• Points of Contact: The Shared Intellectual History of Vocalisation in Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew

    Nick Posegay (see profile)
    Christian Arabic Studies, Digital Middle East & Islamic Studies, Digital Syriac Corpus, Graeco-Arabic Studies, Hebrew Bible / Old Testament
    Arabic language, Hebrew language, Syriac literature, Middle East, History, Linguistics, Islam, Judaism
    Item Type:
    Semitic languages, Christian-muslim relations, Middle Eastern history, Arabic
    Permanent URL:
    In the first few centuries of Islam, Middle Eastern Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike all faced the challenges of preserving their holy texts in the midst of a changing religious landscape. This situation led Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew scholars to develop new fields of linguistic science in order to better analyse the languages of the Bible and the Qurʾān. Part of this work dealt with the issue of vocalisation in Semitic scripts, which lacked the letters required to precisely record all the vowels in their languages. Semitic scribes thus developed systems of written vocalisation points to better record vowel sounds, first in Syriac, then soon after in Arabic and Hebrew. These new points opened a new field of linguistic analysis, enabling medieval grammarians to more easily examine vowel phonology and explore the relationships between phonetics and orthography. Many aspects of this new field of vocalisation crossed the boundaries between religious communities, first with the spread of ‘relative’ vocalisation systems prior to the eighth century, and later with the terminology created to name the discrete vowels of ‘absolute’ vocalisation systems. This book investigates the theories behind Semitic vocalisation and vowel phonology in the early medieval Middle East, tracing their evolution to identify points of intellectual contact between Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew linguists before the twelfth century.
    This book can be downloaded for free or purchased as a physical copy from Open Book Publishers, a fully open-access publisher in Cambridge, UK. They produce the Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures Series in cooperation with the Cambridge Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Support them here: https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/1510.
    Published as:
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago


    Item Name: pdf posegay-2021-points-of-contact.pdf
      Download View in browser
    Activity: Downloads: 657