New Horizons in Quranic Linguistics: A Syntactic, Semantic and Stylistic Analysis

  • Book Title:
 New Horizons In Quranic Linguistics
  • Book Author:
Hussein Abdul-Raof
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New Horizons in Qur’anic Linguistics is the first book on Qur’anic linguistics which accounts for the different levels of linguistic and stylistic analysis. The linguistic investigation adopted in the current book is hinged upon modern Euro-pean theoretical linguistics. The present work serves the undergraduate, post-graduate, researchers and scholars of Arabic and English comparative linguistics, translation studies, corpus linguistics and Arabic and Qur’anic studies.

 New Horizons in Qur’anic Linguistics provides a fascinating informative insight into Qur’anic Arabic and furnishes an in- depth linguistic, semantic and stylistic analysis required for comparative linguistics and much needed for corpus linguistics. It addresses the needs of undergraduate students in terms of learning, the needs of PhD students in terms of research and the needs of the scholars in terms of teaching materials.

Premises of the current work

New Horizons in Qur’anic Linguistics is hinged upon two interrelated and equally important premises. The first premise is based on the linguistic fact that an in- depth account of Qur’anic discourse should be based on context- sensitive and co- text-sensitive grammatical, semantic, stylistic and phonetic factors.

The second premise of the current book is also based on the linguistic fact that an in- depth analysis of discourse should be carried out on different levels of discourse analysis, which includes: the particle level (conjunctive elements and prepositions), word level (content words and function words), phrase and clause level and text level. Most importantly, the two premises are hinged upon the prag-matic level where the text producer’s performative intention, the perlocutionary effects and the illocutionary (communicative) force of each speech act are taken into consideration during the discussion and the analysis process of examples.

Rationale of the current work

Although Qur’anic linguistics is an intriguing academic discipline, there have been no publications in English in a book form. This constitutes a major research gap. Most importantly, the value of European theoretical linguistics to the investigation of Qur’anic discourse has been overlooked.

 Qur’anic discourse can greatly benefit from European theoretical linguistics. Thus, for learning, teaching and research needs, new horizons in Qur’anic linguistics need to be explored and provided as an academic resource for American, European and other universities worldwide, where Islamic studies courses are taught at undergraduate level and where PhD students are supervised.

 Based on facts on the ground (the classroom) and my own personal teaching and research experience, there is no such book available for undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and scholars. Thus, a methodologically consistent book on Qur’anic linguistics is an academic must have.

There is an academic and market need for a book on Qur’anic linguistics which accounts for the different levels of linguistic and stylistic analysis (the particle, the word, the phrase, the clause, the sentence, the paragraph and the text). The lack of such a book constitutes a research gap. A book on Qur’anic linguistics needs to enjoy breadth, in- depth analysis and the insight into putting European theoretical linguistics into practice through informative explication of a large number of Qur’anic examples.

The availability of a book on Qur’anic linguistics where the different levels of lin-guistic analysis are discussed in detail will provide a valuable academic resource and a pool of information for the following research categories:…


Morpho- semantic analysis of Qur’anic lexical items

We will argue that style is context sensitive and does not tolerate semantic unacceptability, that is, we cannot say: (I drank a glass of air). For a word to be stylistically appropriate, its semantic componential features need to match its context. It provides a syntactic and semantic analysis of morphologically dif-ferent words which belong to the same verb root.

The argument is that words of different morphological patterns signify distinct meanings and perlocutionary effects. The discussion also involves the analysis of sentences where a specific word is employed and the underlying semantic reasons of a stylistic choice and the impact of semantic context. The examples will demonstrate that the grammatically oriented coherent sequence requires the employment of a word in the singular rather than the plural, the masculine rather than the feminine or vice versa in order to achieve coherence and consolidate the intended meaning of the message. The thesis of this chapter is that style is context sensitive.

The chapter investigates: semantically oriented morphological patterns, context- based sentence- final epithets, the active participle, semantic factors, componential features, collocation, surface structure semantic incongruity, semantic redundancy, violation of selection restriction rule, semantically oriented syntactic structures, and sound and meaning.

The present discussion is of high value to contrastive linguistics, computational Qur’anic linguistics and translation studies.

Semantically oriented morphological patterns

Words which are morphologically related belong to the same root. For instance, (kattaba – to make someone write something, i.e. to dictate), (kātib – writer), (maktūb – written), (kitāb – book), (maktabah – library, bookshop), (kitābah – writing) all belong to the same verb root (kataba – to write). Semantically, words which have distinct morphological patterns signify different meanings.

 Thus, the sentence meaning is hinged upon the morphological pattern of the word used in a given context. In other words, there is a bond between context and verb form. According to Arabic morphology, the pattern (faccala) signifies multitude (al- takthīr) and hyperbole (al- mubālaghah), as in (qaṭṭaca – to cut into many pieces),….

Theory and practice of Qur’an translation

This account is both practice oriented and theoretical. It offers practical insights into specific Qur’an translation problems. In the present chapter, syntactic, semantic, morphological, stylistic, cultural and phonetic Qur’an-bound translation problems will be accounted for.

 The cornerstone of the current discussion is the presentation of a variegated number of Qur’anic sentences whose translations are inaccurate, the presentation of examples which demonstrate how Qur’an translators are undecided among themselves, and how the same translator provides a different translation to the same sentence that occurs in a different place in the Qur’an. These examples will be thoroughly explained under different headings, which represent the problems involved.

 The present analysis of the linguistic, stylistic, phonetic, pragmatic and cultural problems in Qur’an translation is of value to translation quality assessment exercise. The discussion demonstrates that translation is simulation (pretending to be what one isn’t) and in interference, the disguise shines through (Newmark 1991:80). The Qur’anic examples also support Beaugrande’s claim that translation is a utopian activity (2003:13).

Bassnett asserts that we are now at a water-shed in translation studies, where there are all kinds of shifting and conflicting concepts of translation being continually reassessed and revised (Bassnett and Lefevere 1998:26).

Translating the Qur’anic text

While the Bible is indeed an anthology compiled of distinct writings (Moir 2009:32), ‘there is no textus receptus, a generally accepted form of the Qur’an’ in any language other than Arabic. Thus, for Moir, the Qur’an loses both its authority and its authenticity in translation, since the Arabic language is part of the message itself (2009:32). However, the Bible is a text that reports the divine word and there is a distinction between language and message, permitting the translation to be received as authoritative and authentic.

 Although we emphasise that translators should have text analysis skills, we disagree with Wilss’ argument (1982:49) that the limited ability of the translator with regards to text analysis is the major cause of mistranslation. Our position is particularly true when two languages are linguistically and culturally incongruent.

Linguistically and culturally incongruent languages like Arabic and English lead to translatability problems. This is also due to the semantic fact that some expressions are delexicalised in a given target language (TL). In other words, such words are source language- specific and constitute a void in the TL. Having such a problem, we expect that the target text (TT, i.e. the English translation) can suffer from semantic lacunas and is not effectively equivalent to the source text (ST, i.e. the Qur’an) in terms of:

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