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Kitāb Sībawayhi
"This book contributes to the critical discussion concerning the status of the Kitāb within the wider linguistic debate. It offers an overarching linguistic pattern that interacts with modern linguistics, and highlights the Kitāb’s true historical and linguistic potentials." (From publisher's site)
يشترك هذا الكتاب في المناقشة التقدية إلى آخره...خ
The Foundations of Arabic Linguistics: Sībawayhi and Early Arabic Grammatical Theory. Edited by Amal Elesha Marogy, University of Cambridge. With a foreword by M.G. Carter, University of Sydney. This is a unique reference on the three main Semitic linguistic traditions, accompanied by a detailed analysis of some grammatical and pragmatic aspects of Kitāb Sībawayhi in the light of modern theories and scholarship." (Publisher's blurb)
أصول العلوم اللغوية العربية : سيبويه وأوائل النظرية النحوية العربية. محررة أمل مروغي جامعة كامبريج تقديم أم جي كارتر جامعة سيدني. هاهنا مرجع نادرة في التراثات الثلاثة السماوية اللغوية ومعه تحليل دقيق في بعض أبعاد كتاب سيبويه من النحو والعمل تحت ضوء النظريات والدراسات المعاصرة

Status 30 Sept 2012: new "Status" tab; maximal spelling; quotation markup; notes on fonts; usable Table of Contents; etc. For details click on the "Status" tab.

Welcome to Sibawayhi.Org. This website is devoted the study of the Kitāb of Sībawayhi.

Sībawayhi (أبو بشر عمرو بن عثمان بن قنبر) was born in Persia, went to Basra to study, and died young, sometime around 180/796. The Kitāb (literally "Book") is his sole literary work. Consisting of 571 articles running to some 1,000 pages, it is a detailed account of "the speech of the Arabs" (كلام العرب). It is probably the first literary composition expressly intended for public dissemination as a book in the history of Arabic-Islamic civilization.

The Kitāb quickly became established as the last word on Arabic. It remains to this day the authoritative voice on Arabic grammar. In this respect Sībawayhi and his Kitāb are analogous to Euclid and his Elements in the European tradition.

Why study the Kitāb today? The brief answer is the Kitāb is the single most important piece of literature in the history of Islamic civilization after the Qurān. Language is at the very core of Islam; in the Kitāb, Sībawayhi left a record of how the Arabs of his day thought about language; and later generations of Muslims (and non-Muslim Arabic speakers) learned their Arabic at the feet of the master, Sībawayhi, by studying his Kitāb or one of the thousands of manuals based on it. The tradition produced a seemingly endless flow of books, manuals, guides, etc. about Arabic, but they were all based on the Kitāb. So for students of Arabic and Islam, mastery of the Kitāb lays the foundation for study of the tradition.

But there is another more profound reason to study the Kitāb, a reason that has little to do with Islamic intellectual history or even Arabic per se and everthing to do with contemporary intellectual life. Struggling with the text of the Kitāb is a profoundly therapeutic exercise; it takes the student directly to the most fundamental questions we can ask about the nature of language, meaning, and understanding. For arriving at an understanding of the text as Sībawayhi and his contemporaries would have understood it involves far more than just deciphering the ``literal'' meaning of the text. Western (European) culture, like every culture, rests on a host of presuppositions about the world and language. These mostly implicit commitments are so deeply embedded as to be practically invisible to those brought up within the tradition. For example, the West has traditionally thought of language as made of consonts, vowels, words, and so forth, and variously as representational, instrumental, etc.; and in general western scholars have not shied away from claiming universality for such notions. The Kitāb exposes such notions as fundamentally historical creatures, dependent for their intelligibility on particular times, places, and traditions.

Approach the Kitāb without an awareness of your implicit commitments and you will surely misread it. For the implicit presuppositions of Sībawayhi differ radically from those of the Western tradition, both ancient and modern. It is first and foremost an Arabic description of Arabic. The Arabic of Sībawayhi's day, like any historically situated linguistic practice, came with its own unique set of conceptual resources and constraints. What Sībawayhi had to say in Arabic about Arabic cannot be expressed in ordinary English. It can be expressed - it is not radically inaccessible to the English speaker - but not by any sort of direct simple translation. Grappling with the Kitāb is therapeutic in this sense, that it forces the student to come to an awareness of the implicit presuppositions that inform his or her reading. In particular, it demands an awareness of how the expressive resources and constraints of one's own language subtly condition one's grasp of what language is and how it works.

Once you have mastered the Kitāb you will find it difficult to take seriously the grand universalist pronouncements of Western Poobahs of modern linguistics.

This website is designed to facilitate the study of the Kitāb. It is a labor of love, not profit, although I hope to find a way to generate some revenue to finance the project eventually; it will be years before the website does all the things I plan for it - indices, hyperlinks, etc. Since this is a Beta version intended for testing the technical implementation and design, it currently it contains minimal content. But the planned outline will be evident.

The exception is that a complete (albeit unedited) text of the Kitāb is available on the "Text" subtab of "The Kitāb" tab. It also contains references to the page numbers of each article in the three main published editions, which should be useful to anybody checking references in papers on Sībawayhi.

Since this is a beta version, I ask that you run it through its paces and email editor at sibawayhi.org with any bug reports or suggestions. I would also appreciate it if you would send me a postcard from your local area by snailmail. You can send it to : Gregg Reynolds, 5075 N. Wolcott Apt 2, Chicago IL 60640, USA. Thanks!

أهلا وسهلا إلى موقع سيبويه


Something about the background here: the man and his milieu, etc....

General and specific bibliographies.

Status Updates