Anachronistic bias in the study of Arabic grammatical tradition: The case of the term ḥarf in Sībawayhi’s al-Kitāb

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Abstract

One of the most obscure and most frequently commented on texts in Arabic grammatical tradition is the opening formulation in its earliest extant book, Sībawayhi’s al-Kitāb, concerning the tripartite division of parts of speech. For the third part of speech, the particle, around which the present article revolves, Sībawayhi uses a complex term, whose head is ḥarf, a term which is commonly used by itself by later grammarians for this part of speech. This article revisits the question of whether the term ḥarf by itself denotes “particle” in al-Kitāb, alongside the denotation “word”. Following Weiss’ article, published more than a hundred years ago, it will be argued that ḥarf does not denote “particle” in al-Kitāb, though occurrences thereof may refer to particles, and that scholars who ascribe the later denotation “particle” to ḥarf in al-Kitāb do so due to an anachronistic bias.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHistoriographia Linguistica
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© John Benjamins Publishing Company.

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