Katılma Tarihi: 31 mart 2007
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4.1 THE LANGUAGE OF THE ARABS
When the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet, it described itself as being ' arabiyyun 'Arabic' and mubinun 'clear'. The two attributes are intimately connected, as for instance in Q 43/2 -3 'By the clear Book: We have made it an Arabic recitation in order that you may understand' ( wal-kitabi l-mubini: 'inna ga'alnahu qur'anan 'arabiyyan la'allakum ta'qiluna ). All later generations have believed that its text was the best example of the 'Arabiyya, the language of the Arabs; in fact, that its style and language could not be imitated because of its clarity and correctness ( 'i'gaz al-Quran ). The Qur'an does not use the word 'Arab, only the adjective 'arabiyyun . The plural noun 'A'rab indicates the Bedouin tribes who lived in the desert and resisted the message of the Prophet, as for instance in Q 9/97 al-'A'rabu 'ashaddu kufran wanifaqan 'the Bedouin are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy'. In combination with the word lisan, the adjective 'arabiyyun indicates a supratribal unity, a language that served as the binding factor for all those who lived in the Arabian peninsula, as opposed to the 'Agam, the non-Arabs who lived outside it and spoke different languages. In pre-Islamic poetry, the term 'Arab has this same sense of Arabs as an ethno-cultural group.
In early Islamic terminology, a distinction was made between the 'Arab, the sedentary Arabs in cities such as Mecca and Medina, and the 'A'rab 'Bedouin'. The latter term carried a negative connotation because of its use in the Qur'an . After the period of the conquests, however, the sedentary population began to regard the freeroaming Bedouin, whose language preserved the purity of pre-Islamic times, as the ideal type of Arab, and the term kalam al-'Arab 'language of the Arabs' came to denote the pure, unaffected language of the Bedouin.
It would seem, therefore, that in pre-Islamic nomenclature there was a special term for the nomadic tribes, 'A'rab, whereas the term 'Arab indicated all inhabitants of the peninsula, nomads and sedentary population alike. The matter is complicated by another distinction made in the indigenous historiographical tradition. It was thought that the peninsula had been inhabited from time immemorial by the 'lost Arabs' ( al-'Arab al-ba'ida ), i.e. those tribes that are mentioned in the Qur'an as having been punished for their disbelief, for instance the tribes of 'Ad, Tamud and Gurhum . The later Arabs all descended from two ancestors, Qahtan and 'Adnan. Qahtan was related to the 'lost Arabs'; his descendants were identified as the Southern Arabs and they were regarded as the 'real Arabs' ( al-'Arab al-'ariba ). The descendants of 'Adnan were the Northern Arabs, who were said to have been arabised at a later period ( al-'Arab al-muta'arriba or al-musta 'riba ). In the post-Islamic tradition, the descent of the Northern Arabs was traced back through their ancestor 'Adnan to 'Ismail, the son of Abraham. Among the tribes descending from 'Adnan were Hudayl, Tamim, Qays, Rabi'a, and the Quraysh of Mecca. Among the offspring of Qahtan were the inhabitants of the South Arabian states, who were said to have descended from Himyar, one of Qahtan's descendants. Some of the tribes in the northern part of the peninsula were of southern provenance, for instance the 'Aws and Hazrag of Medina and the tribe Tayyi'.
It is difficult to say to what degree this distinction between Southern and Northern Arabs goes back to any real memory of a difference between two groups, but it is clear that in the perception of the Prophet's contemporaries they were distinct groups, a distinction that continued to be felt strongly in Islamic times: even as far as Islamic Spain, enmity between representatives of the two groups under the names of Qays for the Northern and Kalb for the Southern group persisted. Linguistically speaking, however, the language of poets from both groups was accepted by the grammarians, and the poems of both groups were used indiscriminately as linguistic primary sources.
A special case is that of the so-called Himyaritic language, about which we have some information from al-Hamdani's (d. 334/946) description of the Arabian peninsula ( Gazira 134-6) . Since for the Arabs Himyar represented all things South Arabian, one might assume that the language called Himyaritic was the continuation of the Old South Arabian language, but in actual fact it is not. From the features mentioned by al-Hamdani and others e.g. the verbal ending k- for the first and the second person, as in South Arabian, e.g. waladku 'I bore', ra'ayku 'I saw', and the article am- Rabin (1951:42-53) speculates that Himyaritic was the name that the Arabs gave to the language of those 'rb who are mentioned in the Old South Arabian sources and who had settled in this region. They were probably immigrants from the north, who spoke a North Arabic dialect, but whose speech was heavily influenced by the South Arabian language (cf. Chapter 3, p. 23). As their speech was comprehensible to a speaker of Arabic, Himyaritic cannot be identical with any of the South Arabian languages, which are characterised by al-Hamdani as being ghutm 'incomprehensible'. It is possible that this language is also reflected in the inscriptions that are sometimes called 'pseudo-Sabaean' (cf. Chapter 3, p. 31). Some of the features mentioned as characteristic of the Himyaritic language still survive in the modern Yemenite dialects (cf. below, p. 150).
