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David Marjanović

Are there non-canonical reading traditions? Is there anything known (other than maʕāāʔiš) about any that once existed?

Forms such as these appear to be the result of a centuries-long negotiation of what Classical Arabic is and isn't, the results of which are not straightforward. The resulting language that ends up becoming Classical Arabic is an amalgamation of all kinds of different forms which probably were never present in a single living dialect of Arabic.

Reminds me of Standard German – even though that started as a bureaucratic register rather than a poetic one.


There are fairly extensive books discussing in detail the so-called šāḏḏ readings (lit. unusual, i.e. non-canonical). Most notably Xālawaihi and al-ʕukbarī.

Also quite often in Quran commentaries, non-standard readings of certain verses are discussed, even sometimes aiding in the interpretation of the verse (in those cases it usually does not come down to such minor linguistic variations, but actual differences in what word is suppose to be read altogether).

It's very rare, however, for Ibn Mujahid to discuss non-canonical readings at all, which he does do here.


And yes, it is somewhat similar to the way standard German, or standard Dutch came to be.

Standard Dutch also has somewhat surprisingly dialectal forms. We will say la "drawer" but ladekast "dresser" with the archaic form of la in the compound. While lade can be used as a somewhat literary form of la in writing, saying **lakast would simply be incorrect.


But an example like this one here, where what would be a perfectly regular, and quite predictable plural (which is rare in Arabic) suddenly is replaced by a minor deviation from the standard pattern, is very difficult to understand the origin of. Why is there suddenly a dialectal form, where using the only minorly different regular form would not have affected any understanding at all.

It doesn't change the meaning, it doesn't change the consonantal text. It's weird that the Quranic readers had an opinion on this at all. Where exactly that comes from is probably lost to history... But hopefully, if enough of these forms are collected, one might be able to start making sense of it.

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