How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Review of Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (Set)
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
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.)
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.
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).