Arabic Grammar – 8

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►II.20. ARABIC PHONOLOGY AS DESCRIBED BY SIBAWAYH

Sȋbawayhi سِيْبَوَيْهِ was a Persian man born in Hamadȃn ca. 760 AD. He studied Arabic in Baṣra·t and produced the book known as Sibawayh’s Book كِتَاْبُ سِيْبَوَيْهِ (he did not give it a name). This book is the first and greatest on Arabic grammar, although Sibawayh himself did not establish Arabic grammar (much of the information in his book is ascribed by him to his teachers at Baṣra·t, especially ʔ·Al-Xalȋl).

►II.20.A. THE LETTERS

In the end of Sibawayh’s book (chapter 565 ) he talks about the “Arabic letters” اَلْحُرُوْفُ اَلْعَرَبِيَّةُ .

هَذَا بَابُ عَدَدِ الْحُرُوفِ الْعَرَبِيَّةِ، وَمَخَارِجِهَا، وَمَهْمُوسِهَا وَمَجْهُورِهَا، وَأَحْوَالِ مَجْهُورِهَا وَمَهْمُوسِهَا وَاِخْتِلَافِهَا.

§a. According to Sibawayh, the primary Arabic letters are 29, because he considers the ʔalif (by which he means only the vowel-denoting ʔalif) a separate letter from the hamza·t.

فَأَصْلُ حُرُوفِ الْعَرَبِيَّةِ تِسْعَةٌ وَعِشْرُونَ حَرْفًا‏:‏ الهمزة والألف والهاء والعين والحاء والغين والخاء والكاف والقاف والضاد والجيم والشين والياء واللام والراء والنون والطاء والدال والتاء والصاد والزاي والسين والطاء والذال والثاء والفاء والباء والميم والواو‏.

§b. Sibawayh adds 6 secondary Arabic letters which he says are “common, admissible, and considered good in reciting Qurʔȃn and poetry”

وَتَكُونُ خَمْسَةً وَثَلاثِينَ حَرْفًا بِحُرُوفٍ هُنَّ فُرُوعٌ وَأَصْلُهَا مِنْ الْتِسْعَةِ وَالْعِشْرِينَ، وَهِيَ كَثِيرَةٌ يُؤْخَذُ بِهَا وَتُسْتَحْسَنُ فِي قِرَاءَةِ الْقُرْآنِ وَالْأَشْعَارِ، وَهِيَ‏ اَلْنُوْنُ اَلْخَفِيْفَةُ، وَاَلْهَمْزَةُ اَلَّتِيْ بَيْنَ بَيْنَ، وَاَلْأَلِفُ اَلَّتِيْ تُمَاْلُ إِمَاْلَةً شَدِيْدَةً، وَاَلْشِّيْنُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْجِيْمِ، وَاَلْصَّاْدُ اَلَّتِيْ تَكُوْنُ كَاَلْزَّاْيِ، وَأَلِفُ اَلْتَّفْخِيْمِ، يَعْنِي بِلُغَةِ أَهْلِ الْحِجَازِ فِي قَوْلِهُم‏ْ “الْصَّلَاةُ وَالْزَّكَاةُ وَالْحَيَاة‏ُ”.

These are:

  1. The light nȗn اَلْنُوْنُ اَلْخَفِيْفَةُ (vowel nasalization; see §II.21.A.g.β.)
  2. The intermediate hamza·t اَلْهَمْزَةُ اَلَّتِيْ بَيْنَ بَيْنَ (vowel hiatus; see §II.21.A.h.ο.III., §II.21.A.h.ο.IV., and §II.21.A.i.)
  3. The strongly inclined ʔalif اَلْأَلِفُ اَلَّتِيْ تُمَاْلُ إِمَاْلَةً شَدِيْدَةً (the vowel ē)
  4. The šȋn which is like ǵȋm اَلْشِّيْنُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْجِيْمِ (perhaps a voiced allophone of šȋn; see §II.21.A.c.β.VIII.)
  5. The ṣȃd which is like zȃy اَلْصَّاْدُ اَلَّتِيْ تَكُوْنُ كَاَلْزَّاْيِ (perhaps a voiced allophone of ṣȃd; see §II.21.A.f.κ.)
  6. The ʔalif of amplification أَلِفُ اَلْتَّفْخِيْمِ (the vowel ō)

§c. There are 7 more secondary letters which are “not considered good, uncommon in the speech of a man who speaks acceptable Arabic, and not considered good in reciting Qurʔȃn or poetry”

