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New perspectives on the Arabic language of the early Islamic period

Tuesday 17 July 2018
Summer School 2018 evening lectures
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


For a long time the history of the Arabic language has been understood from the perspective of the Arab grammarians who were active in the 9th and 10th century. Their view of the history of the language is clear: Before Islam (i.e. before the 7th century) the Arabs spoke the most eloquent form of Arabic, Classical Arabic, and the Quran was also revealed in this language.

However, close examination of the earliest layer of the Quranic text, its consonantal skeleton, reveals that Quranic Arabic is often quite different from Classical Arabic, and that whenever it deviates from the supposed classical standard, it often has close similarities with the Arabic that is used in the papyri and inscription of the early Islamic period.

In this talk, Marijn van Putten will  show through linguistic analysis of the Quranic text and other texts of this period that the linguistic standard was not at all Classical Arabic, but rather the Quran and Islam emerged in an environment where a different dialect of Arabic was the written standard.

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