Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics

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Subject: Language and Linguistics

Managing Editors Online Edition: Lutz Edzard and Rudolf de Jong

The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online comprehensively covers all aspects of Arabic languages and linguistics. It is interdisciplinary in scope and represents different schools and approaches in order to be as objective and versatile as possible. The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online is cross-searchable and cross-referenced, and is equipped with a browsable index. All relevant fields in Arabic linguistics, both general and language specific are covered and the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online includes topics from interdisciplinary fields, such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and computer science.

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Māḍī and Muḍāriʿ

(3,165 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
Of the various features which interested the Arab grammarians, there is space here to deal only with the time reference of verbs and the nature and consequences of the resemblance between the muḍāriʿ verb and the agent noun. Verb morphology in general, especially the numerous problems resulting from the clash of morphology and phonology, must be left out of account, although the larger texts devote scores if not hundreds of pages to this topic under the heading of ṣarf or taṣrīf) ‘ conjugation’. Because of the abundance of sources and wide variety of opinions, only the gist i…


(4,367 words)

Author(s): Zeinab Ahmed Taha
1. Definition The word mafʿūl is derived from the Arabic root f-ʿ-l ‘to do, make’ and refers to something done or made. In the Qurʾān, the word mafʿūl occurs twice: “that Allah might conclude a thing that must be done” (Q. 8/42, 44; translation Pickthall 1938:262–263). In grammatical terminology, mafʿūl refers to the accusative noun/pronoun on which the act of the verb ‘falls’. This covers all the nominal complements of the verb, in particular the object, which was also called mafʿūl bihi. Both terms are usually translated with ‘object’, although a better equivalent for mafʿūl is ‘ patient’…

Mafʿūl fīhi

(2,963 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
In early Arabic grammar, the usual term for adverbial adjuncts was ḍarf (pl. ḍurūf), lit. ‘container’. It has been suggested (Merx 1889:146; cf. Talmon 2000:248) that this is a Greek borrowing from the word anggeíon ‘vessel, receptacle’, used by Aristotle to indicate the temporal or local circumstances. In Sībawayhi's Kitāb, the term ḍarf denotes both the extralinguistic reality of location and time, and the syntactic function (Mosel 1975:345–362). The extralinguistic reality is clearly what is meant by him when he says ( Kitāb I, 201.8–9) at the beginning of the chapter on t…


(2,350 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Although maġribī is easily identifiable as a group, there is still much research that needs to be done before we can attempt a comprehensive history of its development and its various styles. In a way, the problem here is similar to the situation with the nasx script, the bookhand of the Islamic East ( Mašriq). There are a number of theories as to the origin of the maġribī scripts. The traditional view is given by Ibn Xaldūn (d. 808/1406), who was of the opinion that maġribī scripts developed from ʾandalusī, which eventually (after the collapse of Muslim rule in Spain) supplanted al…


(1,761 words)

Author(s): Miklós Maróth
The term maḥmūl ‘ predicate’ is part of Arabic philosophical terminology, equivalent to the Latin praedicatum (Georr 1948:217; Afnan 1969:80–81; Versteegh 1993:24–25). Its meaning in philosophical terminology corresponds to that of xabar in linguistics (Elamrani-Jamal 1983:138–144; Fārābī, Ḥurūf 111.5–7), or ṣifa as opposed to mawṣūf in theological terminology (Wolfson 1976:112–132; Ibn Sīnā, Maqūlāt 18–19). The composition of mawḍūʿ ‘ subject’ and maḥmūl can be brought about ‘in the way of limitation’ ( ʿalā naḥw at-taqyīd) or ‘in the way of report’ ( ʿalā sabīl al-xabar). Fol…


(4 words)

see Majhūra/Mahmūsa


(6 words)

see Language Shift: Amazigh


(5,618 words)

Author(s): Udo Simon
Tašbīh and majāz, along with kināya, are the main topics of the ʿilm al-bayān, the second branch of Arabic rhetoric as systematized in the 12th and 13th centuries, metaphor ( istiʿāra) being the most important part of majāz. In time, metaphor became the predominant subject in the works of those who were engaged in building up a theoretical framework for Arabic rhetoric, and, thus, the study of majāz is essentially the study of metaphor (istiʿāra). In Arabic language theory, tropical speech is closely linked with the notion of transference ( naql) of meaning. Functioning as a unifying…