وَتَكُونُ اِثْنَيْنِ وَأَرْبَعِينَ حَرْفًا بِحُرُوفٍ غَيْرِ مُسْتَحْسَنَةٍ، وَلَا كَثِيرَةٍ فِي لُغَةِ مَنْ تُرْتَضَى عَرَبِيَّتُهُ، وَلَا تُسْتَحْسَنُ فِي قِرَاءَةِ الْقُرْآنِ وَلَا فِي الْشِّعْرِ، وَهِي‏َ اَلْكَاْفُ اَلَّتِيْ بَيْنَ اَلْجِيْمِ وَاَلْكَاْفِ، وَاَلْجِيْمُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْكَاْفِ، وَاَلْجِيْمُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْشِّيْنِ، وَاَلْضَّاْدُ اَلْضَّعِيْفَةُ، وَاَلْصَّاْدُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْسِّيْنِ، وَاَلْطَّاْءُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْتَّاْءِ، وَاَلْظَّاْءُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْثَّاْءِ، وَاَلْبَاْءُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْفَاْءِ.

These are:

  1. The kȃf which is between ǵȋm and kȃf اَلْكَاْفُ اَلَّتِيْ بَيْنَ اَلْجِيْمِ وَاَلْكَاْفِ (perhaps a voiced allophone of kȃf; see §II.21.A.d.δ.)
  2. The ǵȋm which is like kȃf اَلْجِيْمُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْكَاْفِ (perhaps g; see §II.21.A.d.δ.)
  3. The ǵȋm which is like šȋn اَلْجِيْمُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْشِّيْنِ (perhaps ž; see §II.21.A.d.θ.)
  4. The weak ḍȃd اَلْضَّاْدُ اَلْضَّعِيْفَةُ (perhaps a velarized ɮˠ ?; see §II.21.A.f.θ.)
  5. The ṣȃd which is like sȋn اَلْصَّاْدُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْسِّيْنِ (perhaps a velarized ?; see §II.21.A.f.β.)
  6. The ṭȃʔ which is like tȃʔ اَلْطَّاْءُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْتَّاْءِ (perhaps a velarized ?; see §II.21.A.f.η.)
  7. The ð̣ȃʔ which is like θȃʔ اَلْظَّاْءُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْثَّاْءِ (perhaps θ̣ ?; see §II.21.A.f.ι.)
  8. The bȃʔ which is like fȃʔ اَلْبَاْءُ اَلَّتِيْ كَاَلْفَاْءِ (perhaps ~p; see §II.21.A.a.ε.)

وَهَذِهِ الْحُرُوفُ الَّتِي تَمَّمْتُهَا اِثْنَيْنِ وَأَرْبَعِينَ جَيَّدُهَا وَرَدِيئُهَا أَصْلُهَا الْتِّسْعَةُ وَالْعِشْرُونَ، لَا تَتَبَيَّنُ إِلَّا بِالْمُشَافَهَةِ.

Note that Sibawayh mentioned 8 bad secondary letters, but he counted them 7. Perhaps the reason is that sounds #1 & #2 are one sound g.

Some of the sounds which Sibawayh called secondary letters (literally he called them “branches”فُرُوْعٌ  , while the primary letters are “origin” أَصْلٌ ) are apparently allophones of primary letters.

►II.20.B. THE POINTS OF ARTICULATION

The points of articulation (“the exits of the letters” مَخَاْرِجُ اَلْحُرُوْفِ ) are 16.

1-3. Three of them are in the throat (فَلِلْحَلْقِ مِنْهَا ثَلَاثَةٌ). “The furthest [in the throat]” (فَأَقْصَاهَا مَخْرَجًا) is the point of articulation of the hamza·t, hȃʔ, and ʔalif (i.e. the laryngeals). “In the middle of the throat” (مِنْ أَوْسَطِ الْحَلْقِ) is the point of articulation of ʕayn and ħȃʔ (i.e. the pharyngeals). “The nearest to the mouth” (أَدْنَاهَا مَخْرَجًا مِنْ الْفَمِ) is the point of articulation of ɣayn and xȃʔ.

4. The next point of articulation is between “the furthest [point] of the tongue and what lies above it of the high palate” (مِنْ أَقْصَى اَلْلِّسَاْنِ وَمَا فَوْقَهُ مِنْ الْحَنَكِ الْأَعْلَى). This is the point of articulation of qȃf.

5. Between “a little below from the point of qȃf on the tongue and what lies above it of the high palate” (مِنْ أَسْفَلِ مَوْضِعِ الْقَافِ مِنْ اَلْلِّسَاْنِ قَلِيْلًا وَمِمَّا يَلِيْه مِنْ الْحَنَكِ الْأَعْلَى) is the point of articulation of kȃf.

