Old Arabic, Neo-Arabic and Comparative Linguistics
This chapter sets the critical tone of the volume. The concepts of Old and Neo Arabic are introduced as developed by Fleischer, Brockelmann, Fück, and others. The Old/New dichotomy is suggested to derive from a ‘logical matrix’: languages must have a beginning (old), middle, and end (new). However, this assumption can run counter to the comparative method. The dichotomy is given its first critical examination in terms of linguistic features and changes which it represents. These features are examined from two perspectives. Generalizations such as ‘short high vowels are lost in open syllables in Neo Arabic’ are refuted by data from modern dialects which maintain the vowels. Furthermore, in the earliest grammars of Sibawaih and Farra’, varieties of Arabic with high vowel deletion in open syllables are reported. It is suggested that relative to reconstructions of proto-Arabic, modern dialects can be ranged as closer or further from the historical source.
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