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Sadan, Arik, Kasher, Almog (eds.), A Critical Edition of the Grammatical Treatise Mīzān al-ʿarabiyya by Ibn al-ʾAnbārī

Jean Druel
p. 388-389
Référence(s) :

Sadan, Arik, Kasher, Almog (eds.), A Critical Edition of the Grammatical Treatise Mīzān al-ʿarabiyya by Ibn al-ʾAnbārī (d. 577/1181), coll. Arabische Studien 15, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Verlag, 2018, 116 p.

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1Thanks to this beautiful edition, the editors have finally made available to the community of scholars a short pedagogical treatise of the Arabic language entitled ‘the balance, or scales, of Arabic’. In their introduction, the two editors first present a codicological study (pages 4‒8) of the two known manuscripts of the text, British Library OR 8652, which they were able to examine, and Dār al-Kutub al-Miṣriyya, Maǧāmīʿ Ṭalʿat 875, of which they only saw a microfilm reproduction.

2In their study (pages 9‒34), the editors compare the Mīzān with another, longer, text by Ibn al-Anbārī, Asrār al-ʿarabiyya, using the distinction presented two centuries earlier by al-Zaǧǧāǧī (d. 337/949) between three types of ʿilal (sg. ʿilla, ‘[grammatical] cause’), al-ʿilal al-taʿlīmiyya ‘didactic causes’, which merely describe the behaviour of words, al-ʿilal al-qiyāsiyya ‘analogous causes’, which compare the behaviour of different words, and al-ʿilal al-ǧadaliyya al-naariyya ‘dialectic and speculative causes’, which aim at explaining the language as such. They show how the shorter, pedagogical, Mīzān recourse only to the first type of ʿilal, sometimes simply listing the words under discussion, whereas the larger, more speculative, Asrār presupposes as known this first level and directly engages in a discussion on the second and third types of ʿilal, using more complex linguistic examples and expanding the discussions, although the chapter on madar is an exception, being more detailed in the Mīzān.

3Of a special interest are the contradictions and discrepancies between the two works (pages 31‒34). I found the case of laysa particularly interesting. A majority of Baṣrans accept the possibility to prepone the abar of laysa before laysa itself, and this is what Ibn al-Anbārī follows in his Mīzān. However, in the Asrār, he takes sides with the Kufans who do not accept this possibility, but for a different reason than them. According to Ibn al-Anbārī, Baṣrans accept this possibility for the simple reason that it is already possible to prepone its abar before its ism, which he says is the wrong reason (fāsid). Ibn al-Anbārī writes in the Asrār that laysa is an ‘inflexible verb’ (fiʿl lā yataarrafu). Verbs are either ‘flexible’ or ‘inflexible’, but this has no impact on their ʿamal, which is either ‘flexible in itself’ (mutaarrif fī nafsihi) or not. In other terms, it is not because verbs operate on what comes after them that they automatically operate on what comes before them, and this is where the argumentation of the Baṣrans is flawed. It is possible to prepone the abar of laysa before its ism but not before laysa itself because, on the one hand, laysa is weaker than kāna, which is flexible and for which it is possible to prepone its abar before kāna itself, and, on the second hand, stronger than , which is a particle whose abar it is not possible to prepone before its ism. Thus, laysa occupies a middle ‘status’ (manzila) between kāna and . It is not possible to prepone its abar before it in order not to supersede the ‘status’ of kāna, but it is possible to prepone its abar before its ism in order to supersede the ‘status’ of .

4This discussion is altogether absent from the Mīzān, where Ibn al-Anbārī defends the Basran position, even quoting the Qurʾānic verse (Q XI, Hūd, 8) that is usually adduced as linguistic proof by the Basrans for their position. If one could think, at first glance, that Ibn al-Anbārī decided to avoid the discussion and follow the Basrans in the Mīzān for pedagogical reasons, the editors note that the Qurʾānic verse is a complex linguistic proof that weakens such a pedagogical decision. I do not completely agree with them, since one may want, even in a pedagogical treatise, to provide the students with the grammatical topoi.

5The edition itself is nicely laid out and the bibliography very complete. I only regret that the editors have systematically provided the pages of the Asrār in the Seybold (1886) and al-Bayṭār (1957) editions, and not in the Madkūr et al. (2015) edition, which is far more readable. The passage that I have paraphrased above, on laysa, is barely understandable in the two first editions. The layout in the Madkūr et al. edition makes the text much more understandable.

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Jean Druel, « Sadan, Arik, Kasher, Almog (eds.), A Critical Edition of the Grammatical Treatise Mīzān al-ʿarabiyya by Ibn al-ʾAnbārī »MIDÉO, 34 | 2019, 388-389.

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Jean Druel, « Sadan, Arik, Kasher, Almog (eds.), A Critical Edition of the Grammatical Treatise Mīzān al-ʿarabiyya by Ibn al-ʾAnbārī »MIDÉO [En ligne], 34 | 2019, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2019, consulté le 29 novembre 2023. URL :

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