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ABOUT THIS DEMO

This Demo contains all the important printed editions of the first and the last seven chapters of the Kitāb of Sībawayhi, together with translations into French and German (an English translation will be added as soon as possible), with specimens of three manuscripts, all of which are briefly described in the page dealing with the works contained in this Demo.


The reason for the choice of the first seven chapters is that they act as an informal preface to the Kitāb and deal with a self-contained set of fundamental issues. Medieval grammarians recognized the importance and essential independence of these introductory chapters, and modern scholarship likewise has treated them as an entity of special significance, which is why they were translated by Troupeau. The virtual commentary of al-Zajjājī on this part of the Kitāb has recently been made accessible by Kees [C. H. M.] Versteegh, The Explanation of Linguistic Causes. az-Zaǧǧāǧī's Theory of Grammar. Introduction, Translation, Commentary, Amsterdam 1995, and is an indispensable adjunct to the text in this Demo.

Similar reasons account for the choice of the last seven chapters, which deal with articulatory phonetics in great detail, and have therefore attracted considerable attention in the secondary literature. They form the basis of all subsequent phonetic and phonological speculation in Arabic linguistics.

Since the above was written Chapters 285-302 have been added, though still without complete footnotes and manuscript links. Their importance lies in the exposition of the basic principles of nominal inflection.


The aim of the Demo is to give some idea of the possibilities implicit in the Project to publish a complete Hypertext edition of the Kitāb, by presenting a coherent corpus of important material through which the new techniques can be sampled. The practical scope and limitations of the Demo are set out in the page on Hints on how to get the best out of the current offering.

The structure of the Demo consists of a Base Text from which it is possible to jump (usually via reference bars at the head of each passage) to the corresponding place in three complete and other partial printed editions and the French and German translations, and to compare three manuscripts (only one for the last seven chapters 565-571, none yet for chs. 285-302). A number of token annotations are linked to the Base Text to give an idea of the way the text can be handled, from which eventually an entire apparatus criticus could evolve.

Obviously the navigational options are rudimentary at this stage, but the Demo will have succeeded in its purpose if it convinces the user that future scholarship will be based on an electronic library in which many of the functions of research will be carried out automatically by computerised routines replacing the traditional processes of physical reading, note-taking and publication. The scholar will simply monitor the output of a selected search programme and give assent to its presentation of the results, thereby personalizing what was in effect the controlled redistribution of a certain quantity of digitally stored data. And this in turn will be read electronically by other scholars using the same conventions.

At this point it is vital to emphasize that the ideas thus manipulated remain as powerful as ever, and that Sībawayhi's brilliance is more than enough to stretch the capacities of our contemporary computer technology. Even in this small specimen there are fascinating glimpes of the history of the transmission of the manuscipts, the varied responses of the Arab grammarians and the treatment of the work by our own 19th century predecessors. Electronic scholarship cannot cut itself off from past methods, and as long as the ideas remain more important than the medium, Sībawayhi's place in intellectual history is assured, because no matter how powerful the software, it will not understand the ideas for you.


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