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ʾIḍmār

(1,520 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
Although the term ʾiḍmār lit. ‘keeping in mind’ sometimes occurs interchangeably with ḥaḏf ‘elision’, it represents an entirely different phenomenon. Whereas ḥaḏf denotes an omission at the surface level, as a purely phonological event that leaves the utterance formally incomplete, ʾiḍmār refers to the mental act of suppressing an element at what might now be called the deep-structure level, independent of any phonological realization, and not necessarily producing a formally incomplete utterance (ellipsis). Moreover, it is a feature of ʾiḍmār that, unlike ḥaḏf, only complete…
Date: 2018-04-01

Sabab

(1,218 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
The word sabab literally means ‘a cord or ligature’, often ‘a tent rope’, signifying the tight structural bond between the fabric of the tent and the peg. In the Arab sciences, this concept has been exploited metaphorically in a number of ways, in prosody as the name for part of a metrical unit (another element being the watid lit. ‘tent peg’), in philosophy to denote a logical ‘cause’ or ‘reason’, and more generally (e.g. in law) for anything connected with or providing access to something else, such as relatives, dependents, or assets. In grammar it…
Date: 2018-04-01

Māḍī and Muḍāriʿ

(3,161 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
Māḍī and muḍāriʿ are two terms for the verb in its apparent temporal or aspectual modes. They are part of the oldest vocabulary of Arabic grammar, occurring already in the opening pages of the Kitāb of Sībawayhi (d. ca. 180/796), where verbs are classified as māḍī lit. ‘having passed, elapsed’, or muḍāriʿ ‘resembling’, an abbreviation for fiʿl muḍāriʿ li-sm al-fāʿil ‘verb resembling the agent noun’. Since there is no firm evidence that they were in use much before Sibawayhi’s time, they probably arose in the period of his association with the pioneers o…
Date: 2018-04-01

Ism al-fāʿil

(2,500 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
It is characteristic of medieval terminology not to be specific to one analytical level, thus, for example, ḥarf ‘particle’ can refer to anything from phonemes to paragraphs. The word fāʿil is no exception. It is discussed here on four levels. 1. Lexically, fāʿil means ‘doer, person doing’. An obscene metaphor, doubtless coined by a grammarian, pairs it with another technical term, mafʿūl bihi ‘done to’, viz. ‘direct object’, for the active and passive members of a homosexual relationship. 2. At the morphological level, fāʿil has three applications: (a) Fāʿil stands for any word in…
Date: 2018-04-01

Elision

(1,230 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
The two most common terms in the Arabic linguistic tradition for the concept of ‘elision’ are ḥaḏf lit. ‘cutting off, curtailing’ and ʾiḍmār lit. ‘keeping in mind’, but there is a wide range of other expressions for the omission or deletion of linguistic elements in Arabic, and it would be impossible (and indeed undesirable) to equate them strictly with any modern Western terms. Before elision proper can be dealt with, four groups of words will be disposed of, those which (1) are hardly technical in nature, (2) mainl…
Date: 2018-04-01

Grammatical Tradition: History

(6,345 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
Arabic is unique among languages as the chosen medium of divine communication in a direct, complete revelation exclusively to a single prophet. That revelation has been preserved to this day in the document known as the Qurʾān. The special character of Arabic did not discourage Muslims from exploring the language as a purely human vehicle, and they were easily able to separate the celestial from the sublunar Arabic to describe and analyze the language spoken in this world: for them Adam was certainly the first created person to speak Arabic in heaven, but on earth he spoke Syriac, and Arabi…
Date: 2018-04-01

Parts of Speech

(4,632 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Carter
The division of speech into its parts, or of words into their categories, is the first preoccupation of every significant grammatical text in Arabic, starting with the opening lines of the Kitāb of Sībawayhi (d. ca. 180/796): hāḏā bābu ʿilmi mā l-kalimu min al-ʿarabiyya. fa-l-kalim: ismun, wa-fiʿlun, wa-ḥarfun jāʾa li-maʿnan laysa bi-smin wa-lā fiʿlin (I, 1 ed. Derenbourg/I, 2 ed. Būlāq). This can be translated fairly literally as ‘Chapter on the knowledge of what words are in Arabic. Those words are: name (ism), action (fiʿl), and a bit (ḥarf) wh…
Date: 2018-04-01