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Interests: linguistics, comparative linguistics, Sino-Tibetan, Indo-European, Tangut, Berber Languages,
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Dear Amine. I gave some answers to your questions about Afro-Romance in a reply to your previous comment: The best resource, probably, for more information on this (but the focus is squarely on Berber and its contact with Arabic not on Afro-Romance is Maarten Kossmann's The Arabic Influence on Northern Berber. But he discusses pre-Arabic loans in Berber. As for Proto-Berber: A foundational text is Kossmann's Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère. Besides this he has written many articles on the subject (all of which can be found on his page). Besides that, there's my articles on Proto-Berber morphology and phonology, which are also on my page. There is not that much out there. Prasse's Manuel de grammaire touarègue is actually extremely important for the basics of Berber historical morphology (although you would never thing that's the case from the title). It is however extremely difficult to read, and by now, a little outdated. But it's an important start. There is no "handbook of Proto-Berber" so to speak. I have a forthcoming article (in Spanish), which will function somewhat like that. But it's not out yet.
Well preus-/prous- is what lies at the heart of the English freeze/froze Dutch vriezen/vroor German frieren/fror. The thing is: If you think that the *e and *o-grades have a functional difference, even in stems with *i and *u, I would be inclined to say that that is evidence that they were fully consonantal. There is no appreciable difference between: *preus/*prous/*prus versus *perḱ/*porḱ/*prḱ. I will check out your theory on the palatovelars later. :-)
Did my blog get posted somewhere that suddenly new readers start posting with question on an unrelated blogpost or something? :-D (don't mind at all, just striking to get two of these comments in a single day) First Amine: Yes! Definitely, combined with place names that have an African Romance origin it should be possible to recover quite a few things. We learn, for example that the nominative -us appears to be retained, e.g. a-fəllus 'chick' < *pullus, with the typical Romance semantic shift of 'young animal' to 'young chicken', but without the loss of the *s that yields pollo etc. The accusative/neuter nom/acc -um appears to have lost the final nasal already: ɣasru 'castle' < *castrum. Besides that, it seems that there was palatalization already of the velars, but it clearly had not yet developed into full-blow affricated forms of the type ʧ yet. The Latin C is borrowed with a *k (but not the palatal *ḱ !) before front vowels whereas it is borrowed with *ɣ (presumably still a uvular [q] at the time) before non-front vowels: i-kikər 'chick pea' < cicer ta-ɣawsa 'thing' < causa Coop: I think you make excellent points. I don't think the argumentation why we should think of the *i and *u as purely vocalic counterparts to their consonantal value is very compelling. Nor do I think the question is very interesting. Your idea that maybe stressed *i or *u were simply diphthongized to create the "full grades" *ei and *eu is an original suggestion. I think the more economical solution is still to assume that *i and *u simply behaves as any other consonant. Your suggestion of diphthongization does not significantly help understand the morphology of Indo-European any better. But it should be something to look out for when exploring deeper relations such as, for example, Indo-Uralic. One thing your suggested solution does not solve, which the 'consonantal approach' does solve is the difference between *e and *o-grades of the *i/*u diphthong. If we really start out with, say, *prus- 'to freeze' in its present stem but *prus- 'to freeze' in the perfect, how does Germanic end up with *preus- for the former and *prous- for the latter?
No problem for the off-topic. I agree that this is a better platform to give in-depth answers than Twitter! I'm talking about the reading canon. I agree that there was a canon of the rasm before the development of the readings. But it is starting to become more and more clear that the amount of variation that was allowed in the readings of the canonical rasm was much more diverse than how it gets canonized in the fourth century. === There is no doubt that there is some oral element to the readings. There are some parts of the Quran that all readers read equally strange, while if one would go by the rasm, a much more natural reading would be expected to have been selected. That being said, there are also many variant readings which only make sense by going by the rasm. There are some places where two readers are unsure on where the word-boundary is supposed to be (spaces between words and within words used to be equally big, causing ambiguities). Such a variant is obviously based on the rasm and does not go back to a oral tradition before the canonization of the text. So what to make of the "oral tradition of learning". I don't know. These things are obviously unprovable. The chains of transmission are not strong and convincing enough to convincingly go back to the companions of the prophet. But some traditions are weaker than others. Ibn ʿĀmir, for example, has only one transmitter, and the only way that that Transmitter could have received the reading from Ibn ʿĀmir is by assuming that Ibn ʿĀmir lived to be 110+. Not very convincing. On the other hand Nāfiʿ (born 110 AH) has over 20 transmitters, and accurate and credibly messy information about his reading comes down to him that there is little doubt that many of those chains of transmission are Genuine and not made up, and that Nāfiʿ really was a person who was extremely prolific in spreading his reading of the Quran. But whether his authority can plausibly be traced back to the companions of the prophet? Unprovable. Nāfiʿ is the last credible node, after that it becomes religious doctrine, not history. I hope that answers your questions!
