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Numéro
Histoire Epistémologie Langage
Volume 40, Numéro 2, 2018
La tradition linguistique arabe et l’apport des grammairiens arabo-andalous
Page(s) 67 - 86
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/hel/2018018
Publié en ligne 22 janvier 2019

© SHESL/EDP Sciences

1 General introduction

The Andalusian grammarian Ibn Maḍāʾ al-Qurṭubī (d. 592/1196) is the author of the most vehement and reasoned attack against the classic linguistic thought. His aim, illustrated in the book al-Radd ʿalā al-nuḥāt “The refutation of the grammarians”,1 is to remove from grammar anything that is not needed and to denounce errors that are common to all grammarians. Ibn Maḍāʾ sees that the current grammatical system has become fused and blended with superfluous, unnecessary, useless elements, and lost its original simplicity and conciseness, thus becoming complicated and difficult to understand. Cleansing the grammatical discipline from the false statements made by his predecessors is the only way to offer learners a new simplified grammar, whose main purpose is preserving language from corruption and guiding people in the formulation of speech acts. The thrust of al-Qurṭubī’s thesis is the theory of government (naẓariyyat al-ʿāmil), the backbone of Arabic grammar, and all the mechanisms that have arisen from its adoption. Ibn Maḍāʾ attributes to this theory the bulk of the problems, which Arabic grammar manifests.

Before proceeding with the discussion, one important consideration is necessary: the refutation of Ibn Maḍāʾ does not undermine the prescriptive rules (ʿilal taʿlīmiyya) of Arabic grammar but a series of methodological elements traditionally adopted by Arab grammarians in dealing with linguistic facts. These elements are: (i) the above-mentioned theory of government (naẓariyyat al-ʿamal), (ii) the analogical reasoning (qiyās), (iii) the assumption of implied elements inside the sentence (ʾiḍmār) and (iv) the search for secondary and tertiary causes (ʿilal ṯawānin wa-ṯawāliṯ). In refusing such elements, Ibn Madāʾ exclusively refers to that tradition of studies which was developed in Basran circles2 and later became the mainstream.3

Given the nature of the elements attacked by the Andalusian grammarian, the aim of this paper is to show that the originality of Ibn Maḍāʾ’s linguistic thought consists essentially in his didactic approach to Arabic grammar and, more specifically, in the method adopted during the illustration of linguistic facts. This method does not remain a mere proclaim but finds empirical application in three chapters of his work dedicated to problematic and obscure issues: the conflict in government (tanāzuʿ),4 the verbal occupation (ištiġāl),5 the causative fa- (al-fāʾ al-sababiyya) and the wa- of simultaneousness (wāw al-maʿiyya).6 If we carefully consider the illustration of these chapters and the prescriptive rules they contain, with particular reference to the rules regarding words’ function, declensional endings and sentences’ structural composition, we will notice that Ibn Maḍāʾ does not abandon the classical grammatical system, adopting only in few cases positions traditionally regarded as heterodox. Finally, the present paper will discuss the effective originality of Ibn Maḍāʾ’s method, through its comparison to some positions adopted in the past by Arab eastern grammarians, especially those belonging to Kūfan circles.

2 The originality of Ibn Maḍāʾ’s linguistic thought

If we take into consideration the prescriptive rules contained in the above-mentioned chapters of al-Radd (cf. § 1), we will notice that they coincide, in the majority of cases, with the rules elaborated by Ibn Maḍāʾ’s eastern predecessors, particularly those belonging to the Baṣran circles. In this sense, we almost have the impression to read a classical treatise dated before the 4th/10th century, like Sībawayhi’s (d. 180/796?) Kitāb or al-Zaǧǧāǧī’s (d. 337/949) Ǧumal, cleansed, of course, from all the abstract and superfluous explanations. In order to demonstrate that, a list has been prepared, containing all the prescriptive rules that Ibn Maḍāʾ intends to provide students with (table 1). For each rule, the list reports the name of the Arab grammarian or the more general linguistic trend7 to whom the author expressly traces it back or which has been possible to attribute to a specific grammarian/school thanks to the compared reading of other classical sources.

