« A non-Classical Hadith? | Main | Thamudic triptotes and the issue of discontinuity »




I agree, this is a very nice suggestion. It's very telling how JSNab17 has wawation on all Arabic absolute states!

AFAIK, Imperial Aramaic spells 'he' and 'she' as hw and hy, without the etymological aleph. Of course, you also see hy for 'she' in JSNab 17. Are you sure Nabatean had spellings like hwʔ?


For 'he', I'm sure there are spellings with the final aleph, look at JSNab 18 in the same article:

w dkyr ʿdmn hwʾ ktb ktbʾ dʾ bṭb w šlm
And may ʕdmn who wrote this text be remembered for good and may he be secure.

Cantineau also lists the form in his grammar besides hw, while he only lists the feminine form hy.


In the centuries followimg the annexation of Nabataea by Rome, the Nabatean script and scribal practice spread across north arabia. we can assume that it was being used by peoples of various linguistic backgrounds, and perhaps applied to different arabian languages. the surviving documents are short and uninformative, but it is clear from fifth century nabataeo-arabic inscription from sakaka that wawation had become purely orthographic as it was applies to aramaic words as well, e.g. dkyrw and b-tbw. if the use of the aramaic pronoun hwʔ obtained, thenthis would be the environment to expect the development of the waqiyah rule. note however that the arabic verb ʔdxlw /ʔadkhalū/ is attested in a fifth century inscription without waqiyah, suggesting that it might have developed later. the later we push this development, the less of the aramaic component of nabataean we can expect. it is a great idea, jadhima, and maybe the discovery of sixth century texts will comfirm your suggestion.

as for your revocalization of en avdat i miss the point. i think we have no evidence to argue for the loss of the phonetic wawation in the nabataean period and even later in the north as it appears in transcription as late as the fifth century ce. and the ,wawation, in en avdat isnt simple a generalized u suffix but a true case ending. the genetive on names like ʕbdʔlbʕly /ʕabdalbaʕali/ show that the tripartate inflectional system was present in early nabataean arabic, and en avdat -- a liturgical text -- seems to be an example of this archaic stage. so while we can talk about wawation as an orthographical device, there is no evidence for this in the nabataean period or in the north till at least the sixth century ce.

please forgive the use of 3 for ayn i am typing on my phone and do not have fancy fonts


Also, not that there is no reason to assume that the final waw in ʔbn ḥddw /ibn ḥadīdu/ was silent, as the name ʕmrw was pronounced /ʕamru/, transcribed in Greek as Αμβρου in the seventh century.


Dear Al-Jallad,

Your criticisms are of course valid, and I would have to do special pleading for stuff like ʕmrw /ʕamrū/ (a spelling pronunciation??; Tihama-like dialect influence??)

The reason why I liked Jadhima's solution is that it can derived the QCT case system (and a quirk of its orthography) from the Nabatean case system.

If we take the En Avdat Arabic def. nom -w as a "real" -u, that must mean En Avdat Arabic had one of the following two case systems:

1. Tihama Yemeni-like with loss of nunation and subsequent lengthening:
Definite: *-a, *-i, *-u Indefinite: *-ā, *-ī, *-ū.
2. Loss of nunation without lengthening, definite/indefinite become identical:
Def/Indef *-a, *-i, *-u

A final possibility is situation 1. which afterwards loses final short vowels, and spreads the indefinite system to the now unmarked definite nouns. This would be indistinguishable from system 2.

In the case of system 1. We would expect an orthographical representation:

Definite/indefinite -ʔ, -y, -w (which can plausibly be deduced from the En Avdat inscription).

If then, short vowels are lost, we would end up with a system:

Definite -Ø; Indefinite: -ʔ, -y, -w.

It is difficult to argue that final -ū, and -ī were lost, as this would obviously yield eronneous predictions about, e.g. katabū as that would yield **katab for the 3pl.m.

But we would have to argue that these vowels were somehow lost, to explain why the QCT orthography only writes the indefintie accusative -ʔ, but not the indefinite nominative and genitive.

There is room for special pleading, e.g. The indefinite case vowels were nasalized, and *-ã, *-ĩ, *ũ; Then, first word-final non-nasalized vowels were lost; and subsequently the word-final nasalized high vowels were lost.

System 2 would fail to explain why the definite accusative isn't also marked with *-ʔ, moreover it would fail to explain why Diptotes do not have wawation.

Jadhima's approach starts with the Classical Arabic system:
*-a, *-i *-u, *-an, *-in, *un;
1. Gets rid of final short vowels
Definite/diptotes -Ø; indefinite *-an, *-in, *-un;
2. Gets rid of nunation
Definite/diptotes -Ø; indefinite *-a, *-i, *-u Orthographically: -ʔ, *-y, -w.
3. *-i and *-u perhaps merged to /ə/ yielding JSNab 17-like Arabic:
Definite/diptotes -Ø; indefinite *-a, *-ə Orthographically: -ʔ, -w;
4. Word-final *-ə is lost:
The now purely orthographic -w is spread to every non-construct noun, but not to indefintie accusative since it is properly pronounced with -a, and written with -ʔ. Alif al-Wiqāyah gets introduced to distinguish genuine word-final /aw, ū/, from silent /w/.
5. wawation is removed in the orthography, yielding the QCT system.

Forms like ʕbdʔlhy (and ʕbdʔlhyw) would then be names from a different dialect that has not yet lost final short-vowels. This is perhaps confirmed by the fact that ʕbdʔlh also simply exists.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)