This is PhoeniX's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following PhoeniX's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Interests: linguistics, comparative linguistics, Sino-Tibetan, Indo-European, Tangut, Berber Languages,
Recent Activity
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
A robust group of dialects that span from the Najd, all the way to the gulf, southern Iraq and Libya are the dialects that may be called the 'Bedouin-Type' (for lack of a better term). These can be recognized most easily by: Proto-Arabic *q > g Loss of the high... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
@Benjamin: I really like this parallel you mentioned about ḥirom/ḥiråm; It does seem very similar to this. The difference being that ḥyrm and ḥyrwm are both actually correct ways of spelling ḥirom. ʔibrahīm simply should not be writable as ʔbrhm. Long ī is always spelled with y. I'm sympathetic to Jeffery's argument. To this we may add ʔismāʕīl as well. So maybe ʔifʕālīl was reinterpreted as a 'vowel pattern for biblical figures'. Still doesn't explain both spellings existing though (Which Jeffery seems to be unaware of? Ignores? SPELLINGS MATTER GUYS!). And not just in isolated Surahs, some Surahs have both and one Aya even has both! Is ابرهم a Nabataeogram? Why this specific name? Why nothing else? Especially since the Nabataeans weren't primarily Jewish, it doesn't make much sense (the name seems to be unattested in Nabataean even). @Lameen: Thanks! Those are very nice parallels. I'll see if there is anything to that. One that comes to mind that could show something is ǧibrīl, but it is read as such by Hišām, and not as ǧibraʔīl that we see in several other traditions. Which honestly makes it look more alien from an Arabic phonotactic perspective. But yeah, the problem remains: why are both spellings present in the first place?
The Islamic name ابرهيم ʔibrāhīm, has always been somewhat puzzling. While this is of course the same name as our Abraham̨ from the Hebrew ʔaḇråhåm, we are left with an unanswered problem in the final syllable, which has randomly shifted the final ā to ī. Many Arabists invoke 'Imālah' to... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
That's an excellent question. I had not really considered that option. My feeling is that that would not be the most obvious solution, but seems difficult to completely exclude as a possibility. One argument I think one could make is that, in the order that the Surahs are now (which I think is fair to assume is the order in which the Archetypal Quran was written down), you find throughout the text: al-Aykah, Laykah, Laykah, al-Aykah. Assuming the scribe wrote the manuscript in this order, one can imagine them first writing it as al-Aykah, and then making up their mind and switching to Laykah. But then switching back to al-Aykah again for its final attestation would then be a little unusual. Incidentally, I hadn't thought of this analogy yet: This mistake is essentially equivalent to what we find in some German/Dutch/English misparsings of the indefinite article like: Dutch: een adder < *een nadder Belgian Dutch: een nonkel < *een onkel One interpretation takes the definite article as the start of the next word, the other interpretation takes it as the definite article, and assume the word starts with a vowel. It's a little hard to say which of the two was original, although if the intepretation is correct that Laykah comes from Leuke Kome (, than the al-aykah interpretation is the reanalysis.
The Quran speaks in multiple places about a ʔaṣḥābu l-ʔaykah 'Companions of the Wood/Thicket', a people associated with the prophet Šuʕayb, traditionally taken to be the same person as the Biblical Jethro. The name ʔaṣḥābu l-ʔaykah is usually considered to consist of ʔaṣḥāb 'companions', + the definite article l followed... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2017 at Phoenix's blog
Dear Etienne: For many of these words (e.g. 'bean') it's not so much Proto-Indo-European words that are entering Berber (and Basque and Egyptian etc.), but rather a language of the original agricultural settlers of Europe (and, apparently, North-Africa) that were there already before the Proto-Indo-Europeans arrived. That's certainly the Hypothesis from which Guus Kroonen's database is working. It's elegant because it helps explain why there is such a strong mismatch between what archaeologists generally thing about the settlement of Europe, and what linguists think.
I think you should think in that direction yes. I just remembered another one: *a-agăr 'field', cf. Lat. ager. It might be a loanword from Latin, but it has undergone Mid Vowel Harmony, and therefore shows up as igr in most Berber languages, quite different from the Latin word. DIEAT doesn't mention any cognates outside of europe, but I believe the Sumerian word is quite similar as well...
Yes, the similarity is probably not a coincidence. There are a couple of agricultural and animal husbandry Wanderwörter shared between Berber and Indo-European. I did a little bit of work on Guus Kroonen's wonderful Database of Indo-European Agricultural Terminology. cf. also Proto-Semitic *gady 'id.', which is presumably related. Also in metallurgy you find interesting ones: *a-ẓrəf 'silver' certainly is related to the wanderwort family that 'silver' itself belongs to. ( I should add more cognates to this one) Also: *a-ldun~a-buldun 'lead', uzzal 'iron' (cf. Hebrew barzel) There are probably more, but I haven't found them yet. === *ă is normally thought to be a central low vowel [ɐ], but if I'm correct about mid vowel harmony, it's likely that it was closer to [ə]. It ultimately corresponds to Proto-Semitic short *a (a low front or mid short vowel), so does probably come from something like [ɐ] originally.