What emerges from table 1 is that the majority of the linguistic rules contained in the book are of Baṣran origin, most of them present in Sībawayhi’s Kitāb. The remaining rules represent isolated ideas expressed by grammarians of different backgrounds. Finally, a very small percentage represents Ibn Maḍāʾ’s distinctive ideas, which apparently cannot be traced back to any of his predecessors.8 The same procedure has been applied to the author’s innovative method: the basic principles he adopts in the illustration of linguistic facts have been identified and compared to specific positions expressed by some of his predecessors (table 2). The implications of such a work will be discussed at length in the following paragraphs. However, suffice it to say that, although Ibn Maḍāʾ represents the first scholar who overtly refuses the traditional analysis offered by grammarians and systematically applies innovative methodological principles, most of these principles have undoubtedly already been followed, even if not systematically, by some predecessors, especially those belonging to Kūfan circles. Moreover, Ibn Maḍāʾ does not make any reference to them and presents these ideas as the result of a personal critical reflection. Only in the case of Ibn Ǧinnī (d. 392/1002) he openly recognizes his merit in attributing word’s declensional vowels to the speaker’s action, not to linguistic operators.9

Table 1

Prescriptive rules inside al-Radd

Table 2

Methodological elements inside al-Radd

3 Methodological elements in Ibn Maḍāʾ’s linguistic thinking

If we consider table 2, we can individuate three main guidelines Ibn Maḍāʾ adopts in the illustration of classical chapters of Arabic grammar, namely (i) the priority of attested data (samāʿ) over analogical reasoning (qiyās); (ii) the refutation of implied elements (ʾiḍmār) inside the sentence; (iii) the invalidity of secondary and tertiary causes (ʿilal ṯawānin wa-ṯawāliṯ). In the following subparagraphs, these guidelines will be compared to some linguistic positions adopted by Kūfan grammarians, in order to show the strict analogy that exists with them and, hence, to put in discussion the effective originality of Ibn Maḍāʾ’s linguistic thought.

3.1 The priority of attested data (samāʿ) over analogical reasoning (qiyās)

In accordance with his Ẓāhirite tendencies, Ibn Maḍāʾ extends to the grammatical discipline the principles of this juridical school and refuses any personal interpretation (raʾy) that, starting from wrong premises, inevitably leads to false conclusions. With respect to the linguistic text, this means an extreme attention to the exact form in which it has been produced or transmitted: the author invites grammarians not to go beyond the concrete text, which expresses in itself a complete meaning without the need of reconstructing implicit elements. Such an attitude has notably been a distinctive characteristic of the Kūfan linguistic environment, who based their rules on evidence found in classical texts. Kūfan scholars were absorbed in collecting linguistic material and transmitting it in its original form, without trying to find justifications for evident deviations from the rules.10 However, it should be noted that, whilst Kūfan grammarians traditionally resorted to the principal of samāʿ in order to prove the validity of linguistic data, Ibn Maḍāʾ uses the attested material in a more negative way: indeed, his aim is to forbid the formulation of innovative expressions to which no transmitted example can be compared. In a wider sense, the significant attention Ibn Maḍāʾ pays to samāʿ can be considered as one of the factors that led him to deny the existence of underlying levels of representation: only what clearly appears can be accepted as true and certain. Considering this, Ibn Maḍāʾ refuses the application of analogical reasoning whenever it cannot be supported by attested data. This position appears in several passages of his work; we will quote some of the most relevant among them, particularly those contained in the chapter of tanāzuʿ:

It is more appropriate to defer [judgement] to what is heard from the Arabs with respects to words other than kāna (wa-l-ʾaẓhar ʾan yūqafa fī-mā ʿadā kāna ʿalā al-samāʿ min al-ʿarab, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 100).

In this particular passage Ibn Maḍāʾ analyses all the possible analogical extensions of tanāzuʿ. The author wonders whether or not all verbs can be included in this chapter. It is the case, for example, of kāna and its sisters. Ibn Maḍāʾ comes to the conclusion that analogical reasoning can be applied only to kāna since “it can be used beyond its proper domain and its predicate can be pronominalized” (li-ʾanna kāna uttusiʿa11 fī-hā wa-ʾuḍmira ḫabaru-hā, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 100). As for its sisters, one must follow what it has been heard from the Arabs.

Likewise, Ibn Maḍāʾ comes to the same conclusion with respect to the inclusion of di- and tri-transitive verbs inside this chapter:

My view of this and similar examples is that they are not permissible because there is nothing like it in the speech of the Arabs. Making di- and tri-transitive verbs analogous to mono-transitive verbs is a far-fetched analogy due to the complexity related to the occurrence of numerous (suffixed) pronouns and to the operations of preponing and postponing (wa-raʾy-ī fī hāḏā al-masʾala wa-mā šākala-hā ʾanna-hā lā taǧūzu li-ʾanna-hu lam yaʾti la-hā naẓīr fī kalām al-ʿarab wa-qiyāsu-hā ʿalā al-ʾafʿāl al-dālla ʿalā mafʿūl bi-hi wāḥid qiyās baʿīd li-mā fī-hi min al-ʾiškāl bi-kaṯrat al-ḍamāʾir wa-l-taʾḫīr wa-l-taqdīm, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 98-99).

