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Tradition and Innovation: Norm and Deviation in Arabic and Semitic Linguistics. (Reviews of Books).

Tradition and Innovation: Norm and Deviation in Arabic and Semitic Linguistics. Edited by LUTZ EDZARD and MOHAMMED NEKROUMI. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 1999. Pp. 208. DM 128.

The eleven articles in the work under review were originally presented at a panel at the 27th Deutscher Orientalistentag, held in Bonn on September 30, 1998. The editors quite rightly note in the preface to the volume that Semitics is an endangered discipline, and that this collection "is vivid proof of the continued enthusiasm of Arabists and Semiticists working in their field" (p. 7). One hopes that Comparative Semitics, once a thriving specialization, comes to enjoy a world-wide renaissance rekindled by tomes such as the present one. Since a short review cannot possibly do justice to all these fine contributions, I focus my remarks on those linguistic essays that are of particular interest to me. It should be noted that Joseph Norment Bell's "False Etymology, Fanciful Metaphor, and Conceptual Precision: Some Medieval Muslim Definitions of Love" (pp. 193-204) deals in particular with a literary theme, and is the final selection in the appropriately titled Part III, "Modern Linguistic and Literary Theory App lied to Arabic."

Olga Kapeliuk's "Regularity and Deviation in Peripheral Neo-Semitic" (pp. 11-21) is a solid treatment of interesting developments in Neo-Aramaic, Ethio-Semitic, and modern Arabic dialects, and modern Hebrew, and data are also used from Kurdish and Persian to explicate evolutionary trends. This research follows in the tradition of her mentor and colleague--one of the greatest Jerusalem linguists of all times-Hans Jacob Polotsky, who already in 1938, in a famous article on Gurage published in BSLP ("Etudes de grammaire gourague," 39: 137-75), demonstrated that the [r] ~ [l] alternation in Chaha (spelled Chaxa by the author throughout the article) was reminiscent of Hebrew and Aramaic begedkefet spirantization (p. 19). Quite interesting is the fact that these two allophones, [n] and [r], "may now be considered as two different phonemes" (p. 19). Kapeliuk is correct to point Out the striking parallel to Israeli Hebrew sapar 'hairdresser' contrasting with safar 'he counted' (p. 20). It is the latter minimal pair w hich establishes the phonemicity of /p/ vs. /f/. Kapeliuk's detailed knowledge of both the ancient and modern Semitic languages is obvious throughout her erudite essay.

Rainer Voigt's "Die Prapositionen im Semitisehen--Uber Morphologisierungsprozesse im Semitisehen" (pp. 22-43) is an etymological study of the relatedness of prepositions in the Semitic languages to their corresponding verbal and/or nominal roots. Although many prepositions have clear-cut and demonstrable semantic connections with roots, it remains unclear why all must display these relationships. Although it is possible, e.g., that Arabic flu derives from a basic meaning 'opening' (cf. Arabic fam 'mouth' = ['opening on the face'], genitive construct fii = Ancient Egyptian wpt-[contains]r3 'mouth opening', p. 40 and n. 30), could not the phonetic resemblance be a mere coincidence? Furthermore, Voigt also lists the root of Hebrew Y[contains]f[epsilon](h) 'beautiful' as being related, yet it is difficult for this reviewer to see any connection.

Andrzej Zaborski's "Remarks on Derived Verbs in Hamito-Semitic" (pp. 44-51) deals, among other interrelated topics, with the etymology of the Afroasiatic sibilant causative, mentioning various theories, such as the verbal root sy[contains] 'to want' (cf. Arabic saa[contains]a). I find all the theories mentioned unsatisfactory (especially Paul Haupt's connection with Arabic sabab 'reason', which Zaborski notes was already rejected by Carl Brockelmann), and do not understand why the s-causative must have a (tri)consonantal root etymon at all. Since Cushitic data are plentiful in his discussion, the author is fastidious to reiterate his position that the Agaw languages are not Central Cushitic, but rather East Cushitic (p. 48). One should mention that the Cushitic classification and subclassification problems are among the most difficult problems in comparative Afroasiatic linguistics.