I definitely can! The relevant article that you would want to read is Yasin Dutton's "An Early Muṣḥaf According to the Reading of Ibn ʿĀmir." The difference between the regional reading traditions come down to three main points 1. The vocalisation and dotting. The former you would indeed not see in such a document like the Codex Parisino-Petropolitanus (CPP); Dotting just extremely unlikely. 2. Verse marking. Different readers have different verse markings. The CPP has a clear 'Syrian' bent to its verse marking, although apparently closer to that of Ḥimṣ than that of Damascus. 3. Differences in the readings that have an effect on the rasm. There are some places where the consonantal skeleton of the regional codices is actually different, and in those cases the reading tradition agrees with the rasm. Especialyl the Syriac Muṣḥaf has about 16 unique spellings not attested in any of the other Muṣḥafs. One of the more well-known ones is Q10:22 where the Syrian Musḥaf has ينشركم yanšurukum where the others have يسيركم yusayyirukum. I think Dutton (and by extension Déroche) get it wrong though. The CPP is not a document written in the reading of Ibn ʿĀmir (he hadn't even been born at the time of writing), but rather Ibn ʿĀmir is a reading based on a document very similar to the CPP. The idea that the consonantal skeleton would be changed in order to account for a different reading is evidently wrong... Hope to have a publication out on that topic soon.
I don't know anything at all about Khoisan, so wouldn't be able to tell you. But I'll ask a colleague if she would be to provide some information. I agree that Starostin's databases are usually not very useful...
Wow Coop, that is a very long time ago. I honestly have no idea what Glen Gordon does these days, no. Sorry!
Thanks for these interesting comments. In fact, note that it is absolutely possible that Quranic Arabic actually had ẓallt or even ẓallit. The QCT does not allow us to be sure at all. One can easily imagine how: *ẓanantu would yield ẓanant But: *ẓaliltu would yield ẓall(i)t It is, by the way, not just Rabi`ah that has forms like this. Also in the the Jbala region and Tafilalt region of Morocco do we find such forms. I need to look at this more closely, but it seems that Andalusi Arabic exactly retains the distribution as we find it in Quranic Arabic!
In Classical Arabic, the behavior of geminate verbs, that is verbs whose second and third root consonant is the same, is a little different from other verbs. Whenever a CVCV sequence occurs where both Consonants are the same and the second CV stands in an open syllable, the first vowel... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2018 at Phoenix's blog
No, it's neither. It must be a form of Aramaic that split off from the other known Aramaics somewhere before the 2nd century CE. A host of linguistic developments took place in all Aramaics that survived. (Lenition of the stops, loss of vowels in open syllables). Neither of those developments are present in the Arabic of the Quran. So it seems that neither Syriac nor Western Aramaic had influence. Instead there seems to have been a third variety, which was typical for the Aramaic that influenced monotheistic South Arabian, Ethiopic and Quranic Arabic, which was much more archaic than Syriac at the time. The exact interpretations of those facts are not too clear, but neither variety is likely to have influenced Arabic.
