skip to content

The Greek background of the grammatical fragments attributed to Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq (ENA 3173.1, T-S Ar.31.30, Rylands B 3652-3653, AIU IX.A.6)

Julia G. Krivoruchko

T-S Ar31.30V

T-S Ar.31.30 verso


In 2020 N. Vidro [2020b, see also 2020a] published four Genizah fragments, which she identified as belonging to Arabic Inflexion According to the System of the Greeks (Aḥkām al-i‛rāb ‛alâ mad̠hab al-yūnāniyyin̄) احكام الاعراب على مذهب اليونانيين, a work of the ninth-century Nestorian intellectual Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq. Following the editor, I presume that the above fragments come from a single text, which for the sake of compactness I will call ‘Greek-inspired Grammar’ (GIG).1 GIG reached us as five folios in an eleventh-twelfth-century hand: a well-preserved New York JTS ENA 3173.1 outlines the author’s summary of a previous discourse and his intentions as to the next one;2 four other folios (a well-preserved CUL T-S Ar.31.30 and fragmentary Manchester, Rylands B 3652, 3653 and Paris AIU IX.A.6) deal with matters of inflection and classification. 

Below I do not discuss the attribution of GIG’s prototype to Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq, neither do I deal with the details of the edition irrelevant to my observations. Having read GIG for the first time, I felt a need to get justice for its Greek roots and to contextualize it inside modern extended grammar studies. As I continued, the logic of research repeatedly pushed me towards Syriac material, into which I was reluctant to plunge, persisting in Greek-centred methodology. Vidro’s pioneering publication will certainly attract more attention in future, and specialists in Syriac and Arabic grammar will fill the gaps.3 

I am grateful to N. Vidro for the opportunity to think and read about material I would have not considered otherwise.


Parts of speech: GIG and Dionysius Thrax 

In the introduction Vidro explores the theoretical content of GIG comparing it to standard Arabic grammars and remarks on its similarity with the Kitāb al-Alfāẓ al-mustaʿmala fī l-manṭiq by Abū Naṣr Al-Fārābī: both have a classification of parts of speech that is unusual for Arabic grammars and use strange terminology [2020b: 27–29]. She further suggests that “[t]he listed categories and their names derive from a description of Greek in Tekhnē Grammatikē attributed to Dionysius Thrax (ca. 170–90 BCE)” [ibid.: 28].4 Generally, both Al-Fārābī and Dionysius Thrax figure prominently in Vidro’s study: “The hypernym ‘numbers ’ (arithmoi) is used in Tekhnē Grammatikē” [2020b: 30]; “the ‘three dots’ in the indirect quotation from Galen are reminiscent of Dionysius Thrax’s discussion of punctuation” [ibid.: 31], etc. 

In as far as any list of parts of speech west of India ultimately derives from Dionysius Thrax, Vidro’s statement is true, but hardly useful. Dionysius Thrax was indeed as fundamental to grammar as Euclid to geometry, and is known to have been widely used in teaching and translated into Syriac, Georgian and Armenian.5 But how important was he for the GIG? Using ἀριθμοί ‘numbers’ is hardly an indicator of any connection, as the word is in no way typical to Dionysius Thrax and has been employed by just about every Greek grammarian from the invention of the discipline until nowadays. Neither can the list of parts of speech (PoS) from Ars grammatica be taken lightly.6 One should be aware that PoS had symbolic and metaphysical significance for ancient and early medieval culture: the controversies about them were fierce and sowed dissension between schools, since the number of PoS was a scholarly opinion and a pledge of allegiance. The very history of ancient linguistics was conceptualised as the history of the PoS theories. Some grammarians are only known by the number of PoS they championed, which indirectly shows the value attached to this information.7 PoS perceptions were integrated into the Weltanschauung, which is reflected in the very terminology applied to them, e.g.:

Ἰστέον ὅτι τὰ παρ’ ἡμῖν μέρη τοῦ λόγου φιλοσόφων παῖδες στοιχεῖα καλοῦσιν· ὥσπερ γὰρ τὰ στοιχεῖα ἀποτελεῖ τὰς συλλαβάς, καὶ τὰ κοσμικὰ στοιχεῖα τὰ σώματα, οὕτω καὶ ταῦτα συνερχόμενα ἀπαρτίζει τοὺς λόγους.
One should know that well-educated people (lit. children of philosophers) call the PoS espoused by us ‘elements’ (στοιχεῖα): just like letters (στοιχεῖα) form syllables, and elements of the universe (κοσμικὰ στοιχεῖα) form (physical) bodies, so the PoS come together perfectly uniting into the sensible elocutions (λόγους) (Commentaria in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam, Scholia Marciana partim excerpta ex Heliodoro, Tryphone, Diomede, Stephano, Georgio Choerobosco, Gregorio Corinthio, Hilgard, p. 356, l. 2).8


The list adduced in the name of Dionysius Thrax and containing eight parts of speech was probably accepted in this form already by Aristarchus of Byzantium. Scholars agree that it had been further recognized by Apollonius Dyscolus and became standard. Since Latin lacked the article, Priscian had to elevate the interjection to the status of major PoS in order to preserve the total of eight.9 GIG’s declaration of seven parts of speech (Rylands B 3653v, l. 1–2), for this reason alone, should be a part of an altogether different story. Worse, GIG lacks the actual list of PoS, giving only their total, so we have less data on which to base our conclusions about the text’s pedigree.

Vidro wants us to believe that because GIG uses the terms ism, kalima, rābiṭ, ḫālifa, wāsiṭa, wāṣila, ḥāšiya, those are the parts of speech that the author considers major categories. It is possible, but not at all certain, because some of them could have been perceived as subcategories of one another. Neither can we presume that the order of the GIG’s list or the content of the terms is identical to that of Al-Fārābī: the author of GIG never mentions Al-Fārābī, and it is hardly possible to prove that he was familiar with his work.

Does the text of GIG provide extra clues about the system of PoS espoused? The author promises to deal with the material in order of PoS:  

... ואקצד אלי מא ילזם קסמא קסמא מן

وأقصد إلى ما يلزم قسما قسما من

אקסאם אלכלאם ואפ֗רדה עלי [ח?]דה ואצף גִُמל

أقسام الكلام وأفرده على حدة؟ وأصف جُمل

אעראבה ...

