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The Foundations of Arabic Linguistics II

Kitāb Sībawayhi: Interpretation and transmission

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Edited by Amal E. Marogy and Kees Versteegh

This second volume on The Foundations of Arabic Linguistics contains contributions from the second conference on Arabic linguistics, hosted by the University of Cambridge in 2012.

All contributions deal with the grammatical theories formulated by the first grammarian to write a complete survey of the Arabic language, Sībawayhi (died at the end of the 8th century C.E.). They treat such topics as the use of hadith in grammar, the treatment of Persian loanwords, the expression of modality, conditional clauses, verbal valency, and the syntax of numerals.

Contributors are: Georgine Ayoub, Michael G. Carter, Hanadi Dayyeh, Jean N. Druel, Manuela E.B. Giolfo, Almog Kasher, Giuliano Lancioni, Amal Marogy, Arik Sadan, Beata Sheyhatovitch, Cristina Solimando, and Kees Versteegh.
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Almog Kasher

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The Baṣran grammarians are generally credited with the view that the operator assigning the independent mood to verbs is their filling positions of nouns. The text of the Kitāb shows, on the one hand, that Sībawayhi indeed regards filling positions of nouns as the operator of this mood; on the other hand, his explanation seems to be founded on a ‘background principle’ of the default status of this mood. Later grammarians generally adopt the ‘Baṣran’ view, but do not regard it as a formalization of this ‘background principle’. Yet, elements of Sībawayhi’s theory regarding this operator are incorporated into their discussions, which facilitated the reading of later theories into the Kitāb.

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Giuliano Lancioni and Cristina Solimando

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Sībawayhi’s Kitāb devotes a large section to the analysis of different typologies of verbal valency in Arabic. This analysis is unprecedented in other linguistic traditions in both extent and depth, and largely outperforms later Arab grammarians’ treatment in its peculiar concern for what would be called thematic roles or actants in contemporary linguistics, which has shown a growing interest in this matter for the last decades.

Valency in the Kitāb is analyzed from a prevalent logic-semantic perspective which strikingly differs from the sharper distinction of the level of lafẓ and maʿnā, which became normative for later grammarians. In particular, Sībawayhi accurately distinguishes verbs that ‘pass over’ (taʿaddā) one or more objects (mafʿūl) and/or subjects/agents (fāʿil), which refers to the semantic-thematic role of the arguments rather than to their ‘surface’ realization as fāʿil or mafʿūl. This analysis is an interesting earliest example of the type of classification of verb classes, which has become a central issue in some contemporary lexicalist approaches to grammar. The paper presents a taxonomy of verb classes detected by Sībawayhi and a discussion of implications of such an early treatment of verbal valency for both the history of linguistics and current linguistic analyses of Arabic.

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Amal Elesha Marogy and Kees Versteegh

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Michael G. Carter

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This paper tabulates a number of specimens of affective usage noted by Sībawayhi, that is, language in which the emotional content leads to morphological and syntactical anomalies. They are grouped into five categories: (A) fully grammaticalized constructions which will not be discussed in detail because they have been incorporated into what we know as Classical Arabic, (B) oaths, exhortations and other exclamations which are syntactically obscure, (C) morphological categories such as diminutives, intensives and vocatives, which are intrinsically affective, (D) inconsistencies in the nominal cases and verbal moods which suggest an incomplete process of syntactical standardization (here supplemented by material from the dialects which was not incorporated into Classical Arabic), and (E) morphological items showing the range of alternative forms from which the standard patterns were selected (also supplemented by dialect material). The paper concludes with some speculations about the exclamatory nature of the dependent case inflection, though this is not in any way a new idea.

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Amal Elesha Marogy and Kees Versteegh