Vowel terminology as a method for dating early Arabic grammatical texts : a case study of Kitāb al-jumal fī l-naḥw

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Date

2014-08

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Martins, Katie M.

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Abstract

Middle Eastern Studies


Kitāb al-jumal fī l-naḥw (KJN) is a short grammatical treatise dating back to the early centuries of Arabic grammatical development. There is no consensus in modern scholarship surrounding its authorship, or even the century in which it was composed. The text is sometimes attributed to the famous 8th century grammarian al-Khalīl ibn Aḥmad al-Farāhīdī, but this hypothesis is often rejected in favor of attribution to lesser-known 10th century grammarian Ibn Shuqayr. Contemporary attempts to date this text and identify its author have given inconclusive results, largely due to issues with the methodology employed up to this point. In this thesis, I propose a new methodology for dating Arabic grammatical texts. This method concerns the use of terminology to refer to vowels. The distinction between declensional and non-declensional vowel terminology that remains in use today was first introduced by Sibawayh in his Kitāb, in which he states that the terms rafʿ, naṣb, jarr, and jazm are reserved for syntactically determined vowel endings, while ḍamm, fatḥ, kasr, and sukūn are used for vowels that are not related to syntax. In works composed during the period before the Kitāb, as I will illustrate, vowel terminology is used in a disorganized and inconsistent fashion. In contrast, grammarians after the Kitāb adhere to Sibawayh’s distinction with remarkable consistency. Thus, vowel terminology represents a clear dividing line between pre-Kitāb (late 8th-early 9th centuries) and post-Kitāb works (late 9th century and onwards) and is a valuable method for dating texts. In this thesis, I will summarize the controversy surrounding the provenance of KJN, demonstrate the advantages that the method of vowel terminology has over the other approaches taken in contemporary scholarship in an attempt to date the text, and present material from a wide range of grammatical works in order to validate this approach. Finally, I will apply this method to KJN. The results of this study show that the use of vowel terminology in KJN is much more consistent with an earlier (8th century) dating of the text than with the later (10th century) dating that has often been proposed.

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