I'm going to attempt to revive this blog somewhat again. Although I certainly can't promise I will keep it up. Lately, I've been spending a lot of time on Arabic, and the history of the Arabic language.
Something that has been coming up time and time again, is the realization that the orthography of Classical Arabic is extremely far removed from the way it is traditionally pronounced. So far, in fact, that it seems highly unlikely that the language the orthography was originally designed for was the same language that it is being written in .
Different from any orthography that deviates from the spoken language in the world, the spoken Classical Arabic is more conservative than its spelling. An analogy would be to write French, while you read it as Latin.
This has some implications for the language of the Qurʔān. The Qurʔān is traditionally read in something close to Classical Arabic. This is unsurprising, as the Qurʔān is one of the main sources cited by the Arab grammarians that helped codify Classical Arabic. It is important to note though that it is not identical to Classical Arabic, and there are in fact variant reading traditions of the Qurʔān which deviate from the Classical norm in several ways. But even these reading traditions, deviate markedly from the Qurʔānic orthography.
However, the orthography must have come from somewhere, and undoubtedly represent a spoken language when the orthography was devised. It is of course not necessary that the Qurʔān was per definition orginally composed in that language, just as later Classical Arabic could have had a orthogrpahic norm far removed from the way you are supposed to read it, this could have been the case for the Qurʔān as well.
What is interesting though, is that there are many cases where the orthography of the Qurʔān deviates from the standard, but, interestingly, is not closer to the Qurʔānic reading tradition because of it, but even further away. This strongly suggests to me that the Qurʔān was composed in a language that was quite far removed from the form it is recited in today, and probably more closely reflects the orthography that it is written in.
In the coming weeks, I wish to discuss some of the unusual spellings and forms in the Qurʔānic Consonantal Text (QCT), which seem to point to linguistic facts of the Qurʔānic language which do not agree with its traditional reading, or the later codified Classical Arabic. The above issue that it is not clear whether the QCT represent an orthography of the language that is not the language of the Qurʔān may come up several times, and it will be possible to argue in several cases that we are dealing with the 'Arabic of the Orthography' rather than the 'Arabic of the Qurʔān'.
These blog posts may discuss some controversial points, and you are free to disagree respectfully, and tell me about it. This is a subject I have been wanting to tackle for some time, and I need to get my thoughts on "paper". My ideas (which are by no means unique, and may have been discussed in the past) are not well enough developed to convert them into a scientific article or monograph, but I hope this will be a good start to get these ideas together.
Some notes on QCT. I will be providing Arabic script form of the QCT whenever I can, but I find it helpful, both to myself and my audience to transcribe them. Some of the orthographical practices that I will stick to:
All transcriptions of the consonantal text are written with <...>
alif ا will be transcribed with <ʔ>
alif maqṣūra ى will be transcribed with <ỳ>
tāʔ marbūṭah ة will be transcribed with <ḧ>
As the Hamza is a later addition to the QCT, it will never be transcribed. The Alif Mamdūdah is therefore identical to the regular final Alif.
Over the weeks I'll be releasing posts, and will keep a list updated on this page.