Less Familiar Types of ʾan according to Arabic Grammarians

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


This article discusses two less familiar contexts in which ʾan appears, according to Arabic grammarians. One is ʾan in the sense of ʾay ‘that is’, which elucidates and introduces direct speech, just as a colon does in modern writing. In most examples the direct speech begins with a verb in the imperative, but there are other possibilities as well. Some grammarians name it ʾan al-mufassira ‘the elucidating ʾan’. It is generally agreed that it follows a verb denoting a meaning similar to that of qāla ‘say’, but not that specific verb itself. The other case is ʾan which has no specific meaning or syntactic influence in the sentence. Most grammarians name it ʾan al-zāʾida or ʾan al-zāʾida li-l-taʾkīd ‘ʾan added for emphasis’. Sībawayhi and most grammarians who follow him mention two possible contexts in which it can appear: following lammā and before law. In the latter it usually follows an oath, either without a verb, e.g. wa-llāhi ‘by God’, or with one, e.g. ʾuqsimu ‘I swear’. This second kind of ʾan is much less used than the former kind, and only few examples are given for it.