The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Qâric dialect of Arabic had declensions... but not many

Marijn van Putten and Ahmad al-Jallad are ever on the case of the ancient Arabic dialects, which have spawned both Classical Arabic and the Arabic of the Qur'an. I shall relabel that latter dialect, which the Qurrâ (no hamza!) affected - "Qâric". Anyway these dialects aren't the same.

Van Putten has an article out, The Feminine Ending -at as a Diptote. If you don't know what the hell is a "diptote", that's fine; neither did I, until today. Van Putten is writing for scholars of the Arabic language. I am not one of these. I am a Byzantinist, not in practice even in Greek - hell, I struggle with French. This paper, therefore, is not easy for me to comprehend. I apologise for whatever errors I make in this blog-post.

Van Putten and Al-Jallad have laid out some strong arguments that the Qâric dialect is real, however artificial. This dialect had noun-declensions. I know what declensions are: Latin has five-ish, and Attic Greek ended up with four - leaving aside "locatives" and other Life Of Brian out-takes. If you read Ibn Warraq, you'll know of a controversy about whether Arabic was supposed to have declensions - the "irab". The great grammarians of Arabic had argued over this too. Whatever we say about the classical dialect(s); these two modern scholars Van Putten and Al-Jallad are adamant that the Qurrâ(') intended irab. I would add that the Qurrâ were in dialogue with the poets, who needed irab most. The question, for the Qurrâ, then moves on to: what level of irab.

Now, I didn't take classes in old Arabic. I remain unsure that it's yet possible to take such a class; hence, blog-posts like this one. I did take classes in Modern Standard Arabic. This is a neoClassical concoction - like scholars' Latin. The MSA dialect has three noun cases: Nominative, Accusative, and - basically - Genitive. Other cases are handled with prefixes, prepositions, and hybrids like min. So: triptotic.

Van Putten proposes that the Qâric dialect ran its feminine declensions according to diptotic logic. Not triptotic.

In Arabic, diptotic would mean no genitive. There's nominative, for a subject; and oblique for anything else. Like in English "I" versus "me", "to me", "for me", "by me".

Since orthodox Islamic tajweed is now triptotic, says van Putten, Islam has suffered a disconnect between the Qurrâ and modern orthodoxy. This does not surprise me; Luxenberg and other scholars have been raising this same point. And... well... the 'Abbasids happened. I wonder to what extent Spanish and North/West African traditions retained the diptotes. As van Putten concludes: I leave the implications of this observation to scholars of Islamic studies.


posted by Zimri on 17:12 | link | 0 comments

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