As shown in table 2, such specific view of di- and tri-transitive verbs is not an innovation of our author but was already adopted by the grammarian al-Ǧarmī (d. 225/839). Similarly to Ibn Maḍāʾ, al-Ǧarmī forbids the extension of analogical reasoning to these verbs because of the lack of attested examples in the speech of the Arabs.12

Regarding those governed words that have been almost ignored by grammarians in the tanāzuʿ chapter, like absolute objects, accusatives of time and place, circumstantial adverbs, adverbs of purpose, adverbs of accompaniment and adverbs of specification, Ibn Maḍāʾ states the following:

The best thing is not to extend to these elements what has been observed in the collected data, unless one can adduce for them attested examples, as in the case of [collected data] (wa-l-ʾaẓhar ʾallā yuqāsa šayʾ min hāḏihi ʿalā al-masmūʿ ʾillā ʾan yusmaʿa fī hāḏihi ka-mā sumiʿa fī tilka, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 101).

3.2 The refutation of implied elements inside the sentence

A particular mechanism linked to the theory of government is the assumption of a sentence virtual grammatical construction (taqdīr). Starting from a concrete linguistic expression, the grammarian, most of the times, reconstructs an underlying level of representation in which he makes all the missing elements appear, in order to keep up the rules of the grammar and the harmony of the language. This is, according to Ibn Maḍāʾ, the very cause of degeneration and complication of the grammatical theories.

a) The first category of understood elements he contests has to do with the grammarians’ reinterpretation of sentences in which prepositional phrases (ǧārr wa-maǧrūr) occur as (i) predicates (ḫabar), (ii) part of a relative clause (ṣila), (iii) adjectives (ṣifa) and (iv) part of a circumstantial clause (ḥāl). For each of these occurrences, the grammarians assume the existence of a deletion, namely a word to which these linguistic units are attached (mutaʿalliqāt). According to Ibn Maḍāʾ, sentences containing prepositional phrases in the above mentioned positions are complete sentences for which there is no need for any reinterpretation (taʾwīl); such reinterpretations are the creation of the grammarians and therefore belong to them.

Considering this, one can assume that Ibn Maḍāʾ applies to the linguistic unit formed by the preposition and the following noun the conclusions reached by al-Farrāʾ (d. 207/822) and his followers with regard to the category of accusatives of time and place (ẓurūf) serving as predicates.13 According to them, whenever these elements have a predicative function, the accusative case they show must be explained by their logic-semantic divergence (ṣarf or ḫilāf) with respect to the subject, not by the action of an implicit governor.14 Since there is no need to postulate an underlying ʿāmil, the predicate of the sentence must be individuated in these accusatives themselves.15 Although Ibn Maḍāʾ comes to the same conclusions of his Kūfan predecessors, he presents them as the result of a personal critical reflection:

Without doubt, this is a complete sentence consisting of two nouns indicating two meanings with a relationship between the two indicated by the preposition in. There is no need for us to go beyond that (wa-lā šakk ʾanna hāḏā kulla-hu kalām tāmm murakkab min ismayn dāllayn ʿalā maʿnayayn bayna-humā nisba wa-tilka al-nisba dallat ʿalay-hā fī wa-lā ḥāǧa bi-nā ʾilā ġayr ḏālika, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 87).

b) The second group of underlying words contested by Ibn Maḍāʾ consists in those operators which are responsible for the accusative case showed by fronted objects. In sentences like Zaydan ʾakramtu-hu “Zayd-ACC, I honored him”, Arab grammarians consider the verb ʾakramtu to be distracted (ištaġala) from the preponed object Zaydan by the resumptive pronoun -hu: this means that the verb is “occupied” by this latter in his activity of case assigning. Therefore, they justify the occurrence of the accusative case in the fronted object by virtue of an implicit verb at the sentence initial position. Once again, this interpretation is strictly linked to the theory of government, particularly to the rule that stipulates that every case ending must be caused by a governing word, whether such a word is explicit or implicit.

