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Sound Symbolism

(5,828 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
1. Definition of sound symbolism In the introduction to their standard work on sound symbolism, Hinton a.o. (1994b) distinguish four types of sound symbolism, which they define as “the direct linkage between sound and meaning” (1994b:1): i. Corporeal sound symbolism: “the use of certain sounds or intonation patterns to express the internal state of the speaker, emotional or physical” (Hinton a.o. 1994b:2); ii. Imitative sound symbolism: “the use of onomatopoeic words and phrases representing environmental sounds” (Hinton a.o. 1994b:…

Serial Verbs

(2,593 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
(1) (Mandarin Chinese) ta lai shang ban he come go.up shift ‘He comes to work’ (Dai 1990:327) (2) ( Sranan) a waka go na wowoyo he walk go Loc market ‘He walks to the market’ (Sebba 1987:46) (3) (Sranan) kofi tjari den fisi kon gi mi Kofi bring Det fish come give me ‘Kofi brought me the fish’ (Holm 1988:184) In (1) and (2), the second verb ( shang, go) is desemanticized and serves only to indicate the locational direction of the event; in (3), the second verb ( kon) is directional and the third verb ( gi) indicates a dative. Both in Classical Arabic and in modern Arabic dialects, strings of fin…


(2,170 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
The term ṣifa is one of a functional pair ṣifa/mawṣūf, which is analogous in meaning to the terminological pairs musnad/musnad ʾilayhi (ʾisnād) and muxbar bihi/muxbar ʿanhu (xabar), as al-Fārābī (d. 339/950; ʾAlfāḏ̣ 57) explains. Within the Aristotelian tradition in Arabic philosophy, the verb as the predicate par excellence was defined as a ṣifa ġayr mawṣūf, a predicate of which nothing can be predicated (e.g. Zajjājī, ʾīḍāḥ 53; cf. Fārābī, ʾAlfāḏ̣ 57; Xwārizmī, Mafātīḥ 142.11ff.; Ġazzālī, Miḥakk 23.28). According to al-Ġazzālī (d. 505/1111), ṣifa/mawṣūf was the preferred te…

Mafʿūl fīhi

(2,963 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
In early Arabic grammar, the usual term for adverbial adjuncts was ḍarf (pl. ḍurūf), lit. ‘container’. It has been suggested (Merx 1889:146; cf. Talmon 2000:248) that this is a Greek borrowing from the word anggeíon ‘vessel, receptacle’, used by Aristotle to indicate the temporal or local circumstances. In Sībawayhi's Kitāb, the term ḍarf denotes both the extralinguistic reality of location and time, and the syntactic function (Mosel 1975:345–362). The extralinguistic reality is clearly what is meant by him when he says ( Kitāb I, 201.8–9) at the beginning of the chapter on t…


(1,258 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
The interpretation of the ḍād as a lateral(ized) sound is in line with the reconstruction of the phonemic inventory of the Semitic languages. According to Lipiński (1997:129–132) Arabic /ḍ/ goes back to Proto-Semitic /ṣ/, which he reconstructs as [ɬ], the voiced counterpart of Proto-Semitic /ś/. The latter soon merged with Proto-Semitic /š/ and is not differentiated in most Semitic languages. Reflexes of Proto-Semitic /ṣ/ are still pronounced as a voiced (non- emphatic) lateral /ź/ in Modern South Arabian. It is not surprising that this special sound disappeared in the Ne…


(2,835 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
In the course of the development of the Arabic grammatical tradition, taqdīr came to be used for the process of restitution of suppressed elements in linguistic utterances ( pace Lane 1863–1893:VII, 2495, who derives the grammarians’ use of the word from Form II of the verb qaddara ‘to determine, decree’ and asserts that in a linguistic context it signified ‘to mean something to be supplied or understood’). In linguistic methodology, taqdīr is, therefore, the converse of ʾiḍmār. The speaker ‘hides’ things in speech, and it is the grammarian's task to reconstruct t…


(2,247 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
Yet, from an early stage onward, there was a definite awareness among Arab grammarians about the basic resemblance between the constituents of the nominal sentence and the constituents of the verbal sentence. This resemblance focused on the notion of ‘ predication’, for which such verbs as ʾaxbara and ḥaddaṯa were used. These terms were semantic in nature: they expressed the fact that the basic purpose of a sentence is to provide new information about something already known. Alongside this terminology, there was another set of terms, derived from the verb ʾasnada ‘to make something …