...إعرابه ب 

“I intend (to address) what is necessary for each part of speech one by one. I will treat (each part of speech) separately and will describe the rules of its inflexion” (ENA 3173.1r),


but the number and state of the fragments hardly allows for confident ordering based on the internal criteria.10

It seems that the mention of seven PoS was preceded by a discussion of some sort: 

ולד֗לך קלת אן אצנאף֗ אקסאם אלכלאם פ֗י

ولذلك قلت إن أصناف أقسام الكلام في

אלערביה סבעה

العربية سبعة

"and for this reason I said that in Arabic there are seven types of parts of speech” (Rylands B 3653v; emphasis mine – J.K.).


Also, the wording of

וקד יגִוז אן ידכ֗ל הד֗א אלבא[ב] פי ק

وقد يجوز أن يدخل هذا الباب في

קואנין אעראב [א]לאסם

قوانين إعراب الاسم 

“It is possible to subsume this chapter under the rules of the inflexion of the noun” (Rylands B 3652r)


may show that the author was unsure, to which section, i.e., to which PoS, the material belongs.11

While the material is insufficient for firm conclusions, moving away from Dionysius Thrax and viewing GIG as a text engaged in intellectual dialogue with alternative taxonomies certainly helps. Consider, e.g., a convenient summary of (some) Stoic classifications by a scholiast:

Οἱ γὰρ Στωϊκοὶ φιλόσοφοι … χωρίζουσι τοῦ ὀνόματος τὴν προσηγορίαν, ἴδιον μέρος λόγου αὐτὴν λέγοντες εἶναι· καὶ καταλέγουσιν οὕτω τὰ μέρη τοῦ λόγου· πρῶτον ὄνομα, δεύτερον προσηγορία, τρίτον ὑφ’ ἓν ῥῆμα <καὶ> μετοχή, τὸ μὲν ῥῆμα κατηγόρημα λέγοντες, τὴν δὲ μετοχὴν ἔγκλιμα ῥήματος, ὅ ἐστι ῥήματος παραγωγή· τέταρτον ὑφ’ ἓν ἄρθρον καὶ ἀντωνυμία, τὸ μὲν φάσκοντες ἀόριστον ἄρθρον, τὸ δὲ ὡρισμένον ἄρθρον· καὶ πέμπτον ὑφ’ ἓν πρόθεσις <καὶ> σύνδεσμος, τὴν μὲν προθετικὸν σύνδεσμον προσαγορεύοντες, τὸν δὲ ὑποτακτικὸν σύνδεσμον· τὰ γὰρ ἐπιρρήματα οὔτε λόγου οὔτε ἀριθμοῦ ἠξίωσαν, παραφυάδι καὶ ἐπιφυλλίδι αὐτὰ παρεικάσαντες.
“[...] the Stoic philosophers separate the appellative from the noun, saying that it is a proper part of speech. And they recount the parts of speech in this way: first there is the noun; second the appellative; third, under one heading, the verb and the participle, calling the verb a categoreme [= predicate] and the participle an inflected form of the verb, which is a derivation of the verb; fourth, under one heading, the article and the pronoun, calling the first an indefinite article, the second a definite article, and, fifth, under one heading, the preposition and the conjunction, calling the first the prepositive conjunction, the second the postpositive conjunction. But the adverbs they did not deem worthy to mention or to include in the list, likening them to a side-growth or by-growth” (Commentaria in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam, Scholia Marciana, Hilgard, p. 356, ll. 7–16, transl. by Swiggers & Woulers 2007: 57).


Comparable terminology is found in Rylands B 3652v:

“To the nominative among the pronouns belong anā and anta, the dāl (or ḏāl?) of the definite (אלמערפ֗ה) and similar forms in the feminine, dual and plural. To the accusative among them belong iyyāya and iyyāka and iyyāhu, the dāl (or ḏāl?) of the indefinite (אלנכרה) and similar forms in the feminine, dual and plural,"

about which the editor remarks: “The expressions dāl (or ḏāl) of the definite and dāl (or ḏāl) of the indefinite … are not clear. The reference may, perhaps, be to the demonstrative ḏā and related forms” [2020b: note 53 p. 53]. The Stoic stance clarifies the issue. Moreover, a Stoic-centred approach adds certainty to Vidro’s suggestion that “the relative pronouns allatī and allaḏayni, as well as the vocative particles and ayyuhā are articles, too” [2020b: 29]. On the other hand, the classification espoused by GIG is hardly identical to the one quoted above, since there is no indication that GIG treats the prepositions and the conjunctions in the way suggested by the scholiast, and earlier Stoic lists of PoS contain less than seven elements. On the totality of evidence considered numerically and chronologically, it seems that the PoS of GIG are closer to the Syriac tradition than to the Greek one.


“Three dots”: GIG, Galen and Aristoteles

Occasional disagreements with Dionysius Thrax cannot be taken as evidence that Ars grammatica was unknown to GIG’s author. On the contrary, the probability that he was familiar with it is significant, since the passage on the ‘three dots’, sc. the punctuation signs used to mark pauses of different length, is very characteristic of Dionysius.12 Στιγμή ‘dot’, ‘full stop’ occurs only in 9 authors among almost two hundred ‘Grammarians’, 166 times in total, of which 128 (6+122) belong respectively to Dionysius Thrax and his commentators.13 Yet before searching for the three dots in the commonplace school trivia, one should look into the context itself:

חתי אן גאלינוס יקול

حتى إن جالينوس يقول

Nay even Galen says


אנה מתי וצׄעת אעלאם תלך אלמ[קאט]ע והי נקט

إنه متى وضعت أعلام تلك المقاطع وهي نقط

that when signs were set for these units, i.e. the three


ת֗ל[ת] תערפהא אליונ[אניון] ............. בהא פ֗י

ثلث تعرفها اليونانيون ............... بها في

dots, the Greeks acquainted themselves with them and ...... them in


אלכתב אלג֗אמצׄה אלמסת[גל]קה ען אלפ֗ הם ואלמוקף֗

الكتب الغامضة المستغلقة عن الفهم والموقف

obscure books that are difficult to understand and comprehend. This is


לאנהא תסדדה ותרשדה ותדלה עלי מעאני אל

لأنها تسدده وترشده وتدله على معاني

because they show one the right way, guide one and indicate to him the meanings


כלאם ותחצרה ותחוטה ותמנעה מן אן יזול עמא

الكلام وتحصره وتحوطه وتمنعه من أن يزول عما

of speech while deterring, protecting and preventing him from moving away from


קצד אליה מנהא צאחב אלכלאם אלי ג֗ירה

قصد إليه منها صاحب الكلام إلى غيره وأبلغ من شرح

what was intended by the author of a statement over to something different.