According to Ibn Maḍāʾ, in the above-mentioned example there is no implicit governor in front of the term in the accusative. Thus, the case this latter shows must be explained by virtue of the typology of the sentence. Ibn Maḍāʾ distinguishes between two types of sentences, one in which the verb is assertive, and another in which it is not. In the first group, he includes affirmative, negative and conditional sentences. In the second one, imperative, prohibitive, interrogative sentences, as well as expressions of incitement and wonder. For each typology, the Andalusian author illustrates the grammatical case that the fronted object should preferably exhibit. His main purpose and what he considers to be the ultimate purpose of grammar is guiding the speaker to the formulation of correct linguistic expressions, that is providing him with prescriptive not speculative rules. In the specific case of the constructions characterized by ištiġāl, these rules regard the grammatical case of the fronted object; all the other aspects upon which his predecessors had long speculated have no utility in the process of language learning.

This view is again not far from the position shared by Kūfan grammarians, who refuse any implicit reconstruction in the concerned expressions: according to them, there is no underlying operator and the term at the beginning of the sentence must be interpreted as the object of the following verb. Ibn al-ʾAnbārī (d. 577/1181) clearly refers to this regard:

Kūfan grammarians maintain that in the sentence ‘Zayd-ACC, I hit him’ [the word Zayd] is in the accusative because of the verb exhibiting the pronoun -hu (ḏahaba al-kūfiyyūn ʾilā ʾanna qawla-hu zaydan ḍarabtu-hu manṣūb bi-l-fiʿl al-wāqiʿ ʿalā al-hāʾ, Ibn al-ʾAnbārī, ʾInṣāf, p. 77).

c) The third category of implied elements, whose invalidity is extensively proven by Ibn Maḍāʾ, concerns the particles fa- and wa- followed by the subjunctive mood. In such cases, grammarians traditionally postulate the presence of a virtual ʾan to explain the occurrence of the naṣb. Once again, such interpretation is strictly linked to the theory of government and, in particular, to the principle that stipulates that only specialized particles can govern grammatical cases.16 In the first part of his work, the Andalusian author argues against such an interpretation, stating the following:

They render the verbs which occur after these particles in the subjunctive mood by the particle ʾan. They equate ʾan plus the verb with the verbal noun. They change the verbs occurring before these particles into verbal nouns, and they conjoin verbal nouns to verbal nouns with these particles. When all of this is done, the meaning of the first utterance is no longer preserved (yanṣibūna al-ʾafʿāl al-wāqiʿa baʿda hāḏihi al-ḥurūf bi-ʾan wa-yuqaddirūna ʾan maʿa al-fiʿl bi-l-maṣdar wa-yaṣrifūna al-ʾafʿāl al-wāqiʿa qabla hāḏihi al-ḥurūf ʾilā maṣādiri-hā wa-yaʿṭifūna al-maṣādir ʿalā al-maṣādir bi-hāḏihi al-ḥurūf wa-ʾiḏā faʿalū ḏālika kulla-hu lam yarid maʿnā al-lafẓ al-ʾawwal, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 80).

This assertion becomes more evident when Ibn Maḍāʾ illustrates the specific case of fa- in negative sentences, where it conveys two different meanings:

Don’t you see that the sentence ‘you do not come to us and you speak to us’ has two meanings? One of them is ‘you do not come to us, so how can you speak to us?’, which is to say that the act of speaking must be accompanied by the act of coming. If there is no coming, there can be no speaking. […] The other meaning is ‘you do not come to us speaking’, that is, you come to us but you do not speak. The grammarians consider the two interpretations to be equivalent to ‘there is no coming and speaking from you’. This utterance renders neither of the two meanings (ʾa-lā tarā ʾanna-ka ʾiḏa qulta mā taʾtī-nā fa-tuḥaddiṯa-nā17 kāna la-hā maʿnayān ʾaḥadu-humā mā taʾtī-nā fa-kayfa tuḥaddiṯu-nā ʾay ʾanna al-ḥadīṯ lā yakūnu ʾillā maʿa al-ʾityān wa-ʾiḏā lam yakun al-ʾityān lam yakun al-ḥadīṯ […]wa-l-waǧh al-ʾāḫar mā taʾtī-nā muḥaddiṯan ʾay ʾanna-ka taʾtī wa-lā tuḥaddiṯu wa-hum yuqaddirūna al-waǧhayn mā yakūnu min-ka ʾityān fa-ḥadīṯ wa-hāḏā al-lafẓ lā yuʿṭī maʿnā min hāḏayn al-maʿnayayn, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 80).

