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A Linguistic History of Arabic$
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Jonathan Owens

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199290826

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199290826.001.0001

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Introduction: A Language and Its Secrets

Introduction: A Language and Its Secrets

(p.1) 1 Introduction: A Language and Its Secrets
A Linguistic History of Arabic

Jonathan Owens (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter situates the study in two contexts. First, the two kinds of sources used for the interpretation of Arabic are described. On the one hand are the written Arabic sources which become available in a significant volume towards the end of the 2nd/8th centuries; particularly important are the early Arabic grammars. On the other are reconstructions using the comparative method derived from the contemporary Arabic dialects. These lead to a reconstruction of what is termed, pre-diasporic Arabic, an Arabic reconstructible to the 7th century, i.e., the era before Arabic spread outside of its Arabian borders. The second context is an overview of western approaches to the study of the history of Arabic. It is suggested that these rarely have applied the comparative method systematically, but rather have been developed on the basis of non-historical dichotomies, such as ‘analytic vs. synthetic’, or have assumed that Classical Arabic may be regarded as a proto-language.

Keywords:   pre-diasporic Arabic, proto-Arabic, Old Arabic, Neo-Arabic, Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, language change, language transmission, creole Arabic, Ferguson

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