Galen (b. A.D. 129) is the only author whom GIG mentions by name.14 An educated man of considerable means and wide interests, he was one of the most prolific writers of his time: about 500 titles were ascribed to him, but a great proportion of them vanished. Among those remaining, GIG’s seems to relate closest to Περὶ ἀλυπίας "On avoiding sorrow", a work considered lost but rediscovered by chance in 2005 in Vlatadon Monastery, Thessaloniki. This treatise is an answer to a fellow medicine student from Pergamon who asked why Galen did not seem to grieve over the great calamity that befell him: in a fire Galen lost all his possessions, including all the books he had written, all his medical tools, medicines and recipes, and his library. It is hypothesised to have been written in A.D. 193, a year after the great fire swept through Rome.

ἐπὶ τούτοις σὺν τοιούτοις καὶ τοσούτοις ἀπώλεσα κατὰ τὴν αὐτὴν ἡμέραν ὅσα μετὰ τὴν ἐπανόρθωσιν εἰς καθαρὸν ἔδαφος ἐγέγραπτό <μοι> βιβλία τῶν ἀσαφῶν <μέν>, ἡμαρτημένων δὲ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς οἷον ἐμοῦ προῃρημένου ἔ<κ>δοσιν ἐμὴν ποιήσασθαι, τῶν γραφῶν εἰς ἀκρίβειαν ἐκπεπονημένων ὡς μήτε τι περιττεύειν ῥήματα μήτε ἐλλείπει<ν>, ἀλλὰ μηδὲ παραγραφὴν ἁπλῆν ἢ διπλῆν, ἢ κορωνίδα προσηκό<ν>τως τιθεμένην ἐν μέσῳ βιβλίων· τί δεῖ λέγειν περὶ στιγμῆς ἢ ὑποστιγμῆς ἃς οἶσθα τοσοῦτον δυναμένας ἐν ἀσαφέσι βιβλίοις ὥστε προσέχοντα τὸν νοῦν αὐταῖς ἐξηγητοῦ μὴ δεῖσθαι; τοιαῦτα ἦν τὰ Θεοφράστου καὶ Ἀριστοτέλους καὶ Εὐδήμου καὶ Κλύτου καὶ Φαινίου βιβλία καὶ Χρυσίπ<π>ου τὰ πλεῖστα καὶ τῶν παλαιῶν ἰατρῶν πάντων.
On the top of this, together with so excellent and numerous [lost books], on the same day I lost those that after correction were copied anew, [those] obscure books of faulty penmanship, which I have chosen to be edited for me and executed with utmost care, so that neither words were superfluous or missing, nor there was a lack of a simple or double marginal sign, or properly placed coronis <…>, not to mention a full stop (στιγμῆς) or a comma (ὑποστιγμῆς). You know what is their power in obscure  books: if you pay attention to them, you do not need an explainer. Of that quality were the books of Theophrastus and Aristotle, and Eudemus, and Clytus, and Phaenius, and most of Chrysippus, and all the ancient physicians (Galen, Περὶ ἀλυπίας, Brodersen, sect. 14, l. 9).15 

If the GIG’s passage is indeed related to Περὶ ἀλυπίας, it is not an “indirect quotation” [2020b: 31], but rather a bow to the authority: Galen, a great physician, personally cared about having his texts properly punctuated. The mention of Aristotle among the manuscripts destroyed by fire could lead to another association, that with Rhetoric, one of few texts where comprehensibility is directly linked to proper punctuation, and certainly the most famous of them: 

ὅλως δὲ δεῖ εὐανάγνωστον εἶναι τὸ γεγραμμένον καὶ εὔφραστον· ἔστιν δὲ τὸ αὐτό· ὅπερ οἱ πολλοὶ σύνδεσμοι οὐκ ἔχουσιν, οὐδ’ ἃ μὴ ῥᾴδιον διαστίξαι, ὥσπερ τὰ Ἡρακλείτου. τὰ γὰρ Ἡρακλείτου διαστίξαι ἔργον διὰ τὸ ἄδηλον εἶναι ποτέρῳ πρόσκειται, τῷ ὕστερον ἢ τῷ πρότερον, οἷον ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ αὐτῇ τοῦ συγγράμματος· φησὶ γὰρ “τοῦ λόγου τοῦδ’ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι ἄνθρωποι γίγνονται”· ἄδηλον γὰρ τὸ ἀεί, πρὸς ποτέρῳ <δεῖ> διαστίξαι.
In general, a written text should be easy to read and well-formulated, which is the same. It should not have too many connectors or be difficult to punctuate, as the texts of Heraclitus. To punctuate Heraclitus is a [difficult] task because it is unclear, whether a word is connected to what precedes it or what follows, as in the beginning of his work: “As this logos exists always people become stupid”, and it is unclear, to which part ‘always’ refers (Aristoteles, Rhetorica, Ross, p. 1407b, l. 14).16

Heraclitus became a standard of incomprehensibility already by the time of Socrates and has kept this position ever since, earning the nickname Σκοτεινός ‘dark, obscure’. אלכתב אלג֗אמצׄה would be an exceptionally appropriate way of referring to his works.


Third person: GIG and Apollonius Dyscolus

Among the odd features of GIG, the editor mentions the definition of the persons of the verb:

אן אלכלמה ת֗לתה אוגִה אלאול ואלת֗אני ואלת֗אלת ואן אלאול הו אלד֗י מנה אלקול

ואלת֗אני הו אלד֗י יואגִד באלקול ואלת֗אלת הו אלד֗י יסתקפי באלקול

إن الكلمة ثلاتة أوجه الأول والثاني والثالثوإن الأول هو الذي منه القول والثاني هو الذي

يواجه بالقول والثالثهو الذي يستقفى بالقول

A verb has three persons (awǧuh): the first, the second and the third. The first is from whom the utterance is. The second is who is addressed with the utterance. The third is who is pursued by the utterance before: [2020b: 52–53; 2020a: 297], where

“[t]he Judaeo-Arabic expression yustaqfā bi-l-qawl used to define the 3rd person is not entirely clear. Form X of the root q.f.w usually means “to strike someone on the neck” and can also mean “to make someone to follow someone or something” and “to avail (p.52) oneself of somebody’s absence (in order to do something behind his back)”. The meaning “to pursue, to examine, to study” is suggested by BLAU in one case (2006: 559). An alternative translation may be “somebody who is construed as absent by the utterance”. I thank Professor Geoffrey KHAN for this suggestion [2020b: 52–53, note 51; cf. almost verbatim in 2020a:297, note 52].