Apart from the reports about the Himyarites, the dialects of all tribes were subsumed under the label kalam al-'Arab, but the distinctions mentioned above created a difficulty for the later tradition. On the one hand, the idea of one language of the Arabs implies a basic linguistic unity in the peninsula. Moreover, the consensus of the Muslims has always been that the language of the Qur'an was the language of the Prophet and his compatriots, in other words that their everyday speech was identical with the language of the Holy Book, which was the same as the language of the pre-Islamic poems. On the other hand, the grammarians set up a hierarchy of the speech of the various tribes. They held on to the tradition of the sons of Qahtan being the pure Arabs but at the same time believed that the language of the Higaz, the region of Mecca, was superior to all other varieties. One way of reconciling both views was to assert that the Quraysh tribe of Mecca had taken over from all other dialects what was best in them. Thus, the hierarchy of Arabic dialects culminated in the language of the Higaz, the region where the Prophet was born, and the language of the Quraysh, the tribe in which he was born.
This view implies that there were linguistic differences between the tribes, otherwise no hierarchy would be possible. Indeed, although the general opinion was that in the Gahiliyya Arabic ( al-'Arabiyya ) was the language of all Arabs alike, the grammatical literature records regional differences between the tribes, the so- called lughat . Our information about the linguistic situation in the Gahiliyya is largely derived from the Arabic literature on the dialectal differences in pre-Islamic Arabia. Some of these materials were collected in monographs, for instance on the lughat in the Qur'an, while other data are found in the lexica. For the grammarians, the dialectal variants, as long as they were attested in the Qur'an or in poetry, or elicited from a trustworthy Bedouin informant, had to be accepted as correct Arabic. This did not mean, however, that anybody else was entitled to speak in this way, or that such dialectal variants could be used as productive items in the language.
It is difficult to evaluate the testimonies about the geographical distribution of the dialectal differences. Their validity is hard to assess because the grammarians tried to make them fit their scheme. The language of the Southern Arabs - apart from the reports about Himyaritic (see above, p. 38) - was usually indicated as lugha 'ahl al-Yaman ; one of its best-known features was the use of the definite article 'am-, still extant in modern Yemenite dialects. The data of the Northern Arabs tended to be systematised into two larger regions, roughly covering the western and the eastern parts of the peninsula: the language of the Higaz, often synonymous with that of the Banu Quraysh, or with the language of Mecca and Medina, on the one hand, and the language of the Tamim, on the other. To a certain extent, this division coincides with that between sedentary Arabs in the pre-Islamic cities and Bedouin tribes in the desert regions.
It seems that the differences between Classical Arabic as we know it and Eastern Arabic were smaller than those existing between Classical Arabic and the language of the Higaz. This may partly explain the relative scarcity of data on Eastern Arabic, since the grammarians tended to concentrate on what deviated from the later norm of Classical Arabic, and in this respect the Eastern Arabic variety had much less to offer than the Higazi variety. Since the norm of Classical Arabic was to a large degree derived from the language of the Qur'an and the pre-Islamic poems, the conclusion would seem to be that this language was more related to Eastern than to Western Arabic. In some respects, the language of the Higaz differed from the language that we find in the Qur'an and in poetry, and this has led some scholars to assume that the origin of the Classical language, the language of pre-Islamic poetry, lay in the Central or Eastern part of the peninsula, possibly in the Nagd, where Western and Eastern dialects met. In this area, the kingdom of Kinda and the confederation of the Qays had created larger cultural and political entities, in which there was a fertile environment for the emergence and development of poetry. From here, the poetic language is assumed to have spread to other centres, in the first place to the court of al-Hira, the buffer state in the north between the Bedouin tribes and the Persian empire. This poetic language must then also have spread to the commercial centres in the peninsula, such as Mecca and Medina. Because of its prestigious and supra-tribal character, it is not surprising that this was the language in which the Qur'an was revealed in Mecca. The text of the Qur'an, in particular its orthography, bears traces of an adaptation to the local pronunciation of the poetic language in the Higaz. The most obvious adaptation is that of the spelling of the hamza, the glottal stop. All sources agree that the Eastern dialects knew a glottal stop, which was absent in the Western dialects, including the dialect of Mecca. In the text of the Qur'an as we have it, the hamza is always spelled with a small sign resembling an 'ayn, which is usually carried by one of the semiconsonants w, y or 'alif . The semiconsonants probably represent the pronunciation of the word in the dialect of Mecca (cf. below).