According to Ibn Maḍāʾ, the representation offered by grammarians (“there is no coming and speaking from you”) is false since it does not convey both meanings of the initial sentence: mā taʾtī-nā fa-tuḥaddiṯa-nā. After proving the inconsistency of grammarians’ arguments, he goes on illustrating this chapter without resorting to the concept of government nor providing a virtual representation of the sentence. He essentially wants to give non-speculative didactic prescriptions about the cases when fa- and wa- are followed by the subjunctive mood. The general rule he lays down takes into account the typology of the clause preceding these particles on the one hand; on the other hand, he draws attention to the value of the second verb, since this latter has a different meaning compared to the preceding one, namely that of a resulting action for fa- and simultaneousness for wa-. In the section dedicated to the particle fa- he states:

The verb following fa- exhibits the subjunctive mood whenever it represents the result clause for any of the following clauses: imperative, prohibitive, interrogative, negative, polite proposal, optative, incitive and supplicative (al-fāʾ intaṣaba baʿda-hā al-fiʿl ʾiḏā kāna ǧawāban li-ʾaḥad ṯamāniyat ʾašyāʾ al-ʾamr wa-l-nahy wa-l-istifhām wa-l-nafy wa-l-ʿarḍ wa-l-tamannī wa-l-taḥḍīḍ wa-l-duʿāʾ, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 123).

For each type of sentence, he adduces concrete examples taken from the Qurʾan, old poetry and Arab’s speech. Thus, all the analyzed expressions gain an undiscussed value for being attested in the Tradition, not for speculative reasons.

As for the semantic value conveyed by the second verb, Ibn Maḍāʾ explicitly makes reference of it in the passage dedicated to the ʿaṭf phenomenon.18 Whenever this last occurs, both clauses must be of the same kind, with the verbs contained in them exhibiting the same modal vowel. Ibn Maḍāʾ states in this regard:

Concerning the instances where the verb after fa- is subjunctive, in some cases adjunction (ʿaṭf) is permitted whereupon the inflection of the second verb will be identical to that of the first verb which precedes fa- and the meaning of the first will be not in conflict with that of the second verb (wa-hāḏihi al-mawāḍiʿ al-latī yunṣabu fī-hā mā baʿda al-fāʾ min-hā mā yaǧūzu fī-hā al-ʿaṭf wa-yakūnu ʾiʿrāb al-fiʿl al-ṯānī ka-ʾiʿrāb al-fiʿl al-ʾawwal al-laḏī qabla al-fāʾ wa-yakūnu maʿnā-hu ġayr muḫālif li-maʿnā-hu, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 123).

In this passage Ibn Maḍāʾ refers to an identity with respect to the meaning (maʿnā) expressed by the two imperfect verbs in case of adjunction (ʿaṭf) and their agreement in the inflectional vowel. Consequently, the occurring of the subjunctive mood in the second verb must be explained by virtue of the disagreement in meaning between the two verbs. According to Ibn Maḍāʾ, Arab do not render the verb in subjunctive mood because of the presence of an omitted ʾan; on the contrary, they resort to it in order to express a different meaning that no one would have expected in case of other inflectional vowels like ḍamma of indicative for example.

Such a statement inevitably reminds us the Kūfan principle of ṣarf or ḫilāf that, in the specific case of the causative fa- and the wa- of simultaneousness, justifies the subjunctive mood of the verb by virtue of the different value expressed. The opposition between the values of the first and the second verb is reflected in their different moods: indeed, the subjunctive indicates the distinctive semantic relationships of consequence or simultaneousness, which the indicative mood does not convey. This analogy has been extensively highlighted by the scholar ʾAḥmad Makkī al-ʾAnṣārī, the author of a dissertation on al-Farrāʾ.19 He points out that Ibn Maḍāʾ was preceded in several of his views by al-Farrāʾ, the most prominent exponent of the Kūfan linguistic school according to him, and, in this sense, he is guilty of plagiarism for taking his ideas and espousing them as his own. Al-ʾAnṣārī explains this attitude, arguing that Ibn Maḍāʾ did not wish to be accused of imitation nor allow others to see his indebtedness to ideas, which had originated in the Mašriq.