Considering the context through the prism of its Greek parallels, it is evident that the Arabic verb is a rendition of the classical Gr. ἀναπολέω, translated by the fourth-century grammarian Dositheus Magister as recordor (Ars grammatica, par. 71, l. 65) and reminiscor (ibid., par. 73, l. 20), cf. DGE s.v. ἀναπολέω ‘1. repetir … ; 2. recordar … ; 3. volver a trabajar’; LSJ s.v. ἀναπολέω ‘turn up the ground again…, hence, go over again, repeat’.

The above lexicographical descriptions are only partially helpful, and the exact translation of the word complicated: both ‘repetir’ and ‘recordar’ have their problems. The idea of ‘repetition’ in modern European languages implies reproducing the same (sequence of) actions, while the semantic structure of Greek does not require precise iteration or reoccurrence: that is why the notion ‘repeat’ is further specified through αὐταῖς λέξεσι ‘in the same words’ and similar expressions. Greek implies only loose similarity or association, which makes ‘recall’ with its meanings ‘to remember; recollect; to be reminiscent of; seem similar to; to summon back to awareness …’ (AHDEL, s.v. recall 2.a–c.) a somewhat better equivalent. If we are to reflect the semantics of the GIG on the understanding of the Maimonidean passage quoted by Blau [2006, s.v. قغواققي קפו/קפי]

אד̇א אסתקפיתה פי ג̇מיע אלכתב וג̇דתה

׳אם תחפשנו בכל הספרים, תמצאנו׳,

it should mean ‘go (back) to the books you know/have read/looked through, etc., making your way with the help of your associations and memory’ rather than actively and possibly mechanically ‘pursue, examine, study a (possibly unknown) material’.17

ἀναπολέω is a derivative of πολέω LSJ I. ‘go about, … , haunt’,18 where the seme of potentially repetitive action is vividly present, and itself a base for another derivative ἐπαναπολέω LSJ s.v. ‘repeat yet again’.19 Apollonius makes most of the meaning of ἀναπολέω when explaining the anaphoric functions of (what he calls) articles and pronouns. A good illustration is the context from De pronominibus:

τοῦτο δὲ συμβέβηκεν, ἐπεὶ ἡ μὲν ἐκεῖνος καὶ ἡ οὗτος, δεῖξιν σημαίνουσαι, τὴν ὑπόγυιον γνῶσιν τοῦ προσώπου παριστᾶσιν, ἡ δὲ αὐτός ἐπ’ ἀναπολούμενον πρόσωπον φέρεται. ὀρθῶς οὖν ἐπὶ τὴν διὰ τοῦ ἐκεῖνος δηλουμένην δεῖξιν ἐπαναπολεῖται ἡ αὐτός, οὐκέτι μέντοι <ἡ> ἐκεῖνος ἢ οὗτος ἐπὶ τὴν αὐτός δύναται ἀναπέμπεσθαι·
“It happens because the words ἐκεῖνος ‘that’ and οὗτος ‘this’, being deictic (δεῖξιν σημαίνουσαι), express the actual present knowledge of the person, while αὐτός ‘he’ refers to the recalled/remembered (ἀναπολούμενον) person. Therefore rightly the reference (δεῖξις) expressed by ἐκεῖνος can be re-recalled/brought to memory (ἐπαναπολεῖται) by αὐτός, but αὐτός cannot be re-referred to through ἐκεῖνος or οὗτος” (Apollonius Dyscolus, De pronominibus, Schneider, part 2, vol. 1,1, p. 61, l. 5).20

Cf. also:

Ἡ τῶν ἄρθρων σημασία ἀλλοτρία δείξεως καθέστηκεν, ἐπαγγέλλεται δὲ ἀναφοράν, ὅ ἐστιν ἀναπολούμενον πρόσωπον. ὀρθῶς οὖν τῶν πρωτοτύπων, δεῖξιν σημαινουσῶν, κατὰ πρόταξιν ἀμοιρεῖ, καθ’ ὑπόταξιν δὲ οὐκέτι, ἐγὼ ὃς ἐποίησα· ἀναπολεῖ γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν ἐγώ προϋφεστῶσαν.
“The meaning of articles results/becomes different from deixis, it expresses anaphora, i.e. [a retrospective reference] to the person recalled (ἀναπολούμενον). It is therefore correct that, [when] preposed, [an article] has no share in personal pronouns, which are deictic, [but when] postposed it can, [for example in the sentence] ‘I/me who did [it]’, where [the article] (sc. ὃς ‘who’) recalls (ἀναπολεῖ) the preceding ἐγώ ‘I’.” (Apollonius Dyscolus, De pronominibus, Schneider, part 2 vol. 1,1, p. 14, ll. 4, 6).

In TLG, a corpus of Greek literature exceeding 110 million words, ἀναπολέω occurs in 312 contexts in 127 authors, of whom 94 are later than GIG’s time, and ἐπαναπολέω occurs in six contexts of four authors (once in Apollonius Dyscolus and Methodius of Olympus (3–4 cent.), twice in Plato and Homeric scholia). Among the ‘grammarians’, Apollonius Dyscolus is by far the most frequent user of the verb (15 times); his son Aelius Herodianus used it twice; Aristonicus, Epimerismi, and a commentator to Dionysius Thrax’s Ars grammatica once each. Consequently, even if no definition of the third person as such has been preserved under the name of Apollonius, his specific predilection for the verb allows us to point at him as a source for the relevant part of GIG.


Exemplification: GIG and others

From what has been said above it should already be clear that GIG belongs to the category of so called ‘extended Greek grammars’. According to Aussant & Chevillard, “‘[e]xtended [g]rammars’ are grammatical descriptions of various languages which make use of tools initially developed in and/or for another language” (2020: 3). The term ‘extended Latin grammar’ was first proposed by Sylvain Auroux in 1992 and prompted the emergence of a new research field, particularly productive in recent years. The inquiry into extended grammars deals mostly with “transfer of grammatical models” (Aussant & Chevillard 2020:4), i.e. with pre-existing theoretical categories applied to newly described languages. However, it could have benefited from a wider approach that would cover not only theory, but also exemplification used for illustrating grammatical notions.

From the viewpoint of Greek, the grammatical examples in Arabic grammars can be divided into: 

•    those of proven Greek origin (= related to established Greek sources);

•    others (= those with unproven Greek connections; invented or quoted without any connection to Greek, etc.).