This example shows that the realisation of Arabic across the peninsula varied, and that the local realisation in Mecca differed from the language of the Qur'an as we have it. This led the German scholar Karl Vollers to go one step further in his theory about the relationship between the text of the Qur'an and the colloquial speech of Mecca. In his book Volkssprache und Schriftsprache im alten Arabien ('Vernacular and written language in Ancient Arabia', 1906), Vollers claimed that under the surface of the official text of the Qur'an there were traces of a different language, which were preserved in the literature on the variant readings of the text. He called this underlying language Volkssprache and identified it with the colloquial language of the Prophet and the Meccans. In his view, this colloquial language was the precursor of the modern Arabic dialects. The official text of the Qur'an, however, was revealed in a language that was identical with the poetic language of the Nagd, called by Vollers Schriftsprache . The differences between the two 'languages' included the absence of the glottal stop in Meccan Arabic, as well as the elision of the indefinite ending n (nunation) and the vocalic endings. Vollers concluded that there had been an original text of the revelation in the colloquial language of the Prophet; during the period of the conquests, this text was transformed into the language of poetry. The motive behind this transformation was, he asserted, the wish to raise the language of the Qur'an to the level of that of the poems. Those who were responsible for the alleged translation were particularly strict in the matter of the hamza and the case endings, whereas they allowed some of the other features, sometimes in the official text, and more often in the variants of the text.
It is certainly true, as Vollers says, that the correct declension of the Qur'an was a topos in early Islamic literature. But in itself the attention that was given to this phenomenon in post-Islamic times does not tell us anything about the linguistic situation in the pre-Islamic period. It can easily be explained by later linguistic developments in the period of the conquests: many people in the conquered territories did not know Arabic very well and made mistakes when reciting the Qur'an . Therefore, those who cared about the correct transmission of the text were on their guard against mistakes in the use of declensional endings, and instructed people in the correct grammatical rules.
In its extreme form, Vollers' theory has been abandoned nowadays and the concomitant presupposition of a large-scale conspiracy in early Islam concerning the linguistic transformation of the text is no longer held by anyone. The delivery of a revelational document in a 'vulgar' variety of the language is hardly likely in itself. The existence of a poetic register of the language is undisputed, and it is not very likely that for the revelation anything but this prestigious variety of the language would have been chosen. The traces of a transition from Eastern to Western Arabic can also be explained by the activities of the early copyists who were familiar with the Meccan way of speaking and had to devise a way to record the Eastern features such as the glottal stop in an orthographic system that had been invented for the Western way of speaking.
In spite of this rejection of the 'translation theory', the main point of Vollers' theory, the distinction between a Volkssprache and a Schriftsprache, has remained the leading principle for almost all subsequent attempts by Western Arabists to explain the development of the Arabic language. In modern terms, we could say that the central thought of these theories is that in [the] pre-Islamic [period] there was already diglossia, i.e. a linguistic situation in which the domains of speech are distributed between two varieties of the language (cf. below, Chapter 12). In that case, the division would be approximately the same as it is nowadays in the Arabic-speaking world: a high variety as literary language and a low variety as colloquial language. In theories that take this view, the literary language is usually called 'poetic koine' (cf. below, p. 46).
In itself, it is not unreasonable to assume that there was an essential difference between poetic or literary language and colloquial language. After all, such a situation is found in other oral cultures as well. The question, however, is whether or not such a situation obtained in pre-Islamic Mecca. Contrary to the Arab sources, the theory of a 'literary' language assumes that the case endings ( 'i'rab ) were absent in Bedouin everyday speech. In order to acquire a better idea of the Bedouin language, we shall first look at the data from the literature on the dialectal variants ( lugat ) of the Arab tribes. Then we shall discuss reports about the language of the Bedouin after the conquests.
4.2 THE PRE-ISLAMIC DIALECTS
Since our data are fragmentary, it is difficult to assess their value, let alone set up a dialect map of the pre-Islamic peninsula (see Map 4.1 for the distribution of our information on the pre-Islamic dialects). The following eight phonological features are frequently mentioned as major differences between the two groups of pre- Islamic dialects.
First, in the Eastern dialects, final consonant clusters did not contain a vowel, whereas in the Western dialects they had an anaptyctic vowel, e.g. (West/East) husun/husn 'beauty', fahid/fihd 'thigh', kalima/kilma 'word', 'unuq/'unq 'neck'. This difference is probably connected with a difference in stress: it may be surmised that the Eastern dialects had a strong expiratory stress, hence the absence of a vowel. It is difficult to say which of the two variants is original; in Classical Arabic sometimes the one, sometimes the other, sometimes both variants have survived.
Second, the Eastern dialects must have known some form of vowel harmony or assimilation, e.g. (West/East) ba'ir/bi'ir 'camel', minhum/minhim 'from them'. This feature, too, may be connected with the strong expiratory stress of the Eastern dialects, which encourages assimilation. The Classical language retained the assimilation in those cases where the suffix was preceded by an i, e.g. fihim 'in them' (where the Higaz had fihum without assimilation). Third, the long vowel a underwent 'imala 'inclination', i.e. a fronted pronunciation of the vowel towards [e], in the Eastern dialects, whereas the Western dialects were characterised by what the grammarians call tafhim . Usually, this term indicates the centralised pronunciation of a vowel after a velarised consonant, but here it probably indicates the pronunciation as a 'pure' a, or perhaps in some cases even as o, namely in those words which are indicated in Qur'anic spelling with a waw, e.g. salat, zakat, hayat, possibly also in other words, e.g. salam . Sometimes we find in Nabataean inscriptions a long a spelled with w, which may reflect an Aramaic pronunciation with o (cf. above, p. 30).
