The Arabic Linguistic Tradition

The Arabic Linguistic Tradition

The Arabic Linguistic Tradition

The Arabic Linguistic Tradition

Synopsis

Landmarks in Linguistic Thought Vol 3 is devoted to a linguistic tradition that lies outside the Western mainstream, namely that of the Middle East.The reader is introduced to the major issues and themes that have determined the development of the Arabic linguistic tradition. Each chapter contains a short extract from a translated 'landmark' text followed by a commentary which places the text in its social and intellectual context. The chosen texts frequently offer scope for comparison with the Western tradition. By contrasting the two systems, the Western and the Middle Eastern, this book serves to highlight the characteristics of two very different systems and thus stimulate new ideas about the history of linguistics.This book presumes no prior knowledge of Arabo-Islamic culture and Arabic language, and is invaluable to anyone with an interest in the history of linguistics.

Excerpt

Most studies on the history of linguistics concentrate on the history of mainstream Western theories of language and grammar. The present volume is devoted to a tradition outside this mainstream, the Arabic tradition. In various cultures in the Near East, such as Akkadian, Old Egyptian, Syriac, and Hebrew, some form of linguistic speculation was developed. But the main linguistic tradition was that of the Arabs, starting in the seventh century CE and ending in the nineteenth/twentieth centuries with the reception of Western linguistics in the Middle East.

In 632 the Prophet of Islam, Muḥammad, died in the city of Mecca in the Arabian peninsula. He had founded a community that had adopted the religious doctrine of Islam, as it was laid down in the revealed book, the Qur’ân. His successors as political leaders of the community, the caliphs, started a series of military expeditions into the world outside the Arabian peninsula; very soon these turned into real campaigns that led to the conquest of a large part of that world. Within a few decades Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and North Africa had become provinces of a new Islamic empire, which supplanted the Persian empire and became the most important rival of the Byzantine empire. In 711 the Muslim armies crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered the Iberian peninsula. Their advance was stopped in France with the battle of Poitiers (732). In the Western Mediterranean Malta and Sicily were incorporated in the empire, and in the East parts of Central Asia soon became provinces as well.

The Arab armies brought to the inhabitants of the conquered territories not only their religion, but to an even larger degree the Arabic language. Until then it had been the language of Bedouin tribes roaming the deserts of the Arabian peninsula, but now it

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