Michael G. Carter's "The Struggle for Authority: A Re-examination of the Basran and Kufan Debate" (pp. 55-70) is a thorough study of the origins of the Basran and Kufan debate, using Ibn Wallad's Kitab al-Intisar as well as the [contains]Idah of Alzajjaji. After digesting these perceptive remarks in which the writer considers the many legal terms employed by Ibn Wallad, one comes to appreciate why fiqh ullu[gamma]a 'philology' includes the term fiqh 'jurisprudence'.

Rafi Talmon's "From the History of the Study of Qur[contains]anic Syntax" (pp. 71-77) focuses on Theodor Noldeke's "Zur Sprache des Korans" (in his Neue Beitrage zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft [Strassburg 1910; rpt. Amsterdam, 1982], 1-30). I believe the evidence Talmon has mustered warrants his conclusion: "It is unfortunate that Noldeke ignored some important observations included in the Arab grammarians' analysis of Qur[contains]anic syntax (p. 75).

Mohammed Nekroumi's "Zur Syntax und Semantik der Fragepartikeln [contains]a- und hal im Lichte der traditionellen arabischen Grammatik" (pp. 78-100) is a

well-documented investigation of the two Classical Arabic interrogative particles, using the original writings of Sibawayhi, Az-zamaxsari, Ibn Ya[subset]is Al-jurijani, Al-[contains]Anbari, etc. (see pp. 97-100) for the Arabic passages (however, note that the hamzat ulwasl is written erroneously twice in the passage quoted from Al-[contains]Astarabadi [p. 98, middle]).

Pierre Larcher's "Vues 'nouvelles' sur la derivation lexicale en arabe classique" (pp. 103-23) has many interesting observations on various vowel patterns in Classical Arabic. One fascinating example is [contains]ixsa[contains]i 'specialist', which prompted the following comment on [contains]axissu[contains]i in the 1979 dictionary by Hans Wehr (see below for full reference): "widespread wrong pronunciation instead of [contains]ixsa[contains]" (n. 10, p. 109). The bibliography of secondary sources is a fine collection of germane previous work on this topic (pp. 120-23).

Utz Maas' "Die Entwicklung des neuarabischen Verbalsystems am Beispiel des Marokkanischen" (pp. 124-67) is a fine examination of the syntax and semantics of the Moroccan Arabic verbal system. The data are accurately transcribed and glossed, and the author has consulted numerous works listed in his solid bibliography (including the work of such previous researchers as Richard S. Harrell and Philippe Marcais).

Jeffrey Heath's "Sino-Moroccan Citrus: Borrowing as a Natural Linguistic Experiment" (pp. 168-76) examines the various forms of the adaptation of Spanish la China 'China' meaning 'orange (fruit)' in Moroccan Arabic dialects. The reflexes are with c(cc) (no change from the original voiceless aifricate; however, note the gemination), but also with ss, ss and ltt. One applauds this type of meticulous amalgamation of details, followed by sound diachronic reasoning that explains the historical developments in the various regional and communal dialects mentioned.

Lutz Edzard's "Comparable problems in the Reconstruction of 'Proto-Languages' and the Reconstruction of Arabic 'Urtexts"' (pp. 177-92) makes the point that his book (Polygenesis, Convergence, and Entropy: An Alternative Model of Linguistic Evolution Applied to Semitic Linguistics [Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1998]) demonstrated that "monogenesis cannot be upheld in the realm of Semitics" (p. 177). The present article, to quote the author, "... argue[s] that the principle of monogenesis does not hold across the board in the realm of Semitic texts ..." (ibid.). Edzard uses evidence from The Thousand and One Nights and other sources to demonstrate a polygenetic origin of texts, based upon the detailed edition of Muhsin Mahdi. This meaty article will force one to come to grips with many fundamental problems presently facing the historical linguist.

Although the book has been carefully edited and proofread, there is the occasional error; e.g., p. 123 mentions Milton J. Cowan as the translator of the Hans Wehr dictionary (A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic [Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1979]) into English; this is rather J Milton Cowan; also, Joseph H. Greenberg's Language in the Americas (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1987) is only one volume, not two (p. 191).
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Author:Kaye, Alan S.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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