Fourth, the Western dialects may have known a phoneme e : according to the grammarians verbs such as hafa 'to fear', sara 'to become' were pronounced with 'imala . But since the 'imala was otherwise unknown in the Higaz and moreover never occurs in the neighbourhood of a guttural, the grammarians' remark may refer to the existence of an independent phoneme e . It is unlikely that this e continues a Proto-Semitic e ; perhaps it is an indication for a phonetic development of ay- instead (cf. also above, on Ṩafa'itic diphthongs, Chapter 3,p. 27).
Fifth, the passive of the so-called hollow verbs with a medial w was formed differently in the East ( qula ) and the West ( qila ). Possibly, both forms are a development from an original /y/, which has disappeared from the phonemic inventory of all Arabic dialects but left some traces; the Classical passive of these verbs is qila .
Sixth, the qaf was probably voiceless in the East, voiced in the West; the latter pronunciation became standard practice in early recitation manuals. We have seen above (Chapter 2, p. 21) that the Arabic phoneme q possibly evolved from a phoneme *k, which was neutral with regard to voicing; the Eastern and the Western dialects developed this phoneme in different ways. The Modern Standard Arabic pronunciation of /q/ is voiceless, but in the modern Bedouin dialects it is still realised as a voiced /g/ (cf. below, p. 143).
Seventh, the most remarkable feature of the Higazi dialect has already been mentioned above: the loss of the glottal stop ( hamza ), which was retained in the Eastern dialects (cf. Map 4.2 for the distribution of this feature). In the Western dialects, the loss of the hamza was compensated sometimes by the lengthening of a preceding vowel (e.g. bi'r 'well' [becomes] bir, ra's 'head' [becomes] ras, lu'lu 'pearls' [becomes] lulu), or it resulted in contraction of vowels ( sa'ala 'to ask' sala ) or a change into a corresponding glide (e.g. sa'irun 'walking [becomes] sayirun ; yaqra'u 'he reads [becomes] yaqrawu ). Since Higazi orthography did not have a glottal stop, the original spelling represented the Higazi pronunciation of the words. The sign for hamza is a later addition (cf. below, p. 56).
Eighth, in the Higazi dialect, the prefix of the imperfect contained the vowel a- ; all other dialects formed this prefix with i-, the so-called taltala, one of the pre-Islamic features that have been preserved in the contemporary dialects, which usually have i- . Both vowels represent a generalisation, since more archaic forms of Semitic have a distribution of the prefix-vowels in which i is used for the third person singular masculine and the first person plural, and a for the first person singular, the second person, and the third person singular feminine (cf. Hetzron 1976) . In this case, Classical Arabic has 'followed' the Western pattern, since all prefixes in Classical Arabic have a- . ).
The preceding dialectal differences concerned phonetic or phonological differences between the dialects. There are some testimonies that refer to differences at a higher level of linguistic structure. For instance, there may be some evidence for the existence of an undeclined dual in Higazi Arabic; the most famous example is the Qur'anic verse 20/63 'inna hadani la-sahirani 'these two are sorcerers', in which the particle 'inna seems to be constructed with a nominative instead of the Classical accusative. This verse caused the commentators a lot of trouble, and we know that in the earliest period of Arabic grammar some of them even suggested regarding this form as a copyists' error, which should be corrected, either by reading the accusative in the following noun, or by changing the particle to 'in (cf. below, 'in almuhaffafa ).
The particles 'in 'indeed' and 'an 'that' as abbreviated forms of 'inna and 'anna (the so-called 'in, 'an muhaffafa ) with the following noun in the nominative seem to have been more current in the Higazthan in the East. Some examples occur in the Qur'an, e.g. Q 36/32 wa-'in kullun la-ma gami' un ladayna muhdaruna 'verily, all will be brought together before Us'. These forms may even be followed by an accusative, e.g. Q 11/111 wa-'in kullan la-ma yuwaffiyannahum rabbuka 'a'malahum 'verily, thy Lord will repay everyone their deeds'. Not surprisingly, the grammarians tried to correct such forms, either by changing the case ending of the following word, or by reading the full form 'inna .
A well-known difference between Higazand Tamim is the construction of ma as a nominal negator. According to the grammarians, ma could be construed in the same way as the verb laysa 'to be not', with an accusative in the predicate, e.g. ma huwa kabiran 'he is not big'. This use of the so-called ma higaziyya did not occur in the Eastern dialects.
. There are some indications that the negation 'in, which occurs not infrequently in the Qur'an, e.g. Q 11/51 'in 'agriya 'illa 'ala lladi fatarani 'my reward is not due except from Him who created me', is characteristic of Higazi speech.
