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08/02/2016

Comments

Casey Goranson

Could /aw#/ have become [ow] (before becoming [ō])? Or would the shift have been more or less immediate, due to the wide phonemic variance of /a/?

PhoeniX

I think it could be "immediate" exactly because of the phonemic variance, yes. But it's basically impossible to tell. Even in dialects that have ō < *ay today, the vowel is still often somewhere in between aw~ow~ō.

Jadhimah

I personally believe that in the pre-Islamic Arabic writing tradition, final و in non-construct nouns was much like the "silent e" of English, an unpronounced marker of masculine triptotes not in the accusative case. This assumes a dialect with the loss of nunation and final short vowels except final short /a/, which lines up quite well with that Greek inscription recently found. Take into account that both genitive and nominative forms of عمرو are written عمرو in Classical Arabic, likely indicating one pronunciation ['amr]. But the accusative is written عمرا, ['amra]. I think that there was a period of time in which all triptotes had that final و in writing in the nominative and genitive and ا in the accusative, and the و was silent, so وا was innovated to represent any final /u/, /u:/, /o/, or /o:/ as a mater lectionis. Eventually using و fell out of fashion except in the name عمرو but the convention of وا remained.

I also think the use of silent و was preceded by a phase in the spoken language that must have had long final vowels as case endings at least in pause, and these were represented in writing such as in theophoric names like عبدلهى etc. When final /u/ and /i/ were deleted that phonological distinction was obliterated so و was generalized to the genitive.

Jadhimah

To clarify my previous comment, I am basically insinuating that وا was used to indicate non-consonantal /w/, that is, [u:] or [o:], precisely because the clarity of و as a mater lectionis for the same vowel had been compromised by the fact that it had come to essentially represent a null vowel in the vast majority of words that used it. To the Arabs (perhaps post-Nabataean but pre-Muhammad Arabs), most words they encountered with final و would not have been pronounced with a [u:] or [o:].

PhoeniX

Hey there, thanks for your interesting comments!

The solution that you suggest has the enormously useful value that it explains why the وا was introduced. It's just such a shame that we don't have any evidence for such a stage (but that might just be an accident of history).

I also think the use of silent و was preceded by a phase in the spoken language that must have had long final vowels as case endings at least in pause, and these were represented in writing such as in theophoric names like عبدلهى etc. When final /u/ and /i/ were deleted that phonological distinction was obliterated so و was generalized to the genitive.

I don't think it's necessary to assume that the final vowels were long (in pause). Aramaic did not have final short vowels at all, and when the Aramaic spelling conventions were adapted to write Arabic, Arabic final -i may have just been felt to be closer to Aramaic than writing nothing at all.

This also helps explain why final -u and -i were eventually lost on the nouns, but not on, say the verb. If those endings were really pronounced and we would expect them to have been retained like other cases.

So perhaps, the original وا vs. و distinction was to mark the difference between long ū and short u, a distinction Nabatean Aramaic never had any use for.

So then we are left with four phases:

1. Classical Arabic-like:
Triptotes: def. -u, -i, -a; indef. -un, -in, -an
Ditptotes: def. -u, -i, -a; indef. -u, -a
2. Loss of final short vowels:
Triptotes: def. no ending; indef. -un, -in, -an
Diptotes: no endings.
3. Loss of nunation:
Triptotes: def. no ending; indef. -u, -i, -a
Diptotes: no endings.
4. Loss of final -u/-i:
Triptotes: def. no ending; def. -0, -0, -a

When the Nabatean script was adapted for Arabic writing, the main dialects must have been in stage 3, and therefore they chose to write the final indefinite case vowels as ـو، ـي، ـا.

When they transitioned into stage 4, the vast amount of words that were written with final ـو now had a "silent waw", and to distinguish that from a real waw they introduced وا.

Spellings like تيمالهي would then reflect either an archaic pronunciation of a name from a time that Arabic was still in phase 2, or alternatively, a dialects that was still in phase 2. (And spellings like عبداله which are also found in Nabatean would then be pronunciations of phase 3).

Phase 2 dialects must have certainly existed for some time, as the En Avdat inscription is certainly a reflection of such a dialect.

The En Avdat dialect presumably had: def. -u, -i, -a; indef. -ū, -ī, -ā (loss of nunation with lengthening?).

Very good insights! Will you publish on this/have you published on this? If not: What name should I put in the acknowledgements when I undoubtedly write a paper on this at some point?

Jadhimah

I wish! But I have a degree in Computer Science, not Linguistics. My name is Ibrahim A. Hawari.

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