Yet, one could raise an objection against al-ʾAnṣārī’s thesis: on the one hand, it is true that al-Farrāʾ in particular and the Kūfans in general were the first grammarians who resorted to the principle of divergence (ṣarf) in order to explain the subjunctive mood of these verbs. On the other hand, we must carefully analyze the real meaning of this concept inside the Kūfan circles, since it seems to be still connected with the theory of government. In this regard, we hereby quote the definition of ṣarf given by al-Farrāʾ:

Ṣarf is when the two verbs are connected by wa-, ṯumma, fa- or ʾaw-. At the beginning [of the first clause], there is a negative or interrogative particle and then you see that is impossible to repeat this negative or interrogative particle in the second clause as well (wa-l-ṣarf ʾan yaǧtamiʿa al-fiʿlān bi-l-wāw ʾaw ṯumma ʾaw al-fāʾ ʾaw ʾaw wa-fī ʾawwali-hi ǧaḥd ʾaw istifhām ṯumma tarā ḏālika al-ǧaḥd ʾaw al-istifhām mumtaniʿan ʾan yukarrara fī al-ʿaṭf, Farrāʾ, Maʿānī al-Qurʾān, I, p. 235-236).

The ṣarf phenomenon represents a structural semantic discontinuity, which makes impossible to repeat in the second clause that element (ḥādiṯa)20 which syntactically affects the first clause:

What is ṣarf? It is when you bring wa- connected to a [preceding] utterance, which is introduced by an element with a syntactic effect that is not appropriate to repeat for the utterance to which it is connected [following wa-]. When this is so, this is ṣarf (wa-mā al-ṣarf qulta ʾan taʾtiya bi-l-wāw maʿṭūfa ʿalā kalām fī ʾawwali-hi ḥādiṯa lā tastaqīmu ʾiʿādatu-hā ʿalā mā ʿuṭifa ʿalay-hā fa-ʾiḏā kāna ka-ḏālika fa-huwa al-ṣarf, Farrāʾ, Maʿānī al-Qurʾān, I, p. 33-34).

3.3 The invalidity of secondary and tertiary causes

Ibn Maḍāʾ rejects the use of secondary and tertiary causes21 in the linguistic analysis: according to him, the illustration of primary causes is the only permissible level of investigation since they represent grammatical rules of an undiscussable value, empirically laid down and necessary for the correct speaking. Secondary and tertiary causes are an invention of grammarians22 and they are not necessary for the language learning and the correct pronunciation. As an example of the invalidity of these causes, Ibn Maḍāʾ adduces the case of the imperfect verb: Arab grammarians explain the occurrence of declensional vowels in this last by virtue of its resemblance to the category of nouns. According to Ibn Maḍāʾ, such analogy contains an evident methodological error: indeed, the process of qiyās implies the comparison of two elements only if the cause (ʿilla) which makes possible the comparison is contained in both of them. On the contrary, grammarians state that what causes ʾiʿrāb in nouns, namely the necessity to distinguish among all the different syntactic functions they can serve in a sentence, is absent from imperfect verbs. Ibn Maḍāʾ shows how this cause is present in the imperfect verb as well since it, similarly to nouns, can express different meanings:

Just as nouns have various usages, so also the verbs have different usages. They may be negative, affirmative, negative imperative, affirmative imperative, expressing a condition and the result of that condition, assertive and interrogative. Hence, their need for inflection is like the need of the nouns [for declension] (wa-ka-mā ʾanna li-l-ʾasmāʾ ʾaḥwālan muḫtalifa fa-ka-ḏālika li-l-ʾafʿāl ʾaḥwāl muḫtalifa takūnu manfiyya wa-mūǧiba wa-manhiyyan ʿan-hā wa-maʾmūran bi-hā wa-šurūṭan wa-mašrūṭa wa-muḫbaran bi-hā wa-mustafhaman ʿan-hā fa-ḥāǧatu-hā ʾilā al-ʾiʿrāb ka-ḥāǧat al-ʾasmāʾ, Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 134).

In this regard, Ibn Maḍāʾ comes to the conclusion that ʾiʿrāb is an intrinsic property of verbs as it is in nouns. A similar view is extensively analyzed by Ibn al-ʾAnbārī in his ʾInṣāf, where the author attributes it to Kūfan grammarians:

Baṣran and Kūfan grammarians agree on the fact that imperfect verbs can receive ʾiʿrāb. However, they disagree on the cause of it. Kūfan grammarians say that it happens because imperfect verbs can express different meanings and indicate long periods of time (ʾaǧmaʿa al-kūfiyyūn wa-l-baṣriyyūn ʿalā ʾanna al-ʾafʿāl al-muḍāriʿa muʿraba wa-ḫtalafū fī ʿillat ʾiʿrābi-hā fa-ḏahaba al-kūfiyyūn ʾilā ʾanna-hā ʾinna-mā ʾuʿribat li-ʾanna-hu daḫala-hā al-maʿānī al-muḫtalifa wa-l-ʾawqāt al-ṭawīla, Ibn al-ʾAnbārī, ʾInṣāf, p. 434).