Obviously, decisions about the originality of the examples are made on a probabilistic basis, whether formally calculated or intuitively perceived. They are about the probability of sets of interlingual synonyms (as opposed to random words) occurring in two texts for specific purposes of grammar illustration. Theoretically, proving the continuity between Greek and Arabic texts could be facilitated by the fact that the same sets have been previously transferred into Latin and Syriac, yet the lack of manageable corpora on the non-Greek side hinders the inquiry, limiting it to individual researcher’s knowledge and semantic sensitivity.

Once borrowed, the examples acquire a life of their own inside the new traditions whose adepts may no longer be conscious of their prehistory. Such ‘detached’ and especially ‘twice detached’ Greek examples can hardly ever rise to the category of certain borrowings because the quantity of data surviving from the early periods of receiving cultures is normally insufficient.21

The exemplification words do not simply form a convenient pool of morphophonologically unproblematic semantically basic vocabulary, but have their own specialization that developed throughout the centuries of teaching practice: each such word is associated with a specific theoretical topic or topics, and the topics have their favourites. Effective examples, once discovered, have a long life expectancy.

Many researchers engaging with the thorny question of the dependence of Semitic grammars on the Greek ones distinguish between grammatical and so called ‘philosophical’ examples. Yet assessing grammatical development through the prism of such a division is not always helpful: a fragment of the recipient grammar can be traced to a single grammatical or philosophical Greek text, but it is necessary to look into the prehistory of the Greek prototype as well. Upon examination, one may discover Greek philosophical texts behind the grammars and vice versa. Strict separation between the disciplines is often anachronistic and may be problematic in as far as the scope of author’s interests is concerned. Of course, the exemplification per se never guarantees that the author subscribes to some specific school of thought or theoretical beliefs, but it is a useful clue to his upbringing.

Before discussing the examples of GIG, it is important to observe how they are used. As appears from the fragmentary material at our disposal, the author tends to group the examples into couples and triplets. The examples in such groups differ only minimally, so that to make the point of comparison more prominent; the principle of minimalism is implemented consistently. 

The most classical of GIG’s examples is the verb ضرب , considered a Paradenbeispiel of the dependence on Greek sources since the nineteenth century. It translates τύπτω ‘to hit’, which is the prototypical verb, in as far as it has been used by Theodosius of Alexandria (4–5 cent.) to illustrate the complete paradigm of Greek verbal morphology, something which cannot be done on a randomly selected verb because it is likely to lack (necessary subsets of) forms. Theodosius was not the first to select τύπτω: it is found in Dionysius Thrax, who would have inherited it from his Alexandrian or even earlier precursors: already in Ars grammatica τύπτω illustrates categories as diverse as voice (διάθεσις) and number.22 It is likely that Theodosius chose τύπτω precisely because Dionysius Thrax had previously featured it as both an active and passive verb. In its turn, the predilection of Dionysius may be due to the appearance of the verb in random action examples (e.g., Aristoteles Analytica priora et posteriora, Ross, p. 49a) and in contexts that draw attention to its subject-to-object semantic structure, such as:

διὸ καὶ ἀδύνατον ἑνὸς ὄντος γενέσθαι ψόφον· ἕτερον γὰρ τὸ τύπτον καὶ τὸ τυπτόμενον· ὥστε τὸ ψοφοῦν πρός τι ψοφεῖ· πληγὴ δ’ οὐ γίνεται ἄνευ φορᾶς.
Hence it is impossible for one body only to generate a sound–there must be a body impinging (τὸ τύπτον) and a body impinged upon (τὸ τυπτόμενον); what sounds does so by striking against something else, and this is impossible without a movement from place to place (Aristoteles, Analytica priora et posteriora, Ross, p. 419b, l. 12, transl. by J. A. Smith).

Commentators to Dionysius Thrax well into Byzantine period continued to use τύπτω both as a paradigm verb and as an illustration of the accusative object. Extremely wide was its utilization by Apollonius Dyscolus: 108 instances cover all the range of the syntax of the accusative, including enclitic pronominal and non-enclitic objects, reflexive and passive constructions, infinitives, etc.23 

In GIG ضرب appears as the second or third in the series of examples:24 

לא תצ֗רב זידא

لا تضرب زيدا

או תאכ֗ד מאלה

وتأخذ ماله (T-S Ar.31.30r).

This pair of missing and surviving examples illustrate that the change of vocalisation results in altering the relationship between the clauses, and so do the following couple of examples. To illustrate this point one requires that the semantic structure of both verbs would allow for mutually simultaneous and sequential interpretation, a very loose constraint that most verb pairs would satisfy. For the sake of didactic clarity, actions would be preferable to states and simple syntactic structures to more complex. The default action verb τύπτω, i.e. ضرب, is good enough for the purpose.

Naturally, in most cases the requirements for the examples are more specific, but the Greek tradition provides a reliable resort of tried and tested solutions. Occasionally it is even possible to trace how this exemplification practice emerges in a culture. E.g., the verb τιμάω 'to honour, revere, respect’ occurs in ‘Grammarians’ in 66 forms and 311 contexts in total.25 Mostly it functions as a normal non-exemplifying verb, e.g., in the identifications of toponyms through the cult (‘X is a place where the deity Y is worshiped’), or Homeric quotations. Sporadically, it appears as an example of a contracted conjugation or an item of orthographical or accentological clarification. The usage of Apollonius Dyscolus stands out with its 46 forms, of which 21 are active, and a third of them explicitly mentions the terms related to nominative, accusative or direct object: ὀρθή ‘straight’, εὐθεία ‘direct’, αἰτιατική ‘accusative’. It is therefore likely that by the time of Apollonius τιμάω was emerging as a handy traditional example for illustrating accusatives and direct objects, e.g.: οὔτε τιμῶ σε οὔτε λαλῶ σοι ‘neither do I respect you, nor talk to you’ (De adverbiis, Schneider, part 2, vol. 1,1, p. 182, l. 17). 

Since similar material is found in commentators to Dionysius Thrax, one may conclude that we are dealing either with Apollonius Dyscolus’s usage with possible Dionysian basis, or a projection of the Apollonius’s usage on Dionysius Thrax by later authors.

