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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Nabaṭī Poetry, Language of

(16,305 words)

Author(s): Clive Holes
1. Introduction: what is nabaṭī poetry? Nabaṭī poetry is the traditional oral poetry of inner Arabia. The term “nabaṭī”, whose first attested use is in the 13th century CE (Sowayan 2000:68), is not to be taken literally. It seems originally to have been a transferred epithet applied to the language of Bedouin poetry, which was, when judged against the yardstick of Classical Arabic, ungrammatical and hence like the ‘broken’ Arabic supposedly spoken by the ancient Nabateans. That, at least, is the most …


(6 words)

see Grammatical Tradition: Approach

Najdi Arabic

(4,573 words)

Author(s): Bruce Ingham
1. General This entry provides a description of the Arabic dialect of Najd in Central Arabia. Because this is a large area, showing considerable linguistic diversity, the description is based on the dialect of Sudayr in the central area, mentioning variation in the northern and southern areas where relevant. 1.1 Area Geographically, the Najdi dialects span the following regions: i. The speech of the sedentary population of the areas of Central Najd and of Qaṣīm and Jabal Šammar to the north and Najrān and Bīša to the south. ii. The speech of the main Bedouin tribes of those regions,…


(1,281 words)

Author(s): Muhammad Hasan Bakalla
According to Sībawayhi (d. 180/796), the basic Arabic nasal consonantal phonemes are /m/ and /n/. He describes /m/ as a voiced ( majhūr) bilabial ( min bayni š-šafatayn) nasal ( min al-ʾanf); and /n/ as a voiced alveolar ( fuwayqa t̲-t̲anāyā) nasal (Sībawayhi, Kitāb IV, 431ff.). In the same description, both /m/ and /n/ are analyzed as stop consonants ( ḥurūf šadīda). Sībawayhi ( Kitāb IV, 435) assigns the feature of nasality ( ġunna) when the egressive air escapes through the nose and not the mouth. The term ġunna, which is derived from the root ġ-n-n ‘to sing’, indicates the nasal reson…


(2,076 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Taʿlīq had a characteristic aspect and ductus in which words descend onto the baseline and the end of the line curves upward. Just as with tawqīʿ, this script was found in its seriffed and serifless (sans serif) forms. When seriffed, the letters ʾalif and lām had their head-serifs left sloping (Gacek 2003). The derivation from both nasx and taʿlīq has recently been challenged by Elaine Wright, who, through a meticulous analysis of specimens and textual support (notably a document drawn up by a Timurid scribe in the early 9th/15th century), showed that nastaʿlīq developed from nasx by modi…


(2,241 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
The root n-s-x of the word nasx is Nabataean in origin and appears to have been associated with copying and transcription from an early period of Islam. The term nasxī was originally introduced by Western Arabists to cover all round scripts of the earlier Muslim centuries (Abbott 1939:34, 37). Even though the original sources use the term nasx, the term nasxī has remained in use to cover both formal and informal (personal, idiosyncratic) scripts/hands, and may be taken as meaning nasx-related. It is not known exactly when nasx was introduced as a formal script or what its original…

Nationalism and Language

(6,602 words)

Author(s): Elie Kallas
1. Definition Language is a communication tool and a cultural vehicle, which implies that it is also a reference for identifying ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’, a content of loyalty and hostility, of social and cultural status. For nationalists, language is a tool that connects past and future, projecting a reconstructed centripetal unity out of the centrifugal reality of the present. Language is, therefore, one of the most visible symbols in the nationalistic museum, a symbol with a powerful legitimizing role (Fishman 1972). The etymology of the word ʿArab is still uncertain. It was c…


(1,056 words)

Author(s): Nadia Anghelescu
i. kāna ‘to be’ and its analogues, elements which assign nominative case to the theme and accusative case to the predicate: ʾamsā ‘to be in the evening, to become’; ʾaṣbaḥa ‘to be in the morning, to become’; ʾaḍḥā ‘to be in the forenoon, to become’; ḍalla ‘to remain’; bāta ‘to be at night, to remain’; ṣāra ‘to become’; laysa ‘not to be’; mā zāla ‘not to cease’; mā nfakka ‘not to stop’; mā fatiʾa ‘not to refrain’; mā bariḥa ‘not to desist’; mā dāma ‘as long as it remains’ (kāna wa-ʾaxawātuhā); ii. ʾinna ‘verily’ and its analogues, which assign accusative case to the theme and nominative…


(2,947 words)

Author(s): Jamal Ouhalla
1. Sentence negation and tense: lā, lam, lan, laysa The Standard Arabic lā/lam/lan are used to negate sentences with a verbal predicate. The differences between them relate to the tense information they carry over and above their function as sentence negation markers. The marker lam expresses past tense (Neg+Past), lan future tense (Neg+Future), and present tense (Neg+Present): (1) lam ʾaktub Neg.Past 1s.write.Imperf ‘I did not write’ (2) lan ʾaktub-a Neg.Fut. 1s.write.Imperf-Suff ‘I will not write’ (3) ʾaktub-u Neg.Pres. 1s.write.Imperf-Suff ‘I do not write’ The present t…

Negev Arabic

(5,709 words)

Author(s): Roni Henkin
1. General 1.1 Area and range Negev Arabic is spoken by some 150,000 Bedouin in the Negev ( án-Nagab in Negev Arabic) desert, which occupies most of southern Israel. Today it is an isolated, peripheral minority dialect, not spoken and barely understood elsewhere within the contemporary political boundaries. Before 1948, however, the Negev belonged to a vast historical, economic, sociocultural, and linguistic continuum extending from the Ḥijāz to North Africa, along which nomadic and seminomadic tribes conducted raiding, trading, and smuggling relations with ot…


(2,098 words)

Author(s): Werner Arnold
1. The Neo-Aramaic dialects The modern Aramaic dialects are the remnants of a wide variety of Old and Middle Aramaic dialects that dominated the Middle East in antiquity. The western variety of Aramaic survived only in three villages in the Qalamūn Mountains in Syria, 60 km north of Damascus, whereas the eastern variety survived until the beginning of the 20th century in large areas with hundreds of thousands of speakers in southeast Turkey, in northern Iraq, in Persian Azerbaijan, and in Persian Kurdistan. The massacres in eastern Turkey in 1915 exterminated not only Ar…