Edited by: Frank Weigelt (Bergen), Janet Watson (Leeds), and Michael Waltisberg (Marburg)
The aim of this website is to enhance research on Classical Arabic grammar that meets the needs of modern-day Arabic philology and linguistics. The fundamental principle of our approach is that the grammatical description must be based on the analysis of authentic texts – and not primarily on a normative linguistic theory. Also, this website aims at bridging the gap between specialized linguistic studies on the one hand and the practical needs of scholars of Arabic studies on a broader sense on the other. It will be made up of the following sections:
Philology means, simply put, making sense of texts with the help of a specific set of hermeneutical tools. This includes translating the texts, placing them in their historical and literary context, and searching for their implications both historical and contemporary. Recent academic enterprises, such as the Berlin-based international research group Zukunftsphilologie, have highlighted the unbroken relevance of philology as a concept of humanistic learning. Taking up impulses by Sheldon Pollock (“Future Philology?”, 2009) and Edward Said (“The Return to Philology”, 2004), a new reflexion on the principles and benefits of philology has been triggered. Having long been perceived as self-evident, the philological approach is now challenged by other, seemingly more modern epistemological concepts. It is vital for the field of Arabic studies to re-strengthen philology by rooting it on firm methodological ground.
Within this context, grammar plays a crucial role: The starting point of every philological research is a text to be deciphered—a task that requires appropriate linguistic tools such as dictionaries and reference grammars. These must be based on a corpus of authentic texts and take account of the stylistic and historical variety of the actual language. For the Classical Arabic language, neither a dictionary nor a grammar exists that would meet these requirements.
One of the most urgent desiderata is a comprehensive, text-driven analysis of Classical Arabic syntax. It must take account of the variety of actual usage by illustrating the rules with authentic examples and providing information on frequency, style level, periodization, and other contextual criteria. The method applied must allow for a dialogue with neighbouring fields like Semitic studies and general linguistics. Currently the study of Classical Arabic grammar suffers from lack of a clear methodological framework. A fresh approach is needed to enhance research in the field and to bridge the gap between specialised studies and the practical needs of Arabic philology.
In order to achieve a lasting impact of the enterprise, it is crucial to make its results accessible to a large number of scholars of Arabic studies, not only those who specialize in Arabic linguistics. This applies for the methodology and the terminology as well as for the description itself. A special section of the website will be dedicated to this purpose. It will contain a generally understandable description of the elements of Classical Arabic syntax. In this manner, the website can, on the long run, become a reference grammar of Classical Arabic.
An exploratory workshop will be held at Leeds University in spring 2018 (“The text-driven study of Arabic syntax”).