6. Next comes the point of articulation of ǵȋm, šȋn, and yȃʔ. This is located “between the middle of the tongue and the middle of the high palate” (مِنْ وَسَطِ اَلْلِّسَاْنِ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ وَسَطِ الْحَنَكِ الْأَعْلَىْ).

7. The point of articulation of ḍȃd is between “the beginning of the margin of the tongue and what lies next to it of the molars” (مِنْ أَوَّلِ حَافَّةِ اَلْلِّسَاْنِ وَمَا يَلِيهَا مِنْ الْأَضْرَاسِ).

Sibawayh makes it clear throughout his phonetic discussion that ḍȃd was a lateral consonant.

8. The point of articulation of nȗn is “between the margin of the tongue, from its nearest to the end of the tip of the tongue, and what lies next to it of the high palate and [the region] a little above the incisors”

مِنْ حَافَّةِ الْلِّسَاْنِ، مِنْ أَدْنَاهَا إِلَى مُنْتَهَى طَرَفِ اَلْلِّسَاْنِ، مَا بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ مَا يَلِيهَا مِنْ الْحَنَكِ الْأَعْلَى وَمَا فُوَيْقَ اَلْثَّنَايَا مَخْرَجُ الْنُّونِ.

9-10. The point of articulation of rȃʔ is the same as that of nȗn but it is “inserted a little bit in the dorsum of the tongue, because it is deviated towards the lȃm

وَمِنْ مَخْرَجِ الْنُّونِ، غَيْرَ أَنَّهُ أُدْخِلَ فِي ظَهْرِ الْلِّسَانِ قَلِيلًا لِاِنْحِرَافِهِ إِلَى الْلَّامِ، مَخْرَجُ الْرَّاءِ.

Based on Sibawayh’s description, nȗn, rȃʔ, and lȃm are alveolar consonants.

11. The point of articulation of ṭȃʔ, dȃl, and tȃʔ is “between the tip of the tongue and the origins of the incisors” (مِمَّا بَيْنَ طَرَفَ اَلْلِّسَاْنِ وَأُصُولِ اَلْثَّنَاْيَاْ).

12. The point of articulation of zȃy, sȋn, and ṣȃd is “between the tip of the tongue and the [region] a little above the incisors” (مِمَّا بَيْنَ طَرَفِ اَلْلِّسَاْنِ وفُوَيْقِ اَلْثَّنَاْيَاْ).

13. The point of articulation of ð̣ȃʔ, ðȃl, and θȃʔ is “between the tip of the tongue and the tips of the incisors” (مِمَّا بَيْنَ طَرَفِ اَلْلِّسَاْنِ وَأَطْرَافِ اَلْثَّنَاْيَاْ).

14. The point of articulation of fȃʔ is between “the internal face of the lower lip and the tips of the upper incisors” (مِنْ بَاطِنِ الْشَّفَةِ اَلْسُفْلَىْ وَأَطْرَافِ اَلْثَّنَاْيَاْ العُلَىْ).

15. The point of articulation of bȃʔ, mȋm, and wȃw is “between the lips” (بَيْنَ اَلْشَّفَتَيْنِ).

16. The point of articulation of the “light nȗn” is the nostrils (اَلْخَيَاشِيْمُ).

►II.20.C. MAᵈŽHŪR VS. MAHMŪS

§a. Sibawayh divided the Arabic letters into two categories, the maǵhȗruṋ مَجْهُوْرٌ “loud” and the mahmȗsuṋ مَهْمُوْسٌ “whispered.”

§b. The maǵhȗr letters are the hamza·t, ʔalif, ʕayn, ɣayn, qȃf, ǵȋm, yȃʔ, ḍȃd, lȃm, nȗn, rȃʔ, ṭȃʔ, dȃl, zȃy, ð̣ȃʔ, ðȃl, bȃʔ, mȋm, and wȃw.

فأما المجهورة فالهمزة والألف العين والغين والقاف والجيم والياء والضاد واللام والنون والراء والطاء والدال والزاي والظاء والذال والباء والميم والواو‏.‏ فذلك تسعة عشر حرفاً‏.

§c. The mahmȗs letters are the hȃʔ, ħȃʔ, xȃʔ, kȃf, šȋn, sȋn, tȃʔ, ṣȃd, θȃʔ, and fȃʔ.

وأما المهموسة فالهاء والحاء والخاء والكاف والشين والسين والتاء والصاد والثاء والفاء. فذلك عشرة أحرف.