Toggle Commented Jun 15, 2018 on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
Recently, while examining Déroche's catalogue of Quranic manuscripts at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, I ran into an extremely unusual Quran fragment consisting of three folios, that goes by the name BnF Arabe 329f. While in many ways it looks like a fairly standard Kufic Quran with especially typical features... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2018 at Phoenix's blog
Sorry for the long radio silence. Some stuff got in the way. @Ed: No I would be inclined to thing Muḥammad existed (although I have no dog in the fight) and that he probably spoke Hijazi Arabic, which I would argue was close/identical to Quranic Arabic but quite different from Classical Arabic. I will publish a book on Arabic. Someone can decide to translate it to Arabic later. :-) === @Albert I'll give a talk about this at IQSA in Denver this year. Let's get some facts straight: 1. Syriac is a form of Aramaic 2. There are certainly Aramaic loanwords in the Quran 3. The Aramaic loanwords in the Quran do not look like they come from Syriac, because the typical features of Syriac are not present in those loanwords. 4. Hence: If we want to maintain that they are Syriac loanwords, we have to conclude that Syriacists are completely wrong about what Syriac was like in the 7th century. The more plausible explanation, to me, seems to be that the Aramaic that influenced the Quran was a dialect different from Syriac.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2018 on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
I wasn't aware that there are Yemeni and Omani varieties with a circumfix negation. Even if that's the case, I don't think it's all the important. It seems to me very likely that those could just be independent Parallel innovations. Some Palestinian varieties seem to have traces of it too. For Yemeni-Maghrebi contact in general, I'm now officially "that guy who was brutally unconvinced by Corriente": It's interesting that me and Ahmad haven't really discussed that idea that much. I should ask him. At least some of the vowel harmony patterns that I mentioned above seem to be shared between Qeltu and Egypto-Levantine-Maghrebi, and probably some other things. So there's probably a case to be made for it, yes. My knowledge of the Qeltu dialects is a little limited. I don't make much of the JPA/Maghrebi connection of the n-prefix. It seems like an unsurprising innovation that could have easily happened without shared influence.
Toggle Commented May 24, 2018 on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
Oops sorry Etienne, not my intention to sound pedantic while being wrong. Over-read that. 1. No, not really. It's true that it's perhaps worth to explore that in an article bringing those things together at some point. Right now it's mostly disconnected articles. Some obvious ones: -Retention of Barth-Ginsberg alternation: yafʕul vs. yifʕal (Najdi, and if you buy my argument in a forthcoming article Maltese & Tunisian (and traces in Levantine). -Non-merger of *ā/awa and *aya (Razihit only, as far as we can tell). -Retention of non-al articles such as iC, aC, im, an, in (all over Yemen). -Much more productive use of fawʕala, and fayʕala stems. (Levantine Arabic) -Retention of voiceless reflexes of the emphatic interdental (as linked in Ahmad's piece). -Ejective articulations of the emphatics (Yemen) -Retention of the old *ta/t- alternation in stem V and VI verbs. Several najdi dialects have forms that go back to *takammal/yatkammal the same alternation found in Gəʿəz; where Classical Arabic just has *ta/ta- But honestly, most of the time Classical Arabic simply is more archaic, by virtue of already being archaic in the time it rises in popularity, and that being centuries ago. :-). 2. Ferguson helps, but you kind of need a framework to not analyse his nonsense wrongly. Some of the stuff is based on Holes and my recent Maltese/Tunis Arabic paper. Let me just give a quick overview: -Redistribution of CaCiC and CaCaC stems so that stative verbs that had a CaCaC pattern become CiCiC; and transitice CaCiC become CaCaC e.g. Classical sakata/yaskut :: Egypto-Levantine/Pre-Hilali siki/yuskut; Classical ʕamila/yaʕmal :: Egypto-Levantine/Prehilali ʕamala/yaʕmil -Vowel harmony: CaCiC > CiCiC; CaCuC > CuCuC; yaCCuC > yuCCuC; yaCCiC > yiCCiC; ʔaCCuC plurals > ʔuCCuC; ʔaCCiCah plural > ʔiCCiCa. Also: CaCīC > CiCīC. -*i > u in emphatic stems of the shape *CiCāC > CuCāC. -Generalization of the *t- prefix in the stem V and VI verbs itkammal/yitkammal rather than Classical takammala/yatakammala. -Probably the strange emphatic ṭ in the 'teens' also counts: xamṣṭaʕš 'fifteen', but haven't looked closely yet if that occurs in other dialects. Much of this is explained in more detail in two forthcoming articles of mine, so stay tuned. :-)
Toggle Commented May 23, 2018 on Poetic Arabic and Dialects at Phoenix's blog
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 May 23, 2018 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 May 22, 2018 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 May 21, 2018 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 May 21, 2018 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 May 21, 2018 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.
Toggle Commented May 20, 2018 on Some thoughts on "Poetic Arabic" at Phoenix's blog
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.