Kees Versteegh et. al. (eds.): Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics.
Author: Dahlgren, Sven-Olof
Pub Date: 01/01/2008
Publication: Name: Acta Orientalia Publisher: Hermes Academic Publishing Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Hermes Academic Publishing ISSN: 0001-6438
Issue: Date: Annual, 2008 Source Volume: 69
Accession Number: 201551094
Full Text: Kees Versteegh et. al. (eds.): Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Volume III Lat-Pu. General Editor: Kees Versteegh, Associate Editors: Mushira Eid, Alaa Elgibali, Manfred Woidich, Andrzej Zaborski. Brill: Leiden--Boston 2008. vii + 742 pp. ISBN-10: 90 04 14973 2 (Set), ISBN-10: 90 04 14474 9 (Volume II), ISBN-13: 978 90 04 14973 1 (Set), ISBN-13: 978 90 04 14475 0 (Volume III).

The third volume of this long awaited encyclopedia is a fine contribution from Arabists all over the world. The mix of both Western orientalists and specialists from the Arabic world makes the production a nice blend with a special flavor. As in earlier volumes, the breadth and depth of the articles is impressive, giving the specialist ample opportunities to broaden his outlook, and the student numerous ways of deepening his knowledge. The wide range of the presented subjects may be grasped by some of the entries, which appear peripheral to some extent, such as Latin America, Malagasy, Malayalam (a south Dravidian language), Mali, Nigeria, North America, Nubian, Persian, politeness, Ottoman empire, Pakistan.

Among the dialect studies we find in this volume: Maltese, Meccan Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Najdi Arabic, Negev Arabic, Northwest Arabian Arabic, Nubian, Omani Arabic, and Palestinian Arabic. The article on Northwest Arabian Arabic is written by a Scandinavian contributor, namely Heikki Palva, who writes on his special field in modern Arabic dialectology. The entry concerns Bedouin dialects in Sinai, Negev, southern Jordan and the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia. The description is both diachronic, with a lot of interesting historic notes, and synchronic, which does not leave out sociological information about the different tribes.

On historic and contemporary variants of Arabic we find entries such as Middle Arabic, Old Arabic (epigraphic), Poetic koine, pre-Islamic Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic.

As in earlier volumes we find many entries on grammatical features from both the Arabian grammatical tradition and the modern Western field. From the former we note entries such as lisan, luga, madi and mudari', mafu'l, mafu'l fihi, mahmul, majaz, majhura/mahmusa, ma'na, masdar, mawdu', muhaqqaq, mustarak, mutaradif, nasta'liq, and nawasix. From the latter field we find locatives, metathesis, middle verbs, mimation, modal verbs, mood (Arabic dialects), mood (Standard Arabic), morphology, nasalization, number, numerals, nunation, object (absolute), palatalization, paronomasia, participle, parts of speech, passive, passive (syntax), pausal forms, performatives, personal pronouns (Arabic dialects), phonological merger, phonological split, poetic license, possession, predicate, prepositions, presentatives, pro-drop, pronominalization, proper names, prothetic vowel, pseudodual, pseudoverbs, punctuation.

Broader linguistic concept: minimalism, mechanisms of linguistic change, multilingualism, obligatory contour principle, optimality theory, orality, phonetics, phonology, phonology: metrical, phonotactics, phraseology, polarity, pragmatics, prosody.

Semitic languages: Neo-Aramaic, Northwest Semitic languages.

Society and sociology: leveling, lexical variation, lingua franca, literacy, media, media Arabic, nationalism and language, negation, nominal clauses, nominalization, noun, noun phrase, Ottoman empire, Pidgin Arabic: Bongor Arabic, pidginization, politeness, political discourse and language,

Word studies: lexicography: bilingual dictionaries, lexicography: classical Arabic, lexicography: monolingual dictionaries, lexicon: matrix and etymon model, Persian loanwords.

Other: meter, nisba, palaeography, proverbs.

Each entry constitutes an article in itself, from one up to about fifteen pages. Written by a specialist on the subject, such an article is not a mere presentation of encyclopedic facts, but the subject is treated according to its scientific character and importance, presenting the state of the art in Arabic linguistics and language studies. The student who wants to embark on a smaller investigation, as well as the professional scholar in his research will find it natural to refer to this encyclopedia in the first place, even since each article is followed by a bibliography on the subject. And despite many centuries' work and progress by Arabic scholars and a shorter period of activity by diligent Western researchers, they will find that there is still a lot of work to be done. As this scientific work goes on it may be feasible to bring up, as hints and advice on the way to further research, some weaknesses in Arabic scholarly work today that seem to reveal itself in this encyclopedia in the eyes of the present writer's limited outlook. Two main types of flaws can be detected; both of them concern overly narrow delimitations that are made by the writers.

The first one concerns the use of sources from scholarly work already done by Arabic researchers. In some entries you find in the bibliography only works in English and maybe French. Since I have recently been working on negations in Old Arabic, and more specifically the difference between lam yaf'al and ma fa'ala, both meaning "he did not do", I found in the entry "Negation" that no bibliographical reference was made to any work in German. But there is one excellent article written by Hans Wehr on the subject: "Zur Funktion arabischer Negationen" in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgelandischen Gesellschaft 103 (1953), which I found to be the far best written on the subject. Present and future scholars should take care not to neglect the wealth of fine works written by so many skilful German scholars during the last 150 years. Otherwise one would be at risk of repeating a research track that has already been explored and treated exhaustively.

The second type of neglect in Arabic research stems from the tendency by some to look too narrowly at Arabic studies as a discipline. Arabic is seen as a separate bubble within which all solutions to scientific questions may be answered. With this attitude, one may overlook the existence of powerful analytical tools in general linguistics. Besides the generative grammar paradigm, one finds the communication-and-cognition perspective which according to Van Valin and La Polla embraces about fifteen linguistic schools, such as Functional Grammar, Role and Reference Grammar, or Cognitive Grammar (Syntax, Meaning and Function, p 11-12). Each one of these may present methods or insights that enhance the ability of the Arabic researcher to come to grips with his or her material. And an interaction with general linguists would certainly enrich both camps. That would require that the Arabists write their examples in the same format as the general linguist, i.e., with three lines, of which one is an annotation with grammatical information for each morpheme. This has been done in some articles in this encyclopedia, which constitutes a step forward.

To illustrate my point here one may mention the entry "possession". It has a rather short section on the semantics of this grammatical feature. However, the treatment would probably have gained by recourse to works written within the communication-and-cognition perspective just mentioned, such as Possessives in English: An Exploration in Cognitive Grammar, by John R. Taylor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), and the chapter "Reference point constructions", in Grammar and Conceptualization by Ronald W. Langacker (pp 171-202; Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1999). The same could be said of the entry "Mood"; it would quite likely have received a more interesting treatment if books such as Mood and Modality by F. R. Palmer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) had been consulted.

Lutz Edzard (University of Oslo) treats the relatively new Optimality theory, with connections to generative grammar, in connection to Arabic phonology--a laudable example of building bridges to other disciplines and enriching Arabic linguistics.

Sven-Olof Dahlgren

Goteborg University
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