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A Problematic Passage in Sībawaihi's Al-Kitāb and the Authenticity of Aḫbār about the Early History of Arabic Grammatical Thinking

Rafael Talmon
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 104, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1984), pp. 691-701
DOI: 10.2307/601900
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/601900
Page Count: 11
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Problematic Passage in Sībawaihi's Al-Kitāb and the Authenticity of Aḫbār about the Early History of Arabic Grammatical Thinking
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Abstract

Students of the early history of Arabic grammatical thinking often face the methodological problem of how to combine the study of two bodies of material that are split dichotomously. These are the contemporary second-century A. H. works of Sībawaihi and al-Farrāʾ, and the later biographies, aḫbār, and so on. This article tries to show that some later aḫbār, which claim to have originated out of an independent tradition, actually spring from third century interpretational efforts to understand the second century works. The starting point is our examination of fourth century interpretations of a certain passage in al-Kitāb. The interpretators' suggested linkage between the passage and a certain Qurʾānic reading is rejected in the article. Consequently, a ḫabar circulating in medieval texts of various branches of Islamic sciences turn out to be a by-product of the interpretation of the passage in al-Kitāb. The article suggests that the ḫabar was created out of the wish of scholars during the generation following Sībawaihi (roughly, the third century) to solve an apparent contradiction on the development of Arabic grammar during the previous century.

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