(1,458 words)

Author(s): Janusz Danecki
It cannot be excluded that Indian phonetic theory influenced the formation of the Arabic description of the process (cf. Danecki 1985). The starting point of Sībawayhi's definition is the concept of iʿtimād, which may be understood as a phonatory effort or simply phonation, i.e. acoustic energy. This somewhat puzzling term was used only by him, and was dropped in later Arabic theory. The term may well derive from Indian phonetic theory, where phonation was called prayatna (but cf. Law 1990).   Sībawayhi defines majhūra as phonemes in the articulation point of which the phonato…


(1,618 words)

Author(s): Narivelo Rajaonarimanana
The medieval contacts between Madagascar, called by the Arab geographers Jazīrat al-Qamar (this term later came to designate the Comoros), and the Arabo-Islamic world gave rise to a culture in the southeastern part of the country which preserved several traits of Arab origin, without fully adopting Islam or the Arabic language, even after the reorientation of the maritime relations toward Europe as a result of the Portuguese colonization. Among these traces is the use of Arabic script, adapted to the structure of Malagasy, known as sorabe or arabico-malgache, which was used for re…


(4 words)

see Indonesian/Malay


(3,835 words)

Author(s): R.E. Asher
1. Historical background Malayalam, a South Dravidian language (see Krishnamurti 2005), is the mother tongue of 96 percent of the population of the Indian state of Kerala. It is also the principal language of Lakshadweep, the Laccadive Islands, a chain of islands in the Arabian Sea running parallel to the coastal strip in the southwest of India that makes up Kerala. The total number of inhabitants recorded for Kerala in the 2001 census was 31,841,374, and for Lakshadweep 60,650. The history of Malayalam as a separate language goes…


(5,378 words)

Author(s): Peter G. Riddell
This article considers the role of the Arabic language in the area covered broadly by the modern state of Malaysia, from the establishment of Islam in the region up to the early 21st century. Strictly speaking, the term “Malaysia” only applies to the nation established in 1963, consisting of the Federation of Malaya on the Malay Peninsula, Singapore (which withdrew to become an independent state two years later), and the former British colonies of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo. However, in light of the relevance of b…


(4,490 words)

Author(s): Dinie Bouwman
After the Islamic conquests and the subsequent spread of the Arabic language to Egypt and North Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries C.E., the language started to play an increasingly important role as a lingua franca in commercial relations with the West African Sahel (Levtzion 1979:15). Unlike North Africa and the Middle East, however, West Africa was never conquered as part of the Islamic Empire. Instead, Islam was disseminated in West Africa through trade from as early as the 9th century (Hiskett 1994:97; Mbiti 1969:243), and it made its first documented appearance…


(3,514 words)

Author(s): Joseph M. Brincat
The language spoken in prehistory might have been a Mediterranean language, according to the traditional theory, but since Renfrew (1987) linked the diffusion of the Indo-European linguistic family with the spread of agriculture, it seems likely that the temple builders, who came over from Sicily, spoke an Indo-European language. The first inscriptions found in Malta date back to the 6th century B.C.E. and are in Punic. The Romans introduced Latin in 218 B.C.E., but for two centuries three lan-guages were in formal use, Punic, Greek, and Latin. However, St. Luke's definition of…


(8,381 words)

Author(s): Manwel Mifsud
1. General The affiliation of Maltese within other Arabic vernaculars is a controversial issue. It is likely that successive waves of impact reached the Maltese shores from different Arab stations and at different points in the island's history (for theories about a Phoenician origin of Maltese, Malta). Most linguists (see, for example, Aquilina 1961, 1979) agree that typologically Maltese fits well into the general characteristics of Maghrebi dialects, including the most distinctive isoglosses such as the n- prefix for the 1st person plural of the imperfect ( niktbu ‘we write’, nimx…


(3,646 words)

Author(s): Djamel Eddine Kouloughli
1. Introduction In a modern Arabic-English dictionary, the term maʿnā is rendered by such words as ‘sense’, ‘ meaning’, and ‘signification’, so that it forms with its conceptual counterpart a semantic pair quite akin to the signifier/signified couple familiar to contemporary linguistics. Yet, a close examination of a number of Arabic texts of different periods in which both these terms show up, separately or together, reveals that it has not always been so, and that it is only in the final stage of a long evolution that the lafḍ/maʿnā couple ended up with its present-day functional…
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