4 Conclusions

The refutation of Ibn Maḍāʾ represents undoubtedly a novel approach in the history of the Arabic Linguistic Tradition that no one before him had ever adopted with such a courage and tenacity. However, it is important to highlight that his refutation does not undermine the Arabic grammar in its entirety; on the contrary, it preserves almost all its normative contents as they have been elaborated in the eastern Mediterranean lands, especially in the Baṣran circles. What Ibn Maḍāʾ aims at abolishing is the method adopted by Arab grammarians in dealing with such contents and, consequently, all the procedures and instruments borrowed by other disciplines, like philosophy and jurisprudence, employed in the illustrations of linguistic facts. Once he has proven the invalidity of the traditional analysis offered by grammarians, he puts his teachings into practice and shows how to deal with grammatical facts through a new simplified perspective, with pedagogical non-speculative purposes. His criticism is thus both destructive and constructive at the same time, since he offers a real alternative to the object of his attacks. However, as it has been shown in the previous paragraphs, it is undeniable that most of the guidelines of this new method show analogies with the illustration offered by some predecessors, particularly those belonging to the Kūfan environment.

What Ibn Maḍāʾ has in common with Kūfan grammarians is essentially the intention not to search for implicit linguistic elements inside the sentence and to pay attention only to the utterance’s literal form. Such an analogy, together with the absence of any reference to Kūfan grammarians in this respect, has led the author al-ʾAnṣārī to accuse Ibn Maḍāʾ of plagiarism (cf. § 3.2), and to identify in al-Farrāʾ the real pioneer of the simplification of Arabic grammar.

Yet, although al-Farrāʾ and more in general Kūfan grammarians had significantly preserved the linguistic data in comparison with their Baṣran colleagues, the theory of government remains an important part of their grammatical system. Suffice it to mention the concept of ṣarf: although it attests the priority given to the semantic domain, al-Farrāʾ explains it through the categories of ʿāmil and maʿmūl (cf. § 3.2). The same thing is true for the constructions characterized by ištiġāl: even if Kūfan grammarians do not reconstruct an implicit ʿāmil, nonetheless they do not abandon their search for an operator and individuate it in the explicit verb with a resumptive pronoun (cf. § 3.2).

Ibn Maḍāʾ is thus the first grammarian who systematically abandons the concepts of ʿāmil and maʿmūl. Therefore, his method is undoubtedly unprecedented from the point of view of its coherent application: the principles he follows in illustrating linguistic facts become the guidelines of a new methodology, no one before him had promoted with such a persistence. On the contrary, this statement does not apply to the Kūfan circles where the above-discussed ideas exclusively represent isolated positions related to specific linguistic issues.

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1

As assumed by Wolfe (1990), it seems that al-Radd was not the original title of this work. Indeed, al-Radd contains elements of other two texts of Ibn Maḍāʾ that have not been preserved: Tanzīh al-Qurʾān and al-Mušriq fī al-naḥw. Tanzīh appears to be the original work that became al-Radd by the addition of parts of al-Mušriq.

2

In this regard, suffice it to mention the way Ibn Maḍāʾ concisely defines the theory of government. He states that Arab grammarians explain naṣb, ǧārr and ǧazm through the action of expressible operators; as for rafʿ, it is the result of both expressible and abstract operators (Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 76). Such a statement, however, does not take into account minor linguistic positions, like those developed in the Kūfan environment: indeed, Kūfan grammarians explain the naṣb showed by certain linguistic elements through the action of one particular abstract operator, namely ṣarf (Ibn al-ʾAnbārī, ʾInṣāf, p. 202, 206 and 442).

3

In the standard tradition, Arabic linguistic thinking is divided into three schools, the Baṣran, Kūfan and Baġdādian. The classical presentation of this model was written by the 6th/12th century grammarian Ibn al-ʾAnbārī, who represented Baṣra and Kūfa as historically real schools of grammatical theory. Ibn al-ʾAnbārī’s characterization had an enduring impact on the conceptualization of Arabic linguistic thinking, with many Western and Arab linguists accepting it. Nonetheless, the historical reality of these schools was challenged by scholars like Gotthold Weil (1913) and Michael Carter (1973), who considered them a creation of the 4th/10th century grammarians (Owens 1990, p. 1-3).