(675 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
ʾIlġāʾ was analyzed by Carter (1973:156), who translates it as ‘neutralization’ and defines it as a process “by which elements are deprived of their operative effect”. He refers to Sībawayhi ( Kitāb I, 243.6), who explains the fact that the comment in the sentence fīhā ʿabdullāhi qāʾimun ġadan ‘ʿAbdallāh is in it standing tomorrow’ does not have the expected accusative by saying, “because the adverbials are annulled, so that it is as if the speaker did not mention them in this position” ( li-ʾanna ḏ̣-ḏ̣urūf tulġā ḥattā yakūna l-mutakallim ka-ʾannahu lam yaḏkurhā fī hāḏā l-mawḍiʿ). The te…


(3,310 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
The names of the vowels are explained by the Arabic tradition in articulatory terms. The legendary founder of the linguistic tradition, ʾAbū l-ʾAswad ad-Duʾalī, is said to have instructed a scribe as follows: When you see me opening my mouth, write a dot above the letter, and when you see me contracting my mouth, write a dot within the letter, and when you see me folding my mouth, write the dot beneath the letter ( ʾiḏā raʾaytanī qad fataḥtu famī bi-l-ḥarf fa-nquṭ nuqṭa ʿalā ʾaʿlāhu wa-ʾiḏā ḍamamtu famī fa-nquṭ nuqṭa bayna yaday al-ḥarf wa-ʾiḏā kasartu famī fa-jʿal an-nuqṭa taḥta l-ḥarf). (ʾA…


(1,757 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
The connection between the two central senses in which ʿilla is used is not immediately clear. According to Lane (1863–1893:V, 2124), ʿilla is “an accident that befalls an object and causes its state, or condition, to become altered”, hence “a disease that diverts [from the ordinary occupations]”, hence it may be “an accident, or event, that diverts the person to whom it occurs from his course” and even “a cause [and particularly an efficient cause]”. The verb ʿalla/yaʿullu means ‘to give someone to drink the second time’, hence ‘to divert someone from his want’; the verb ʿalla/yaʿillu mea…

ʾInna wa-ʾaxawātuhā

(2,830 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
1. ʾinna zayd-an munṭaliq-un ‘Indeed, Zayd is leaving’ Traditionally, ʾinna is translated in English with asseverative adverbs like ‘verily, indeed, surely, certainly’, but as Bloch (1986:102–136) explains, “ Inna was originally a presentative in a primary, nuclear sentence-structure of the type inna Zaydan” (1986:136). He compares ʾinna with Hebrew hinnē ‘here is…!’, drawing attention to isolated examples in Arabic in which ʾinna is followed by only one noun (Bloch 1986:113–115). Sībawayhi ( Kitāb I, 283.15–16; cf. Zamaxšarī, Mufaṣṣal 15.8–12) quotes the following example: ʾi…

Interrogative Pronoun

(1,402 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
According to Rabin (1951:189), the pronoun man was inflected in the pre-Islamic dialect of the Ḥijāz, with forms like manū, manī, manā, manūna, which may be related to interrogative pronouns in other Semitic languages, such as Akkadian mīnu. The Arabic grammarians give an entire paradigm of this form of the pronoun (cf. Fleisch 1979:II, 78; Wright 1964:I, 275). According to az-Zamaxšarī ( Mufaṣṣal 59), the ending of inflected man reflects the ending of the questioned word: in reaction to raʾaytu zaydā ‘I have seen Zayd’, one might say manā ‘whom?’, and in reaction to jāʾanī rajulun ‘a man c…

Poetic Koine

(2,019 words)

Author(s): Kees Versteegh
According to the second theory, the linguistic situation before the coming of Islam was already characterized by diglossia, because the colloquial speech of the tribes differed from the language of poetry and the Qurʾān. In this theory, the term ‘poetic koine’ is the usual term to indicate the high variety used in poetry. Because this variety is believed to be identical with the language of the Qurʾān, those who adhere to this model also speak of the ‘poetico-Qurʾānic koine’. The term itself is not very appropriate because the notion of ‘koine’ usually refers …