§d. The definitions of the maǵhȗr and mahmȗs categories contain a somewhat cryptic word, ʔ·al-ʔ·iʕtimȃdu اَلْاِعْتِمَاْدُ . This literally means “being supported [in order to stand up],” and figuratively “relying on; basing oneself on.” In the definition of the maǵhȗr and mahmȗs categories by Sibawayh this word seems to mean “production [of sound].”

فَاَلْمَجْهُورَة‏ُ‏ حرف أشبع الاعتماد في موضعه ومنع النفس أن يجري معه حتى ينقضي الاعتماد عليه ويجري الصوت‏.‏ فهذه حال المجهورة في الحلق والفم، إلا أن النون والميم قد يعتمد لها في الفم والخياشيم فتصير فيهما غُنَّةٌ‏،‏ والدليل على ذلك أنك لو أمسكت بأنفك ثم تكلمت بهما لرأيت ذلك قد أَخَلَّ بهما‏. وأما المهموس فحرفٌ أضعف الاعتماد في موضعه حتى جرى النفس معه، وأنت تعرف ذلك إذا اعتبرتَ فَرَدَّدْتَ الحرفَ مع جريِ النفس‏ِ، ولو أردتَ ذلك في المجهورةِ لم تقدر عليه‏.‏

The definition of the maǵhȗr category seems to read, “a letter whose production in its place [of articulation] is full, and which prevents the breath from running with it until its production is done and the sound runs. This is how the maǵhȗr is [produced] in the throat and mouth, but the nȗn and mȋm may be partly produced in the mouth and partly in the nostrils, and so they acquire a nasal twang (غُنَّةٌ). The evidence for this is that if you hold your nose and speak them [the nȗn and mȋm], you will see that this disrupts them.”

The definition of the mahmȗs seems to read, “a letter whose production in its place [of articulation] is weakened, so that the breath runs with it. You [can] know this if you considered repeating the letter with the running of breath, which you cannot do with the maǵhȗr if you wanted to.”

The definitions of the maǵhȗr and mahmȗs do not make much sense, but it seems that these categories correspond to the voiced and voiceless categories of modern linguistics. It appears that Sibawayh was able to tell a voiced consonant from its voiceless counterpart by comparing the breath flow that accompanied each. The voiceless consonants in Semitic are aspirated, whereas their voiced counterparts are unaspirated, that is, the voiceless consonant are accompanied by more breath flow than their voiced counterparts (this has been true since at least 2000 BC). This difference is most clear when the sounds are said loudly, hence the name maǵhȗr “loud” for the voiced sounds.

►II.20.D. ŠADĪD VS. RAXW

§a. Another division of the letters is into šadȋduṋ شَدِيْدٌ “tough” and raxwuṋ رَخْوٌ “soft.” The former category means the plosives, the latter means the fricatives. Sibawayh was able to tell the difference by trying to “let the voice run in the letter” إِجْرَاْءُ اَلْصَّوْتِ فِيْ اَلْحَرْفِ . That is, he was able to say ssssss, ffffffff, xxxxxx, etc., but he was unable to say bbbbb, ttttttttt, kkkkkk, etc. By noting this difference he classified the letters into plosives and fricatives.

§b. The plosives according to Sibawayh are the hamza·t, qȃf, kȃf, ǵȋm, ṭȃʔ, tȃʔ, dȃl, and bȃʔ.

وَمِنْ الْحُرُوفِ الْشَّدِيدُ، وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَمْنَعُ الصَّوْتَ أَنْ يَجْرِيَ فِيهِ، وَهُوَ الْهَمْزَةُ والْقَافُ وَالكَافُ وْالْجِيمُ وَالْطَّاءُ وْالْتَّاء وَالْدَّالُ وَالْبَاءُ. وَذَلِكَ أَنَّكَ لَوْ قُلْتَ “أَلْحَجْ” ثُمَّ مَدَدْتَ صَوْتَكَ لَمْ يَجْرِ ذَلِكَ.

§c. The fricatives are the hȃʔ, ħȃʔ, ɣayn, xȃʔ, šȋn, ṣȃd, ḍȃd, zȃy, sȋn, ð̣ȃʔ, θȃʔ, ðȃl, and fȃʔ.

وَمِنْهَا الْرَّخْوَةُ، وَهِيَ‏ الهاء والحاء والغين والخاء والشين والصاد والضاد والزاي والسين والظاء والثاء والذال والفاء‏.‏ وَذَلِكَ إِذَا قُلْتَ “الطسْ” وَ”انقضْ” وَأَشْبَاهَ ذَلِكَ أَجْرَيْتَ فِيهِ الْصَّوْتَ إِنْ شِئْتَ‏.‏

The ʕayn according to Sibawayh is “between a fricative and a plosive” (وَأَمَّا الْعَيْنُ فَبَيْنَ الْرَّخْوَةِ وَالْشَّدِيدَةِ).

