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Review of  Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Set)


Reviewer: Rebecca Molloy
Book Title: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Set)
Book Author: Kees Versteegh Mushira Eid Alaa Elgibali Manfred Woidich Andrzej Zaborski
Publisher: Brill
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard
Book Announcement: 21.2996

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Review:
EDITORS: Versteegh, Kees; Eid, Mushira; Elgibali, Alaa; Woidich,
Manfred; Zaborski, Andrzej
TITLE: Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Volumes 3, 4 & 5)
PUBLISHER: Brill
YEAR: 2009

Rebecca Molloy, Unaffiliated scholar

SUMMARY

The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (EALL) represents a unique
collaboration of hundreds of scholars from around the world, covering all
relevant aspects of the study of Arabic and dealing with all levels of the
language (pre-Classical Arabic, Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, Arabic
dialects, and mixed varieties of Arabic), both synchronically and
diachronically. Entries treat the external and internal history of Arabic, the
structural analysis of the different varieties of the language, the interaction
between varieties, the linguistic contacts between Arabic and other languages,
and the place of Arabic within larger Semitic and Afro-Asiatic language groups.
No other reference work offers this range of contributions or depth and breadth
of coverage. The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (EALL) is,
therefore, a standard reference work for students and researchers in the field
of linguistics, Islamic studies, Arabic literature and other related fields for
many years to come.
 
The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (EALL) is comprised of five
volumes: volume I (entries A-Ed), volume II (Eg-Lan), volume III (Lat-Pu),
volume IV (Q-Z), and Vol. V (Index). The first four volumes contain a
convenient list of contributing authors to a given volume. The fifth volume
contains a Lemma list for the EALL's four volumes as well as the index. The
latter is exhaustive and extremely useful, and allows readers to find all
relevant loci. It contains traditional Arabic grammatical terms as well as
modern linguistic ones, names of contemporary scholars and primary sources. The
current review is based primarily on the last three volumes of the encyclopedia:
III (Lat-Pu), IV (Q-Z), and V (Index). (See Hamrouni LINGUIST 21.27xx for a
review of volumes I and II.)

EVALUATION

Unlike for other fields within Arabic and Islamic studies, a comprehensive
reference tool that will represent the cutting-edge in all aspects of Arabic
linguistics was lacking. This includes the treatment of linguistic topics in one
major reference tool, The Encyclopedia of Islam. These vary in depth and many of
the aspects of structure and history of Arabic are not covered (at least not in
the first two editions), mainly because the Encyclopedia of Islam puts an
emphasis on people and places and is most useful for historical matters. Thus
the mere appearance of the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics
(EALL) on the scene carries huge importance for linguists working with Arabic,
but also for scholars from other disciplines like Islamic studies, Arabic
literature, social sciences, as well as general linguists, whose research cross
paths with Arabic linguistics.

According to the editors, the EALL targets most directly students, especially at
the graduate and postgraduate levels. For this reason, they have avoided
abbreviations as much as possible, for instance, in the names of varieties of
Arabic or even in grammatical contexts, and have accepted the ensuing excess of
information and overlaps. This also means that cross-references in the entries
were used sparingly. Only a few terms without their own entry, the editors note,
were cross-referred to a broader entry, as with 'plural' and 'singular',
cross-referenced to 'Number' (vol. III, 439-447).

The standard of transliteration adopted in the EALL follows, by and large, the
one adopted by Fischer and Jastrow (1980) but with some adaptations. The editors
differentiated between transcription of Modern Standard Arabic and Arabic
dialects, establishing two transcription methods. For the Arabic dialects a
standardized phonological transcription was used. The transcription of the
Arabic alphabet used for Modern Standard Arabic is on page viii of the
Introduction (vol. I). A phonological transcription was the preferred option for
Farsi and Ottoman Turkish as well. Arabic script is employed very infrequently
which makes the EALL useful even for scholars who are less familiar with Arabic
script. The Arabic grammatical tradition is covered comprehensively, primarily
in entries with an Arabic title, like ism al-fi`l, tashkil, `illa, sabab,
ta`addin. Traditional Arabic terms typically appear in lower case and are
italicized.

Entries vary in length but are consistent in structure with numbered sections in
the body of the text, followed by bibliographical references. Predictably,
primary sources precede secondary sources and are listed first by the author's
most widely known name and title, followed by the primary source's full Arabic
name and full title name. The editors state that all entries are written from an
encyclopedic point of view, though for certain entries authors were permitted to
give their own theories even when these were not universally accepted (see
Introduction, p. vii).

