Early and Medieval Arabic Linguistic Thought: Scholarship and Literature
- Course Code:
- Unit value:
- Taught in:
- Full Year
This is a text-based course which seeks to examine the scholarship and literature of early and medieval Arabic linguistic thought through the study, translation and analysis of a representative selection of the tradition’s original literary sources. While reviewing the content and context of key literary works, specific emphasis will be placed upon encouraging students to develop a critical understanding of the dynamics of grammatical and lexicographical discourses and their function within the wider framework of Islamic thought and the production of knowledge. It is expected that the course will provide not only a clear sense of the sophistication, significance and fecundity of the scholarship associated with the tradition of Arabic linguistic thought, but also demonstrate the critical role played by grammatical and philological theories in the fleshing out of legal, exegetical and theological concepts.
Given that this is essentially a text-based course, it is expected that students should be able to read and comprehend classical Arabic material.
Objectives and learning outcomes of the course
On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:
- understand the overall theoretical thrust of the epistemological arguments, methodologies, debates, and technical discourses which lie at the heart of medieval Arabic linguistic abstraction
- discern key aspects of the history of Arabic linguistic ideas and the significance of nuances within them
- comprehend the conceptual importance of the seminal literary texts and treatises of the early and medieval Arabic linguistic tradition
- appreciate the broader intellectual significance of the Arabic linguistic tradition within the context of the classical Islamic sciences and trace the impact of ideas between disciplines and spheres of learning
- evaluate current academic discourses on the mediaeval tradition of Arabic linguistic thought, and show an awareness of the overarching context of current debates, arguments and methodological frameworks applied in its study
This course will be taught over 22 weeks with a 2 hour lecture per week.
Scope and syllabus
The course readings and lectures are constellated around a critical analysis and fleshing out of selected aspects of the major themes and topics outlined below.
- Historical genesis of Arabic linguistic thought: biographical literature and the construction of history
- Hypotheses of influence: Greek, Syriac and Pahlavi antecedents
- Analytical methods of the grammarians: legal and ethical analogues
- Sources of the grammarians and philologists: the status of poetry, variae lectiones and Prophetic dicta
- Towards a theory of language: the verb as a nexus-complex
- Major themes in grammatical and philological study
- Critical objectives of linguistic thought
- Morphology, morphophonology and aspects of phonetics in medieval Arabic thought
- The Production of literature: surveying seminal linguistic texts and treatises
- Schools of language: historical reality or myth
- Frameworks for the transmission of knowledge: contributions of the Arabic grammarians
- Lexicography: form and content of the literature
- Religious strictures and the development of linguistic ideas
- The Semantic nexus: rhetoric and the study of grammar
- The Function of commentary and super-commentary: medieval linguistic discourses
- Discourses on the origins of language: an arcing of theological and linguistic trajectories
- Logic and the study of grammar
- Linguistic scholarship in the service of law
- Grammatical and philological abstraction in the service of theology: the architecture of dialectical procedures
- Contextualising meaning and context: language in the service of exegesis:
Method of assessment
One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); one 3,000 word essay to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (25%); one 3,000 word essay to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (25%).
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