A Dissenting Grammarian Qutrub on Declension
This paper is concerned with a theory held by the Arab grammarian Qutrub (d.206/821) with regard to the inflectional vowels of the noun in Arabic. Contrary to what most grammarians believed, he asserted that these vowels do not serve to indicate (syntactic) functions, but to prevent the combination of two consonants. We examine the methodological background of this theory and argue in particular that (1) Qutrub’s theory about the inflectional vowels is connected — both substantially and terminologically — with his ideas about speech in general. He regards the Arabic language as essentially flexible, since speakers are allowed to choose among alternatives; (2) this same idea is reflected by Qutrub’s interest in ‘addād, i.e., homonyms with contrary meanings, and in mutashābihāt, i.e., Qur’ānic verses which seemingly contradict each other; (3) the clue to his theory is the term cilla “cause”. Basing himself on the doctrine of his Muctazilite teacher al-Nazzām, Qutrub argues that in order to be valid linguistic reasoning must meet certain logical conditions, in particular the condition of reversibility: unless cause and effect, or sign and referent, coexist they cannot be regarded as such. As there is no one-to-one relation between the inflectional vowels and the alleged cause, the accepted opinion about declension cannot be correct; (4) Qutrub’s own solution — the inflectional vowels are used for euphonic reasons — coincides with his interest in phonetic variants and pausal phenomena.
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