The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Construct-clauses in spoken Arabic

I found in, Jan Retsö's 2005 "Thoughts about the Diversity of Arabic". This discussed the differences between spoken Arabic and fusha, proper Arabic - by which I mean Modern Standard, classical, Qur'anic, poetic, what have you. I was going to mine it for more isoglosses between Qur'anic Arabic and the spoken Arabic of the first / seventh century. The article doesn't disappoint, but some isoglosses seem post-Qur'anic or para-Qur'anic. Such would belong in their own post.

It's not the easiest article to read if, like me, you are untrained or selftrained in Semitic linguists. One bit that stuck out to me: the relative clause. This is "the house that David inhabits" rather than "the house of David". Retsö says that in most Arabic the clause and the noun-noun construction behave differently from each other: the clause by juxtaposition, the noun-noun by annexation. Except in "Qeltu" and along the Maghreb - there, they behave the same, both "annexation". In the Qur'an and in poetry also, we can sometimes find an annexational idafa-like clause. But apparently this is only done for time, like Q. 5:119 "the day of...". These differ only in how they handle the problem: North Africa has a d particle and uses that, the Jazira and Q. 5:119 go with idafa. (My theory on North African d is that it's proto-Romance de.)

(And I had to look up "Qeltu" dialects. They're the Arabics of the Jazira. They live amongst the Syrian Christians, the northern Kurds, the Caliphate, and Erdogan's police.)

North Africa and the Jazira are separate from one another; Syria and Egypt are in the way, as is Cyprus. Retsö noted that old Semitic languages like the Hebrew of Isaiah and Ugaritic behaved like the Jazira "Qeltu" and the Qur'an. He concluded that these shared traits are archaisms. Maybe the "Arabic" tribes were a gaggle of various Semites, perhaps not meaningfully "Arabic" at all.

This would seem to agree with Rabin, Ancient West-Arabian. Himyaritic really did look like a para-Arabic language, as opposed to - say - Safaitic which is recognisably proto-Arabic. It could also answer, what happened to Ancient North Arabian / Thamudic where it wasn't Safaitic.

posted by Zimri on 17:34 | link | 0 comments

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