In some dialects, a relative di or du (the so-called du ta'iyya, i.e. of the tribe Tayyi') is attested; this relative does not occur in the Qur'an, but it occurs in the an-Namara inscription (cf. above, p. 31), and it is found in some pre-Islamic poems, e.g. in a line quoted in the Hamasa: li-hada l-mar'i du ga'a sa'iyan 'to this man who has come to levy tax' (cf. Reckendorf 1921: 431).
Apart from the possible, but unlikely, occurrence of an undeclined dual in one verse in the Qur'an these points concern relatively minor differences. There is, however, one point that touches upon the core of Arabic syntax, the construction of verbal and nominal sentences. In Classical Arabic, when the verb precedes the agent in the so-called verbal sentence (cf. below, Chapter 6, p. 8o), there is no agreement in number between verb and agent. According to the grammarians, some dialects in the Gahiliyya did allow agreement in this case. Some of the examples they give for this phenomenon ― usually called the 'akaluni l-baraghit 'the fleas have bitten me' syndrome stem from Higazi poets, and there are no Eastern examples. This is the only example of a syntactic feature ascribed to a pre-Islamic dialect that is also found in the modern dialects of Arabic, which do not exhibit the difference between verbal and nominal sentences in the Classical sense of the term and always have agreement between verb and agent. In the modern dialects, the canonical word order is subject-verb-object rather than verb-subject-object as in the Classical language. It is, therefore, not clear whether this feature in Higazi Arabic should be interpreted as the first step towards a later development. In the text of the Qur'an as we have it, this feature does not occur.
The conclusion is that in most cases the language of the Qur'an reflects the Eastern usage whenever differences between Eastern and Western Arabic existed. As regards the pronunciation of the glottal stop in the early Islamic period, it was felt to be more prestigious and more fitting for the recitation of the Holy Book, although there seems to have been considerable opposition on the part of the early reciters to such a pronunciation, which they branded as affected. It is equally obvious, however, from the list of differences that the dialects were not very far apart from each other. Most of the features mentioned above concern phonetic or phonological phenomena. Apart from the 'akaluni l-baraghit syndrome, the sources mention a few syntactic differences, which we have not listed here, since their status is hard to determine. Some of these almost certainly represent later theorising on the part of the grammarians, for instance, in the case of the various exceptive constructions with 'illa, for which one dialect is said to have used the nominative and the other the accusative. There is one thing that transpires from such syntactic lughat : if there is any reality to them, both dialect groups must have used case endings. The evidence for an undeclined dual mentioned above is too meagre to warrant any other conclusion. In view of the central role of declension in the various theories about the linguistic situation in the pre-Islamic period, this absence of evidence for declensionless speech in the grammatical literature is crucial for our understanding of the historical development of Arabic.
4.3 THEORIES ABOUT THE LANGUAGE OF THE GAHILIYYA
For the Arabs, the dialects of all tribes belonged to what was basically one language. In spite of the various lughat in the literature, they do not accept a major dichotomy between any 'literary' language and everyday speech. Western scholarship has always been sceptical of this conception of the development of Arabic. Although Vollers' theory with its distinction between a Volkssprache and a Schriftsprache in pre-Islamic Arabia has been abandoned, most contemporary Arabists still disagree with the Arabs' view on the fundamental unity of the three varieties of everyday speech, the language of the Qur'an and the language of the poetry. In line with Vollers' argumentation, most linguists believe that in the Gahiliyya colloquial and 'literary' language already diverged. The colloquial varieties of the tribes are usually called in Western publications 'pre-Islamic dialects'; the language of the Qur'an and the poetry is often designated 'poetico-Qur'anic koine' or 'poetic koine' (in German publications Dichter-sprache ).
The theory of the poetic koine emphasises the role of the poets, shu'ara' . According to Zwettler (1978: 109), their name, which means 'those who have knowledge, who are aware', indicates that they were seen as the guardians of an arcane form of the language, and that they were the only ones who were still able to handle the complicated declensional endings. In this view, the case system was beyond the reach of the ordinary speakers and could only be acquired by professional poets and their transmitters ( ruwat ) after a long training.
This view of the linguistic situation before Islam ties in with widely-accepted ideas about the emergence of the new type of Arabic in the period of the Islamic conquests. Most linguists believe that the changes that took place in the transition from Old Arabic to New Arabic, among them the disappearance of the declensional endings, were the continuation of a process that had already begun in the pre-Islamic dialects. Since our information on these dialects is limited, we have to turn to other evidence in order to find out whether the later changes can be traced back to pre-Islamic times; in particular, whether the Bedouin used declensional endings in their colloquial speech.
