The vocative as a "speech act" in early arabic grammatical tradition

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This article discusses an early grammatical theory regarding the vocative in Arabic. According to the generally accepted indigenous theory of case assignment, accusative nouns, such as the one featuring in the vocative construction, require verbal operators; yet positing such an underlying verb for the vocative construction - an otherwise ubiquitous practice in this tradition in such situations - would turn the vocative construction into a statement, whereas some grammarians regard it as a "speech act". A detailed analysis of the solution to this problem by a tenth century grammarian is followed by a comparison with the modern speech act theory; highlighting the important differences between the two can help us grasp early Arabic grammatical thought regarding the vocative. On the other hand, a striking similarity is shown to exist between this early analysis of the vocative and modern analyses of sentences such as "Frankly, you're drunk".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-159
Number of pages17
JournalHistoire Epistemologie Langage
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Arabic grammatical tradition
  • Classical arabic
  • Illocutionary acts
  • Inšã
  • Performative utterances
  • Pragmatics
  • Speech acts
  • Vocative


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