Excavating a linguistic category : on the properties of Ism al-Fi‘l and the limits of Kalām al-‘Arab




Butts, Kevin Austin

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Examining the occurrence of ism fi‘l murtajal (an obscure lexical class whose words syntactically are verbs, while morphologically resemble irregular nouns) in three early, founding works of Arabic grammar and lexicology, affords analysis of the words’ structures and origins, and informs our understanding of the Classical Arabic linguistic register at whose edges they existed. These works’ terminology for the items differs from modern terms. Said terminology seems furthermore not yet standardized. Many items do not fit into conventional root-pattern morphological analysis, though creative or unprecedented derivational methods render them pliable to Arabic’s triradical morphosyntactic system. Some items do correspond to known roots, and a few are recognizable as basically conventional, if irregular, imperatives. A few times items exhibit archaic or irregular phonetics or morphophonology. This lexeme class’ presence in the performative Classical Arabic (‘arabiyyah) suggests its founding corpus (kalām al-‘arab) was not merely linguistic (i.e., “Arabic language”) but also cultural (i.e., perceptions of ‘urūbah—Arabness—itself).


LCSH Subject Headings