One source of additional evidence are the pre-Islamic inscriptions. Yet, we have seen above (Chapter 3) that in the pre-Islamic inscriptions no conclusive evidence can be found for or against the existence of declensional endings. In the inscriptions, no declensional endings are used, either because the language which they represent did not have such endings, or because this language distinguished between contextual forms with endings and pausal forms without endings, of which only the latter were used in writing. There is some evidence that the variety of Arabic that is reflected in the Nabataean inscriptions retained fossilised endings in some words. Theophoric compound names very often end in y ( 'bd'lhy ), and the element 'abu and ibnu in compound names is almost always spelled with w in all syntactic contexts. The usual conclusion is that in this variety of Arabic the declensional endings had been lost before the first century BCE. On the other hand, we should bear in mind that most of the inscriptions stem from a border area where Arabs had been in contact with other peoples for centuries; it may well be possible that the language reflected in these inscriptions underwent changes that were similar to those that affected the language of all Arabs after the conquests, in particular the loss of the case endings. Since the tribes in the North Arabian desert were in touch with an Aramaic-speaking sedentary population, a type of New Arabic may have become current in the small trade settlements of the North Arabian/Syrian desert long before Islam. This may be the type of Arabic that is called by later Arabic sources nabati .
A second possibility is to turn to the orthography of the Qur'anic text. The language of the Qur'an has an operational declensional system, for example in the use of the masculine sound plural endings una/-ina correlating with the syntactic function of the word, and in the use of the moods of the verb (indicative vs subjunctive/jussive). But the question still remains whether this state of affairs reflects the structure of the language of the Higaz. As we have seen above, the orthography of the Qur'an reflects the adaptation of the Higazi dialect to a different phonological system, for instance in the spelling of the hamza . For the case endings, there is no such evidence. The only thing that can be said with any certainty is that the Qur'anic orthography continues the orthographic conventions of the Aramaic/Nabataean script, which were also used in the pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions. This is clear in the entire system of the rendering of consonants, but it also applies to the representation of endings. The most important principle is that in the consonantal skeleton text the word is always recorded in its isolated (pausal) form. This explains why the nunation is never written, except in the case of the accusative an which sounded in pause a and was accordingly spelled with 'alif . The original pausal forms of the nunated endings un, -in, -an were probably u, -i, -a, as we have seen in the inscriptions and in the representation of Arabic names in the Nabataean inscriptions. The same principle also applies to the orthography of the singular feminine noun, with at or ah, where the variation in spelling in the Qur'an ― sometimes with t and sometimes with h ― reflects a change in the pausal ending of the feminine words that was already operative in the earlier period. In the later period, when vocalisation had been introduced in order to record both contextual and pausal endings, the pausal ah of the feminine noun was combined with the pronunciation t- of the contextual forms in the orthographic device of the ta' marbuta, a letter h with the two dots of the letter t .
Another aspect of the Qur'anic text mentioned in the discussion about the case endings is that of the rhyming conventions. In pre-Islamic poetry, a system prevails in which short final vowels u, -i, -a are pronounced long and count as part of the rhyme. But in the Qur'an and sometimes in poetry, there is another system of rhyming, in which the final short vowels are dropped and only the rhyming consonant counts. According to Birkeland (1940), this is a new development, reflecting a tendency to drop the declensional endings. The only ending that was spared apocopation is the pausal ending an, pronounced a . In the view of Birkeland and others, this ending for a long time resisted elision, not because it was a case ending, but because it had a special status (e.g. as an adverbial ending). In some modern Central Arabian dialects, vestiges of this tanwin in the accusative still exist (cf. below, p. 149), and it must have existed in the Higazi dialect, too, because the orthography of the Qur'anic text consistently notes the final ending an with an 'alif while ignoring the other nunated endings un/-in . The problem with the rhyming patterns, however, is that it is not clear to what degree pausal phenomena can be used as evidence for the disappearance of case endings. After all, nobody denies that in context both poetry and the Qur'an use case endings as well as modal endings consistently.
The conclusion from pre-Islamic and Qur'anic orthographical practice is that neither can give a definitive answer to the question about the presence or absence of case endings. This means that the question of whether the Higazi dialect belonged to the Old Arabic or to the New Arabic type cannot be resolved on this basis. Most Western scholars nevertheless continue to believe that the colloquial language of the Gahiliyya contrasted with the so-called 'poetic koine' ( Dichtersprache ). In this view, the process of change which the Arabic language underwent in the period of the conquests was so radical that some of the changes must have been latently present in the pre-Islamic period. One typical argument for this view points out that the functional load of the declensional endings in Classical Arabic was already low, so that these endings could disappear without the risk of ambiguity. This is the view advanced by Corriente (1971b) in a discussion with Blau, in which Corriente maintains that Old Arabic did not have the synthetic character often attributed to it. He concedes that the daily speech of the Bedouin, perhaps even that of some city-dwellers, contained declensional endings, but points out that this was of little importance since the functional yield was almost zero. In this view, the functional yield of the declensional endings is determined by their indispensability. In other words, if it can be shown that in many cases the declensional endings can be omitted without the sentence losing its meaning, this demonstrates that declension is just an 'idle tool' (Corriente 1971b: 39) and that the morphs expressing the declension are redundant.