►II.20.E. MUNĦARIF

§a. A lateral consonant is called by Sibawayh munħarifuṋ مُنْحَرِفٌ “deviant.” He assigns only lȃm to this category (but he says repeatedly that the point of articulation of ḍȃd is “extended and connected to that of lȃm” (لِأَنَّ الْضَّادَ اَسْتَطَالَتْ لِرَخَاوَتِهَا حَتَّى اِتَّصَلَتْ بِمَخْرَجِ الْلَّامِ‏‏).

§b. The definition of the munħarif category is based on the fact that it is possible to say lllllll as with the fricatives, but the tip of the tongue impedes the central air flow as with the plosives. So the sound does not come out from the center but from the sides.

ومنها المنحرف وهو حرفٌ شديد جرى فيه الصوت لانحراف اللسان مع الصوت ولم يعترض على الصوت كاعتراض الحروف الشديدة وهو اللام‏.‏ وإن شئت مددت فيها الصوت‏.‏ وليس كالرخوة لأن طرف اللسان لا يتجافى عن موضعه‏.‏ وليس يخرج الصوت من موضع اللام ولكن من ناحيتي مستدق اللسان فويق ذلك‏.‏

►II.20.F. NASALS

The category of nasal consonants includes nȗn and mȋm. These are partially let out from the nose.

ومنها حرفٌ شديد يجري معه الصوت (لأن ذلك الصوت غنةٌ) من الأنف، فإنما تخرجه من أنفك، واللسان لازم لموضع الحرف، لأنك لو أمسكت بأنفك لم يجر معه الصوت‏.‏ وهو النون، وكذلك الميم‏.

►II.20.G. MUKARRAR

The rȃʔ is called mukarraruṋ مُكَرَّرٌ “repeated,” because its sound is repeated (i.e. periodic = trilled) and “deviated towards the [point of articulation of] lȃm.”

ومنها المكرر وهو حرفٌ شديد يجري فيه الصوت لتكريره وانحرافه إلى اللام فتجافى للصوت كالرخوة ولو لم يكرر لم يجر الصوت فيه‏.‏ وهو الراء‏.

►II.20.H. LAYYIN

The wȃw and yȃʔ are called layyinuṋ لَيِّنٌ “flexible,” because “their points of articulation widen to accommodate air flowing with the sound more than do points of articulations of other letters.”

ومنها اللينة وهي الواو والياء لأن مخرجهما يتسع لهواء الصوت أشد من اتساع غيرهما كقولك‏:‏ وأىٌ والواو. وإن شئت أجريت الصوت ومددت‏.‏

►II.20.I. HĀWĪ

The [vowel-denoting] ʔalif is called hȃwiṋ هَاْوٍ “ventilated, hollow,” because its point of articulation is even wider than that of wȃw and yȃʔ.

ومنها الهاوي وهو حرفٌ اتسع لهواء الصوت مخرجه أشد من اتساع مخرج الياء والواو، لأنك قد تضم شفتيك في الواو وترفع في الياء لسانك قبل الحنك. وهي الألف‏.

►II.20.J. MUṬBAQ VS. MUNFATIĦ

§a. Sibawayh divided the Arabic letters into muṭbaquṋ مُطْبَقٌ “closed” and munfatiħuṋ مُنْفَتِحٌ “open.” This division corresponds to the modern distinction between the “emphatic” and “non-emphatic” consonants.

§b. The muṭbaq category includes only the four letters ṣȃd, ḍȃd, ṭȃʔ, and ð̣ȃʔ. The munfatiħ category includes all the other letters.

ومنها المطبقة والمنفتحة‏.‏ فأما المطبقة فالصاد والضاد والطاء والظاء‏.‏ والمنفتحة‏ كل ما سوى ذلك من الحروف، لأنك لا تطبق لشيء منهن لسانك ترفعه إلى الحنك الأعلى‏.‏

§c. Each of the muṭbaq letters has two points of articulation (لَهَا مَوْضِعَانِ مِنْ الْلِّسَانِ), the first is the primary point of articulation which was described before, and the second is a secondary point of articulation located between the back of the tongue and the “high palate.”

وهذه الحروف الأربعة إذا وضعت لسانك في مواضعهن انطبق لسانك من مواضعهن إلى ما حاذى الحنك الأعلى من اللسان ترفعه إلى الحنك، فإذا وضعت لسانك فالصوت محصورٌ فيما بين اللسان والحنك إلى موضع الحروف‏.‏

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