Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Book of Sibawayh

A link to the book of Sibawayh:

Abū Bishr ʻAmr ibn ʻUthmān ibn Qanbar Al-Bishrī (aka:Sībawayh) (Sibuyeh in Persian, سيبويه Sībawayh in Arabic, سیبویه) was a linguist of Persian origin born ca. 760 in the town of Bayza (ancient Nesayak) in the Fars province of Iran, died in Shiraz, also in the Fars, around 180 AH (796–797).

He was one of the earliest and greatest grammarians of the Arabic language, and his phonetic description of Arabic is one of the most precise ever made, leading some to compare him with Panini. He greatly helped to spread the Arabic language in the Middle East.
Sibawayh was the first non-Arab to write on Arabic grammar and therefore the first one to explain Arabic grammar from a non-Arab perspective. Much of the impetus for this work came from the desire for non-Arab Muslims to understand the Qur'an properly and thoroughly; the Qur'an, which is composed in a poetic language that even native Arabic speakers must study with great care in order to comprehend thoroughly[citation needed], is even more difficult for those who, like Sibawayh, did not grow up speaking Arabic. Additionally, because Arabic does not necessarily mark all pronounced vowel sounds, it is possible to misread a text aloud (See Short vowels in Arabic); such difficulty was particularly troublesome for Muslims, who regard the Qur'an as the literal word of God to man and as such should never be mispronounced or misread.
Etymology There many theories that are currently maintained regarding the meaning of this name. One is that the name Sibawayh is derived from the Persian words سیب-بو-یه (Sib-bu-yeh) meaning "the one with an apple's scent".

On the other hand, the following explanation contrudicts the above theory. There are words like "asal-wayh" (عسل ویه), "sar-wayh" (سارویه), and "shir-wayh" (شیرویه) that are the combination of the name of an animal or something edible plus "wayh". "wayh" (it is pronounced "uyeh" in modern Persian) is an ascriptive postfix. In modern Persian these words are pronounced "asaluyeh", "saruyeh", and "shiruyeh"; respectively. "asal", "Sar", and "Shir" mean Honey, Starling, and Lion/Milk (both spelled the same, so there is no way to say what the appropriate meaning of Shir is in this particular application), respectively. So based on this comparison sibuyeh does not mean "smell of apple" or anything like that. Another word with the same structure that is still spelled with the old style (or probably middle Persian) is "babvayh" in "ebn babvayh" (ابن بابویه) that is the old cemetery of Tehran. But the first part of the word (bab) is neither the name of something edible nor the name of an animal.

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