In his response to this criticism of the traditionally-accepted synthetic character of Old Arabic, Blau (1972-3) states that redundancy is a normal phenomenon in any language. The shift from synthetic to analytic devices in the language involves the introduction of a whole new set of morphs, for instance, the introduction of a genitive exponent in New Arabic to denote a possessive relationship between words (cf. below, p. 107). There is no indication at all in any Old Arabic text that such a device was used. The use of the synthetic genitive in Old Arabic in the construct state is, of course, highly redundant because of the fact that the head noun of the construction loses its article, thereby marking the construction as a possessive one and rendering the genitive ending of the second member dispensable. Yet in Old Arabic this did not lead to the use of an analytic possessive device as in the modern dialects. Something else must, therefore, have happened in the shift from Old to New Arabic, and this new development had nothing to do with the functional yield of the declensional endings, although their redundance may have facilitated their disappearance. It is sometimes thought that synthetic declensional endings are introduced in order to enable the speakers to utilise a free word order. But usually free word order is only a stylistic phenomenon. It is true that in Old Arabic some things were possible that would lead to ambiguity in New Arabic, for instance the fronting of a direct object, or the right dislocation of a cosubject, as in the Qur'anic verse Q 9/3 'inna llaha bari'un min almushrikina wa-rasuluhu (see below, p. 50). But this flexibility in word order is a consequence of the presence of declensional endings rather than its cause.
A similar reasoning ascribes the loss of the declensional endings to a phonetic phenomenon: since there was a tendency to elide word-final short vowels, so the argument goes, the declensional endings were dropped, at least in the singular. In this line of reasoning, the loss of the plural endings is then explained as a case of analogy. But a tendency to drop word-final short vowels, if it really existed, is part of an allegro style of discourse and belongs to the normal range of stylistic registers of a language. In a normal process of language acquisition, children learn the full range of styles and get acquainted with both the short and the long forms. By itself, a tendency to drop final vowels in fluent speech can never lead to their disappearance as case markers. Only when there is a break in the normal transmission process may we expect to find any correlation between the coexistence of various stylistic registers and a change in the structure of the language. Discourse phenomena such as the slurring or dropping of unstressed vowels may at best reinforce the development of innovations that find their origin somewhere else.
From another angle, the phonetic explanation has been rejected because of the relative chronology. According to Diem (1991), in the modern Arabic dialects, forms with the pronominal suffix such as bint-ak, bint-ik 'your [masculine/feminine] daughter' may be explained as cases of vowel harmony from older *bint-a-ka, *bint-i-ki . The vowel between noun and suffix is a generalised case ending which was selected on the basis of correspondence with the final vowel of the suffix. Therefore, the case endings must already have become inoperative at a time when the short end vowels were still pronounced, otherwise a form such as bint-ak could not have arisen. Besides, the survival of fossilised case endings in some Bedouin dialects (cf. p. 149) is inexplicable if one assumes that the short vowel endings disappeared before the collapse of the case system.
The debate about the colloquial varieties in the Gahiliyya may be approached from yet another angle if we turn to the speech of the Bedouin in post-Islamic times. The Arab grammarians believe that the Bedouin spoke 'pure Arabic' ( fasih ) and continued to do so after the conquests, at least for sometime. In the words of Ibn Haldun (d. 757/1356), the Bedouin spoke according to their linguistic intuition and did not need any grammarians to tell them how to use the declensional endings. He clearly thought that in the first centuries of Islam, before Bedouin speech had become affected and corrupted by sedentary speech, it still contained correct declensional endings. The force of this argument partly depends on the value which we attach to reports about Bedouin purity of speech. According to these reports, it was fashionable among caliphs and noble families to send their sons into the desert, not only to learn how to shoot and hunt, but also to practise speaking pure Arabic. Other reports come from professional grammarians who stayed for some time with a Bedouin tribe and studied their speech because it was more correct ( fasih ) than that of the towns and the cities.
Of course, these reports may also be regarded as symptomatic of the generally nostalgic attitude towards the Bedouin past and the desert. Besides, the Bedouin could have preserved certain forms of poetry with a Classical type of 'i'rab, just as they do nowadays in Central Arabia, while using a form of New Arabic in their everyday speech. Since the grammarians were looking for traces of 'Arabiyya and often used transmitters of poetry as informants, they got exactly what they were asking for, which was not necessarily the colloquial speech of the Bedouin tribes involved. If one takes this view, the linguistic purity of the Bedouin became a mere topos, along with stories about their chivalry, manliness and generosity. On the other hand, if we believe the reports by professional grammarians, we also have to believe that in the Gahiliyya Bedouin more or less spoke the same language as that of their poems, which in its turn was the language in which God revealed His last message to the world.
