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"Makhraj al-ḥarf and related terms in early Arabic phonetics", a talk by Dr. Barry Heselwood

Arabic Language
research talks
Monday 30 April 2018, 2-3pm
Seminar Room 1 - LHRI (29-31, Clarendon Place)

For the next meeting of the Arabic PGR group, we are glad to host a talk by Dr. Barry Heselwood about "Makhraj al-arf and related terms in early Arabic phonetics".

Abstract to follow:

"There are essentially two reasons for looking at the phonetic descriptions of Arabic by what have come to be called the ‘early Arab grammarians’. Firstly, they can provide textual evidence for how Arabic was spoken over a thousand years ago. Secondly, they furnish us with an opportunity to try to appreciate how phonetics was understood at that time in the Arab world. In fact, we cannot properly use their texts as evidence for pronunciation unless we have some confidence that we can interpret their descriptions in the terms in which they cast them. This brings us up against problems of terminology and conceptualisation. In confronting these problems, there is an ever-present temptation to try to make the descriptions of the early grammarians fit the framework of modern phonetic theory, and thereby to risk distorting their categories in order to reflect our own. If we succumb to this temptation then our accounts of their phonetic thinking will be anachronous. In this paper we shall consider the term makhraj al-ḥarf (‘exits of the letters’) and some other terms connected with it as they occur in Sibawayh’s celebrated Kitāb and in the works of other authors of the Abbasid era. In addition, we shall consider the implications of different interpretations of the terms, in particular for how we understand Sibawayh’s division of ḥurūf (‘letters’) into majhūr (‘clearly spoken’) and mahmūs (‘whispered’), categories that arguably still have relevence for the phonological analysis of Arabic and other Semitic languages."

All welcome!

the Arabic PGR committee