For our purposes, it is important that τιμάω acquires the status of primary example of the accusative of direct object, e.g.:

Ἡ δὲ αἰτιατικὴ κατ’ αἰτίαν, οἷον διὰ τὸν Ἀρίσταρχον ἐτιμήθην
“The accusative [owes its name] to cause, e.g., I was honoured (ἐτιμήθην) because of Aristarch”. Commentaria in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam, Scholia Marciana, Hilgard, p. 384, l. 12.
«Ἡ δὲ αἰτιατικὴ κατὰ αἰτιατικὴν σημασίαν λέγεται», οἷον τὸν Πέτρον αἰτῶ ἢ ζητῶ, ἵνα αὐτὸν τιμήσω ἢ ἀτιμάσω, ἢ καὶ ἐν ὁδῷ ἀποστείλω ἢ εἰς μεγάλην ἀξίαν ἀναβιβάσω.
“The accusative is called [so] because of causing”, as for example I ?search/?blame or look for Peter in order to honour (τιμήσω) or dishonour (ἀτιμάσω) him, or send [him] on his way, or elevate [him] to some dignity”. Commentaria in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam, Commentariolus Byzantinus, Hilgard, p. 575, l. 11.

It is therefore not surprising that in Rylands B 3652r we encounter the Arabic equivalent of τιμάω instantiating the same category:

ומתי כאנת פ֗

ومتى كانت ف

When it is ....................


[מפ]עול בה נצב מן ד֗לך אנך תקול אבא זי[ד]

مفعول به نصب من ذلك أنك تقول أبا زيد

… a direct object, it is the accusative. For example, you say Abā Zaydin





In addition to standard examples for transitives, Greek has a number of established examples for the categories ‘action not requiring external objects’ / ‘state minimally related to external objects’. The verbs of walking occupy a prominent place: βαδίζω ‘Α. walk, 2. go about, 3. go, proceed’ (LSJ s.v.) and περιπατέω ‘walk up and down, as in a cloister, opp. βαδίζειν (take a walk)’ (LSJ s.v.).26 Being close semantically, both may appear in the explanations of the same theoretical issues.

Already Plato uses βαδίζω for illustration purposes. E.g., in Sophist, the Stranger intends to show that in order to produce a statement, verbs should be linked to subjects:

ΞΕ. Δῆλον γὰρ ὡς πρὸς ἕτερόν τι βλέπων ἄρτι συνωμολόγεις· ἐπεὶ τοῦτ’ αὐτὸ ἐβουλόμην εἰπεῖν, ὅτι συνεχῶς ὧδε λεγόμενα ταῦτα οὐκ ἔστι λόγος.
ΘΕΑΙ. Πῶς;
ΞΕ. Οἷον “βαδίζει” “τρέχει” “καθεύδει,” καὶ τἆλλα ὅσα πράξεις σημαίνει ῥήματα, κἂν πάντα τις ἐφεξῆς αὔτ’ εἴπῃ, λόγον οὐδέν τι μᾶλλον ἀπεργάζεται.
Stranger: I see; you evidently had something else in mind when you assented just now; for what I wished to say was just this, that verbs and nouns do not make discourse if spoken successively in this way.

Theaetetus: In what way?

Stranger: For instance, “walks (βαδίζει),” “runs,” “sleeps” and the other verbs which denote actions, even if you utter all there are of them in succession, do not make discourse for all that (Plato, Sophist, Burnet, Stephanus p. 262, sect. b, l. 5, transl. by H. N. Fowler).

Aristoteles uses βαδίζω in 244 contexts.27 Some of them are descriptions of real actions, such as the walking habits of lions and camels in Historia animalium, Louis p. 498b, l. 7, but most are abstract examples. Being a state, ‘walking’ often appears side by side with other states, such as ‘to be white’ (λευκὸν εἶναι) (e.g., Analytica priora et posteriora, Ross, p. 51b, ll. 11–19; p. 73b, ll. 6–7, etc.). Being a human action, walking is suitable for discussing the categories of cause/purpose, the latter being standardly ὑγιαίνειν ‘to be healthy’ (e.g., Ethica Nicomachea, Bywater, p. 1129a, l. 17, etc.). It is useful to illustrate finer details of potentiality and actuality, as well as basic formal categories, e.g.,

οἷον τοῦ ἄνθρωπος βαδίζει οὐ τὸ οὐκ ἄνθρωπος βαδίζει ἀπόφασις, ἀλλὰ τὸ οὐ βαδίζει ἄνθρωπος· οὐδὲν γὰρ διαφέρει εἰπεῖν ἄνθρωπον βαδίζειν ἢ ἄνθρωπον βαδίζοντα εἶναι·
“the contradictory of 'man walks' is 'man does not walk', not 'not-man walks'; for to say 'man walks' merely equivalent to saying 'man is walking'” (De interpretatione, Minio-Paluello, p. 21b, l. 9, transl. by E. M. Edghill).

Note that in this example, βαδίζω functions simply as a verb with an explicit subject.

It seems, however, that at a certain stage the exemplification through βαδίζω started to become unpopular outside Academia and Lyceum. For this or another reason, examples (but not occurrences) with this verb are missing from Chrysippus and the grammarians influenced by Stoic authorities.28

The competitor verb, περιπατέω, appears in the Aristotelian corpus 21 times, most of which do not represent abstract predicates, but still occasionally occur in discussing causes, e.g.:

περίπατος ἀπὸ δείπνου Γ, τὸ μὴ ἐπιπολάζειν τὰ σιτία ἐφ’ οὗ Β, τὸ ὑγιαίνειν ἐφ’ οὗ Α. ἔστω δὴ τῷ ἀπὸ δείπνου περιπατεῖν ὑπάρχον τὸ ποιεῖν μὴ ἐπιπολάζειν τὰ σιτία πρὸς τῷ στόματι τῆς κοιλίας, καὶ τοῦτο ὑγιεινόν. δοκεῖ γὰρ ὑπάρχειν τῷ περιπατεῖν τῷ Γ τὸ Β τὸ μὴ ἐπιπολάζειν τὰ σιτία, τούτῳ δὲ τὸ Α τὸ ὑγιεινόν. τί οὖν αἴτιον τῷ Γ τοῦ τὸ Α ὑπάρχειν τὸ οὗ ἕνεκα;
Let C be walking after supper, B the non-regurgitation of food, A health. Then let walking (περιπατεῖν) after supper possess the property of preventing food from rising to the orifice of the stomach, and let this condition be healthy; since it seems that B, the non-regurgitation of food, is attributable to C, taking a walk (περιπατεῖν), and that A, health, is attributable to B. What, then, is the cause through which A, the final cause, inheres in C? (Aristoteles, Analytica priora et posteriora, Ross, p. 94b, l. 11, transl. by G. R. G. Mure).
A veritable explosion of examples with περιπατέω comes with Chrysippus (279 – ca. 206 BC), in whose works it occurs in 52 contexts, the largest quantity in any individual author before the new era. For Stoics, περιπατέω became the primary example for verbal predicate (κατηγόρημα or σύμβαμα): Σωκράτης περιπατεῖ ‘Socrates walks’ (Chrysippus, Fragmenta logica et physica, von Arnim, fr. 184, l. 9), ὁ Δίων περιπατεῖ ‘Dion walks’ (ibid., fr. 187, l.9), οὐδεὶς περιπατεῖ ‘nobody walks’ (ibid., fr. 204, l. 7), οὗτος περιπατεῖ ‘he walks’ (ibid., l. 12), etc. The impact of Stoic teachings is clearly reflected in the works of Apollonius Dyscolus, who occasionally reuses Chrysippus’s examples litteratim. Περιπατέω occurs there no less than 121 times and illustrates a wide range of phenomena unrelated to the morphology or syntax of the particular verb. For instance, articular infinitive is exemplified through:
τῷ περιπατεῖν ἥδομαι ‘I enjoy walking’,
τοῦ περιπατεῖν πρόνοιαν ἔχω ‘I take care to walk’,
τὸ περιπατεῖν ἀνιαρόν ἐστι ‘walking is boring’ (De constructione Book 1, Uhlig, p. 43, l. 10 et seq.).


