In and out of the Metalanguage: Some Reconsiderations of the Technical Vocabulary of Arabic Grammar

In: From Sībawayhi to ʾAḥmad Ḥasan al-Zayyāt: New Angles on the Arabic Linguistic Tradition


This article looks at some features of Arabic grammatical terminology which, though individually well-known (and not confined to Arabic) may be unique in combination. In particular there is a lack of a clear terminological distinction between the behaviour of speakers and the behaviour of speech elements at various levels. The article will argue that this does not represent any analytical imprecision on the part of the grammarians, but rather reflects their awareness that the special nature of Arabic as a language of direct revelation implied a continuum between the Arabic spoken by God and that spoken by the Muslims.