4

Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 94-102.

5

Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 103-122.

6

Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 123-129.

7

As it appears in table 1, the trends individuated in al-Radd are those developed by the Baṣran and Kūfan schools. However, it is worth mentioning that Ibn Maḍāʾ never makes use of these labels. He only refers to what had become the orthodox linguistic thought, using expressions like “they say” or “Arab grammarians maintain”. Kūfan grammarians are never referred to as a school but individually mentioned (it is the case of al-Kisāʾī, d. 189/805, and al-Farrāʾ, d. 207/822).

8

In our investigation of other classical sources, none of these positions has been found.

9

Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 77.

10

As Weil illustrates in his introduction to his edition of al-ʾInṣāf (Weil 1913, p. 3-37), the method adopted by Baṣran grammarians in dealing with linguistic facts was founded on analogical reasoning (qiyās): indeed, their main purpose was to classify empiric data into logic categories and to individuate the universal laws determining their behavior, thus reducing Arabic to the least number of rules. On the contrary, Kūfan grammarians were more attentive to the variety of attested data (samāʿ) and tried to preserve and respect the originality of each way of expression.

11

As pointed out by Versteegh (1990, p. 283), the term ittisāʿ is used, in the early period of grammar, to denote the process by which a word is placed beyond its proper boundaries, as an extension of its normal domain.

12

Suyūṭī, Hamʿ, III, p. 100.

13

Ibn Maḍāʾ does not make a real distinction between ẓurūf (accusatives of space and time) and ḥurūf (prepositions), although the examples he adduces exclusively belong to the second category. He only refers to the class of maǧrūrāt, namely those nouns in the genitive case following both ẓurūf and ḥurūf. This in order to avoid superfluous classifications that are not indispensable for pedagogical purposes. The aim of Ibn Maḍāʾ is to preserve similar constructions from the speculations of the grammarians: there is no need of a sentence virtual grammatical construction since the concrete expression is complete in itself and conveys a complete meaning.

14

Carter 1973. In another article of his, Carter (1972) illustrates how this position was also held by Sībawayhi, who never attributes the dependent form of the ẓurūf to any verbal operator but explains their accusative case due to the fact that the ẓurūf are not identical with what precedes them. In addition, the 8th/14th century grammarian Ibn Hišām al-ʾAnṣārī (d. 761/1360) refers to us that the same view was shared by Ibn Ṭāhir (d. 580/1184) and Ibn Ḫarūf (d. 609/1212) (Ibn Hišām, Muġnī, II, p. 499).

15

Ibn al-ʾAnbārī, ʾInṣāf, p. 202.

16

Baalbaki 2008, p. 209-215.

17

It is worth to highlight here the occurrence of the particle in front of the present tense, for two reasons. On the one hand, imperfect verbs are usually preceded by the negative particle ; however, can also occur in front of them whenever they denote an absolute present (Wright 1974 [1896-1898], I, p. 287). On the other hand, the sentence mā taʾtī-nā fa-tuḥaddiṯa-nā appears in other classic sources with some variants: whilst it remains unchanged in Zaǧǧāǧī (Ǧumal, p. 193), Sībawayhi mentions it with the particle instead of (Sībawayhi, Kitāb, III, p. 27).

18

Ibn Maḍāʾ uses the term ʿaṭf “adjunction” instead of the more common ʾišrāk “partnership” (on the terminology related to the concerned phenomenon see Sadan 2012, p. 307-310). As the term itself indicates, ʿaṭf designates a “partnership” between two elements linked by a conjunction with respect to the ʿāmil which affects these two elements and the syntactic position which they both occupy.

20

The term ḥādiṯa denotes a linguistic element with a specific syntactic action inside the sentence (Kinberg 1995).

21

Also known as ʿilal qiyāsiyya and ʿilal ǧadaliyya (Zaǧǧāǧī, ʾĪḍāḥ, p. 64-66; Versteegh 1995).

22

Only few of these causes are evident according to Ibn Maḍāʾ: however, their utility in the process of language learning is questionable (Ibn Maḍāʾ, Radd, p. 132).

All Tables

Table 1

Prescriptive rules inside al-Radd

Table 2

Methodological elements inside al-Radd

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