Basic syntactic categories of subject-predicate relationship and transitivity are illustrated by περιπατέω and the already familiar τύπτω:

… οἷον Τρύφων περιπατεῖ· ἡ διάθεσις ἡ ἐκ τοῦ περιπατεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν Τρύφωνα συντείνει. Τρύφων τύπτει Διονύσιον· ἡ ἐκ τοῦ Τρύφωνος διάβασις ἐνεργητικὴ διαβιβάζεται ἐπὶ τὸν Διονύσιον (De adverbiis, Schneider, part 2, vol. 1,1, p. 119, l. 11).


As it happens, GIG also employs in its examples two verbs of walking. The first of them appears in the pair

סיר בפ֗ לאן נהארא או לילא או דהרא

سير بفلان نهارا أو ليلا أو دهرا

“Walk with so-and-so, day, night, or day”


סיר בפ֗לאן דהר | אלטויל

سير بفلان دهر| طويل

“Walking with so and so long ago” (T-S Ar.31.30r),

which is rather minimalist in its avoidance of an explicit actor/subject.29 The author is interested in adverbials/time descriptions with or without extra attributes, and therefore does not need a verb whose semantic structure would require object(s). Greek verbs of walking match the required profile perfectly, having been used in this function for centuries.

The second appearance of the verbs of walking occurs in an incomplete pair or triplet:

.......... מן דלך אנך תקול ד֗הב

........ من ذلك أنك تقول ذهب

For example, you say ḏahaba


............. זידא ויכון גואבא למא אלואפ֗

......... زيدا ويكون جوابا لما النافية

...... Zaydan. It can also follow the of negation (clause)


..כון ......... יקע עליה רפ֗עא מן ד֗לך אנך

..كون ......... يقع عليه رفعا من ذلك أنك

............. that it affects is in the nominative. For example,


תקול מא דהב אלא אבו זיד

تقول ما ذهب الا ابو زيد

you say mā ḏahaba illā Abū Zaydin (AIU IX.A.6v).

Evidently, the point of comparison here is the vocalization of the last syllable of the actor/subject, which makes a ‘clean’ minimalist verb an ideal choice.

For reasons of space, I will not go into the analysis of more examples, or those that are even more fragmentary, in as far as those above, reasonably complete, show that most, if not all, of GIG’s non-Quranic illustrations are not random, but have their roots in Greek grammatical and philosophical traditions – Stoic, Aristotelean or Platonic.30 It is worth mentioning that by the time of GIG, or even its hypothesized prototype, many texts, from which these explanation practices could have originated, were already translated into Syriac and Arabic.31


GIG’s target audience

A few words are due about the environment where GIG could have been generated and used.

I doubt whether GIG in its current state allows concluding that “Jews who copied and used these texts were less interested in the intricacies of abstract theory than in attaining a solid knowledge of Classical Arabic” [2020a:284], and that “[a]ll identifiable grammars in the corpus are textbooks for beginners” [2020a: 301], unless one understands the notion of ‘beginner’ very broadly. Obviously, a potential Jewish user of GIG, whatever his mother tongue, should have known enough Arabic to make sense of the inconsistently pointed main text. GIG as we know it is not a zero-level foreign language teaching aid, as it lacks basic paradigms and lists. As Vidro is no doubt aware, GIG does not resemble Greek canons, whose content is pure morphology and morphophonology. Classical Theodosian canons (4-5 cent.) are written down in ascending order; later authors quote them simply as texts; rarer cases when the number is mentioned suggest a pre-existing list, written or memorized.32 Provided GIG is not a draft but a text that was eventually completed, the fragment AIU IX.A.6r should come after the part containing the fourth canon of the verbs, because it is mentioned there, and Rylands B 3653v should come after the sixth and the seventh canons of verbs.  Since none of the statements in our fragments is itself numbered, one may hypothesize that Rylands B 3652, 3653 and AIU IX.A.6, and to all probability also T-S Ar.31.30, belong to the part of the work that follows a section with canons, perhaps the ‘first discourse’ (المقالة).

According to the introduction, the second part of GIG (the one after POS and canons) should deal with “units”, i.e., whatever we will call syntax. Nothing seems to contradict it: as stated by the author, syntax (a) has been ignored by Arab scholars; (b) benefits from punctuation; (c) is knowledge that native speakers of every language intuitively command. The latter points are certainly true. If the part containing canons was (ever actually written and) transliterated into Hebrew, it could have been helpful for beginners. The section referring to syntax would be of interest to more advanced learners.

The examples used in GIG are understandable – although perhaps not always evident – for someone with limited Arabic. Whereas the same or similar examples actually occur or would not be out of place in a mainstream Sībawayhi-style grammar, GIG’s terminology begs to differ, and the finery of its Greek associations stands in contrast to the simplicity of its exemplification. One may suggest that GIG resulted not (or not primarily) from the intellectual fun of providing a description of one language through the system of another, but from a conscious effort to satisfy the readership that expected precisely such terminology and such finery. This readership would have undergone Greek schooling and felt at ease with Greek ways of approaching linguistic material, being a Greek-speaking Jewish community.