In the literature about the linguistic situation in the Gahiliyya, much importance has been attached to reports about linguistic mistakes in early Islam. There is, indeed, a vast amount of anecdotes concerning the linguistic mistakes made by the mawali, the non-Arabs who had converted to Islam. It is commonly believed that these anecdotes document a state of confusion and corruption of the Classical language. Yet such reports do not necessarily support the view that the system of declension had become redundant. If anything, the point in the anecdotes is precisely that the target language of the newly converted, the language of the Arabs which they wished to imitate, still contained declensional endings. In the most frequently-quoted instances of such mistakes, a connection is suggested between faulty Arabic and the 'invention' of grammar by 'Abu l-'Aswad ad-Du'ali (d. 69/688?; cf. below, p. 56).
In one story, someone makes a mistake in the Qur'anic verse 9/3 'inna llaha bari'un min almushrikina wa-rasuluhu 'God keeps aloof from the polytheists, and so does His Prophet' and recites 'inna llaha bari'un min al-mushrikina wa-rasulihi with an incorrect genitive ending, thus uttering a blasphemous 'God keeps aloof from the polytheists and from His Prophet'. In another example, a recent convert is reported to have said tuwuffiya 'abana wa-taraka banuna 'our father [accusative] has died and left sons [nominative]' (Ibn al-'Anbari, Nuzha 6-7). While the first example may have been fabricated, the second one clearly shows a tendency on the part of the non-Arab client to use hypercorrect endings (otherwise he would have said banina in the accusative as well). In both Ibn al'Anbari's and Ibn Haldin's account of the history of the Arabic language, a link is made between the corruption of speech and the beginnings of the grammatical tradition (cf. below, Chapter 7).
The first written examples of wrong case endings stem from the first half of the first century of the Higra. In two Egyptian papyri that have been examined by Diem (1984) dating from year 22 of the Higra, we find the proper name 'Abu Qir in a genitive position and the hypercorrect expression nisfu dinaran 'half a dinar'. Many more mistakes may be cited from later papyri (cf. below, p. 118). These papyri were written in a bilingual context, and, as the scribes may have been bilingual, such early mistakes cannot be taken as proof for the disappearance of the case endings before the period of the conquests. On the contrary, the occurrence of hypercorrect forms suggests that the target language still contained a case system.
What, then, may we conclude about the presence or absence of diglossia in the pre-Islamic period? One point is certain: there are no traces of pseudo-corrections in the poems preserved from the pre-Islamic period. Such forms are usually a corollary of a sharp divergence between a literary norm and a colloquial variety (cf. below, p. 115), and their absence would seem to point to a more widespread usage of the case endings than the limited one advocated by the proponents of the 'poetic koine'. One could, of course, object that any errors would have been weeded out by later collectors of poetry and copyists anyway. The general conclusion is that even when some of the changes which Arabic underwent in the post-Islamic period may have been present in pre-Islamic speech, the fundamental structural differences between the Old Arabic of the pre-Islamic period and the New Arabic represented by the contemporary dialects still need an explanation. The emergence of this new type of Arabic in the period of the conquests is characterised not only by the disappearance of the declensional system but also by a complex of other features (cf. the discussion in Chapter 7).
The best introduction to the pre-Islamic dialects is still Rabin (1951), who gives several maps to show the distribution of certain phenomena in the Gahiliyya ; also Kofler (1940-2), 'Anis (1952) and al-Gindi (1983); see also Rabin's article (1955) on the origin of Classical Arabic, and his article in EI(2) 'Arabiyya (1960). On the difference between 'Arab/'A'rab, see Marbach (1992); and on Sibawayhi's use of Bedouin informants, see Levin (1994). On the genealogy of the Arabs and their provenance, see EI(2) ( 'Arab, Ḏjazirat al-'Arab ) and Dagorn (1981). The discussion about diglossia in the pre-Islamic period is a complicated one, and it is hardly possible to expect an impartial account, since most authors have taken a strong position in this debate. For a survey of the different points of view, see Zwettler (1978). The controversy concerning the functional yield of the declensional endings in Old Arabic is found in Corriente (1971b) and Blau (1972-3). Arguments against diglossia include Fück (1950), Blau (1977), Versteegh (1984: 1-15) and to a certain extent Nödeke (1904). For arguments for diglossia, see Vollers, (1906), and also the arguments given by Wehr (1952) and Spitaler (1953) in their reviews of Fück (1950); see also Diem (1978, 1991) and Corriente (1971b, 1975). The first occurrences of wrong case endings are discussed by Diem (1984: 26873).
The speech of the Bedouin in the Islamic empire and its relationship with the standard Classical language is dealt with by Fleisch (1964); and cf. also below, Chapter 5, p. 59.
For the textual history of the Qur'an, see Nöldeke and Schwally (1961). The relevance of Qur'anic orthography, the pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions and the Aramaic/Nabataean inscriptions for the question of the case endings was discussed by Diem in a series of articles (1973a, 1976, 1979b, 1980a, 1981). For the evidence of the pausal forms in poetry and the Qur'an, see Birkeland (1940). 1940).