Quranic Arabic based on its orthography, its form in the reading traditions... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
It's not the dotted dhal but the dotted dāl. But Perhaps you were having some mobile phone autocorrect troubles going on towards the delicious Indian lentils. There are many inscriptions where dotted d appears next to r. It's an orthographic practice that developed early enough in the Aramaic script that even Syriac has it, rish ܖ has the same shape as daleth ܕ except for the fact that the latter one has that distinguishing dot. It shows up quite commonly in Nabataean inscriptions, this is just the first time it is seen in a version of the Nabataean script advanced enough to be recognisably "Arabic". You're right of course that calling this "Christian Style" is not quite correct. But it is a bit more than one inscription. The Yazīd-inscription is clearly part of a whole set of northern inscriptions, which are all Christian. Many have the ḏakara al-ʔilāh formula, and are accompanied by crosses. Recently Fariq al-Sahra posted some pre-islamic inscriptions with prayers to the الالىه also accompanied by a cross. Other typical features of these inscriptions are: using the Aramaeogram BR for 'son of', using wawation of names and having straight alifs without the typically early Islamic Hijazi/Kufi "foot" to the right. Also check out Laïla Nehmé's recent article for example: It is clearly not part of the "Hijazi/Islamic" orthography, and has a feature associated with a Christian orthography, which so far has only yielded Christian texts. But yes a more subtle (and certainly more correct) wording would be that the CPP has the dotting of the dāl which also appears in a Christian Arabic inscription which shares orthographic and formulaic pecularities with other Pre-Islamic christian inscriptions. I'm sure with time, we'll start finding inscriptions in a more recognizably Hijazi orthography before Islam. After all, early Islamic orthography does not look like they just started writing in it when Islam was founded. It'd be interesting to see what the religious contents of those inscriptions will be. For now we can say that Hand C of the CPP dotted a dāl in a way that is so far only found in the early Islamic period in a Christian inscription inscription.
Ahmad Al-Jallad, Younis al-Shdaifat, Zeyad al-Salameen and Rafe Harahsheh recently published a fascinating article that has come out in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy. Al-Jallad argues that it is a Christian Arabic inscription, in Pre-Islamic orthographic style. However, it appears to refer to the second Umayyad caliph Yazīd, which leads to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
Motivated by the posting of a series of religious early Islamic inscriptions on Twitter written by women, I'd like to discuss once again the spelling of the feminine ending in Arabic. One of the striking things about the Feminine ending, which in Classical Arabic is -at- followed by case endings... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
Huh. How did that happen! Thanks for pointing that out. It's a screw up on the side of the journal. Our version on Google Docs simply has "μορς = murṣu", so we wrote it in Unicode and everything. Just checked our proofs, and it wasn't like this in the proofs. So it somehow bizarrely screwed up in between the proof phase and publication, which was about two weeks apart or so... That's annoying. As for the example of French final -e, yes that's somewhat comparable. And actually the somewhat haphazard incorporation of dialectal forms into poetry because it's metrically useful reminds me very much of what people think happens in Epic Greek. The difference both to the French and the Greek parallels is, if the modern transmission of the poetry is to be trusted, the word is always in this dialectal form. Always yarā, never yarʔā. Its occurrences should really be checked in the poetry though, and see if it ever yields metrical irregularities. I've found one Quran document where, surprisingly the word is spelled with a media Alif, suggesting (especially in that document) a post-consonantal glottal stop. A form that never occurs in any of the reading traditions... It's quite puzzling.
A starting assumption present among many Arabists is that the ʕarabiyyah -- or Poetic Koine -- was a form of the Arabic language, quite close to what we now know as Classical Arabic, and that it existed as a kind of inter-tribal form of communication for high poetic culture. The... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
Ack! Seems like you're right. I overlooked the fī "in" in the description of Warš's tradition. So for those who are curious what the text says exactly: Ibn Mujāhid says: "Warš transmits on the authority of Nāfiʕ that he removed the ʔ in the likes of of yuʔminūna and what is similar to that, and likewise for the intervocalic (ʔ), like yuʔaxxira-kum, lā yuʔāxiḏu-kum and yuʔaddi-hī and what is like it." Whereas for Abū ʕamr he says: "He did not hamzate (= apply ʔ) to each pre-consonantal ʔ, like yūminūna, yūminu and yāxiḏūna and whatever is like that." The difference then comes down to the specific mention that each hamza is dropped, and that for Warš it is said "in the likes of" rather than "like". And that is indeed how it is understood in the modern readings, where for Abū ʕamr, e.g. ar-raʔsu is indeed read as ar-rās. The description is technically still somewhat ambiguous, after all what is "in the likes of" that Warš is referring to, but the lack of any mention that Warš did not apply the ʔ to each place where it is expected, makes the interpretation that we find in al-Jazarī probably a likely interpretation.
[NOTE: I'm probably wrong about this whole argument, luckily pointed out by Lameen Souag in the comments, see the comments for the discussion.] For a long time, I've been struck by the irregular nature of the reading traditions of the Quran. The Warš tradition for example, is well-known for its... Continue reading
Posted Jul 24, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
That's an excellent suggestion, I had not really considered that yet! I still think that development is probably not regular in the sense that you can write a sound law to arrive at this development. The fact that you have form like ktibāt-uh (so a different strategy) to solve the same 'issue' would seem to suggest that it's an attempt to retain the integrity of the word-shape. I think this is similar as with *min-uh, which would regularly yield **mn-uh, so to retain the vowel of min > minn-uh. But there's a couple of ways you can go arguing about that.
Last night, I discussed in some depth the syllabification of the Bedouin-Type Arabic dialects. I worked mostly from Owens' description, which got me a little caught up in a bind, as I had no way to explain why the feminine ending was behaving like a *-t-, rather than the expected... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2017 at Phoenix's blog