For each term, a synthesis of the most recent research is given. This applies in
particular to what the editors regarded as major topics (entries like syntax,
diglossia) and where one finds that meticulous attention was given to ample
bibliographical coverage. Other entries are more in the form of essays or
general survey articles like those on ''Religion and Language'' (vol. III, 72-80),
''Political Discourse and Language'' (vol. III, 663-671), and these too were
afforded generous bibliographical coverage.

The strength of the EALL as a reference tool is that it brings together notions
and terms from different disciplines (classical grammatical theory, modern
linguistic theory), and different eras (pre-classical, classical, modern). By
weaving together a wide variety of terms, the end product achieves a degree of
disciplinary integration that remains illusive for reference works limited to
one theoretical framework. In fact, the editors describe the EALL as a meeting
place for a wide variety of theoretical approaches, and no attempt was made to
bring these approaches into line. Rather than selecting one theoretical model,
the editors believed that diverse analyses, whether traditional, functionalist,
minimalist or reflective of any other school of linguistic thought, should all
be represented. Merely perusing the Lemma list (vol. V Index) one gets a sense
of how indigenous grammatical theory might intersect with modern theories of
phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics,
sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, dialectology as well as modern and
pre-modern notions of poetry, religion, theology and philosophy of language.
Thus the indigenous linguistic tradition, not always covered in analyses of
Arabic was not excluded from the EALL. Readers will find alongside terms like
tense, object, transitivity, entries on 'madi' and 'mudari`', 'maf`ul' and
'ta`addin' (cf. Badawi, Carter, Gully 2004). Indigenous terms from other fields
like 'qiyas' (analogy), 'qira'at' (readings), '`illa' (underlying cause) are
also found in the EALL, as Arabic plays a pivotal role in the Islamic sciences
(e.g. jurisprudence, Qur'anic exegesis) and doubtless the most powerful symbol
of Islam (Shehaby 1982; Piamenta 1979).

The material included in the EALL brings to light the range of linguistic
variation within the Arabic speaking community and cross-influences therein.
Dialect entries range from Anatolian Arabic, Jewish Baghdad Arabic, Christian
Middle Arabic, Cypriot Maronite Arabic, to Gypsy Arabic, Sinai Arabic, Uzbek
Arabic and youth speech. Incorporated in the EALL are sketches of more than 40
dialects described according to a predetermined format, which allows the user to
make quick cross-dialectical comparison. The format of such entries is simple
and easy to follow with two main sections. The first contains general
information on geography and the community of speakers. The second provides a
methodical linguistic description of the dialect at hand with varying
subsections on phonology (vowels, diphthongs, stress, etc.), morphology, verbs,
and more.

More than other disciplines, the study of Arabic has been marked by a
geographical fragmentation of the efforts of scholars, across Arab countries,
Europe and the United States. As a result, scholars less frequently have the
opportunity to learn from the work by colleagues elsewhere. The EALL lives up to
its claim to offering a framework within which data on all varieties of Arabic
and different types of analyses can be drawn together from different parts of
globe in order to improve the propagation of knowledge regarding one of the
world's key languages.

The EALL Online was launched in 2009 and it contains all content of the printed
edition and new content is added twice yearly on a regular basis. There will be
elaborations or updates of themes already discussed in the printed edition, as
well as new entries that emerge as relevant to the field. Just like the print
edition the EALL Online aims to expansively cover all facets of Arabic languages
and linguistics. A key benefit of the online edition is of course the fact that
it is easily cross-searchable, cross-referenced and state of the art.

REFERENCES

Badawi Elsaid, Michael G. Carter, and Adrian Gully. 2004. Modern Written Arabic:
A Comprehensive Grammar. London and New York: Routledge.

Wolfdietrich Fischer and Otto Jastrow (eds.). 1980. Handbuch der arabischen
Dialekte. Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden.

Nabil Shehaby. 'Illa and Qiyas in Early Islamic Legal Theory', Journal of the
American Oriental Society, 1982, 102, 1, 27-46.

Piamenta, Moshe. 1979. Islam in Everyday Speech. Leiden: Brill.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Rebecca Molloy holds a PhD in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies from NYU. She has taught Arabic as an adjunct assistant professor at New York University and Queens College (SUNY). Research interests and expertise involve medieval Arabic linguistic theory, Islamic legal reasoning, and Qur'anic exegesis. She has served as an FBI fellow at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, and continues to instruct as an independent consultant with the Center's external education division for their regional Joint Terrorism Task Force training. She designed the curriculum for the Center's Arabic Familiarization course, Arabic Name Analysis and Phraseology, and has been involved in Combating Terrorism Center projects since 2005. Some of her more recent publications have appeared in Sentinel (2009) and The Inconvenient Texts (2008).

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