For one thing, the scribal conventions of GIG resemble that of Genizah Judaeo-Greek. The editor notices that “[s]omewhat unexpectedly, every letter פ in the fragment is marked with an oblique stroke above, presumably to imitate the dot on the Arabic ف“ [2020b: 33], further referring to Connolly (2018). However, Connolly’s material, Egyptian Judaeo-Arabic folk tales and letters from the Ottoman period, is chronologically and stylistically quite remote from GIG. In addition, if the oblique stroke is placed above ف only to achieve visual similarity, one may ask, for instance, why was ב not supplied a diacritic to imitate ب, as dots could be placed under the letters in GIG, e.g., under ג to indicate ج. And why the diacritic placed above פ was an oblique stroke, not a dot?

It looks possible that GIG follows the normal practice of the eleventh-twelfth-century Judaeo-Greek writing, where pei rafe is consistently used to reproduce [f]. Examples of such orthography are CUL T-S AS 107.246 + T-S AS 100.174, T-S Misc.28.74, T-S K24.14, T-S K7.16, T-S C6.133, L-G Talm.I.110, and possibly T-S NS 309.9.33 There is evidence that this practice was extended to non-Greek words, e.g., in Or.1080 J1 the Arabic name Maʿfūḏ (Ma’foud) is written as מ‏‏ָעְפֿוּדֿ [de Lange 1996: 12–13]. This spelling convention would be useful for those with little competence in Greek (e.g., immigrants from the Arabic-speaking world) and, to a lesser degree, Arabic.


In lieu of conclusions 

It has been shown that GIG calques the Greek prototypes in the general appraisal of its discipline, in practical ways of analysing and classifying the material, and in exemplifying the theoretical inferences. It contains allusions to classical Greek authors and close calques of known Greek grammatical concepts.

Unsurprisingly, GIG appears to be mostly dependent on Apollonius Dyscolus, whose analytical genius deservedly earned him the title of ‘maximus auctor artis grammaticae’ (Priscianus IX, 1). Behind Apollonius lurk Stoics, Dionysius Thrax and Aristotle, and an echo of Platonism resounds in the far distance. Multi-layered and multi-sourced, GIG is a child of many parents. As Sten Ebbesen concluded from the observations of GIG’s numerous European siblings, 

“[c]lashes between bits of non-homogeneous theories inherited from antiquity were an important factor in the formation of medieval theories in logic and grammar, but the traditional categories of Aristotelianism, Stoicism and Neoplatonism are not quite adequate to describe the situation. Neoplatonism is almost irrelevant in logic and grammar, while there might be reasons to introduce a new category, LAS = Late Ancient Standard, with two branches: (1) logical LAS = Aristotle + Boethius, and (2) grammatical LAS = Stoics &c. → Apollonius → Priscian” [2007: 136].

Multis mutatis mutandis, GIG illustrates the same tendency in the East.



1 For the Greek impact on Arabic grammatical thought see Versteegh 1977, 1980, 1990 and other works of this scholar.

2 ‘Author’ here and below implies the author of GIG, not its reconstructed Arabic-script prototype.

3 GIG in the original script, its Arabic retroversion and translation are quoted after Vidro 2022b. Other translations are mine unless attributed otherwise. Greek texts and data about the lexical usage are sourced from TLG. The bibliographical data of the TLG editions can be consulted under References > Primary Sources; place indications refer to the position of the discussed lexical items. Research on the ‘Grammarians’ was limited to the relevant subset of TLG with authors after 13th century excluded, varia and dubia included. I am aware of the limitations of this selection, but believe that it is sufficient for the purpose.

4 Cf. less categorical version of this statement: “The above given definition itself strongly resembles the Greek definition by Dionysius Thrax in Tekhnē Grammatikē “The Art of Grammar”” [Vidro 2020a: 298]. The editor seems unaware of the long-lasting controversy about the dating of the Dionysius Thrax’s text, with opinions spanning half-a-millennium, and the status of the specific parts she quotes. More on that in Matthaios 2009, Pagani 2010, Montana 2015.

5 For impact of Dionysius Thrax see Watt 1993; Shanidze 2000; King 2012, 2013. For papyri containing Dionysius Thrax see Wouters 1979.

6 Sc. τοῦ δὲ λόγου μέρη ἐστὶν ὀκτώ· ὄνομα, ῥῆμα, μετοχή, ἄρθρον, ἀντωνυμία, πρόθεσις, ἐπίρρημα, σύνδεσμος “There are eight POS: noun, verb, participle, article, pronoun, preposition, adverb, conjunction” (Dionysius Thrax, Ars grammatica, Part 1, vol. 1, p. 23, l. 1). Reversed into Greek, Al-Fārābī’s order would correspond to ὄνομα, ῥῆμα, σύνδεσμος, ἀντωνυμία, πρόθεσις, ἄρθρον, ἐπίρρημα.

7 See Swiggers & Wouters 2011, Lallot 1988, Robins 1966.

8 Cf. Theodosius, Περὶ γραμματικῆς (fort. auctore Theodoro Prodromo), p. 17, l. 27.

9 See Robins 1966: 45.

10 Cf. “My tentative reconstruction of the order of the pages is based on the order in which parts of speech are discussed by Al-Fārābī in Kitāb al-Alfāẓ and by inner-textual considerations” [2020b: 33]. I believe the latter should better be prioritized.

11 Alternatively, the doubts refer to the section of grammatical theory to which the material belongs, see below, or are simply a stylistic feature.

12 See [20201b: 31].

13 The actual number of contexts is less, since TLG assigns the context to the original author and to its quotators and scholiasts. While this approach makes some amount of repetition inevitable, TLG gives the best possible approximation to the spread of particular texts and concepts in the surviving parts of Greek tradition. Many scholia formally identified as Dionysian are inspired by the works of other authors, such as Nicanor ὁ Στιγματίας (“the Punctuator”), see Matthaios 2020.

14 On Arabic Galen in general and Ḥunayn’s Galen in particular see Vagelpohl 2018, Cooper 2019. 

15 For the textological problems of the passage see Singer 2013 with bibliography.

16 For the background of Aristotle’s Rhetoric in Arabic see Vagelpohl 2008.

17 One wonders, whether the lectio facilior quoted by Blau [ibid., s.v.] is indeed necessary. His ‘התחקה אחריו’ is semantically closer than Friedlander’s ‘durchzuchen’ [1902] and his own ‘בדק חקר,’.

18 I am not going to discuss here the relationship between the above and LSJ πολέω II. ‘turn up the earth with the plough, plough’ and other unfortunate translations of πολέω I., as it will lead us too far from the topic. 

19 DGE has not reached the word for the moment.

20 I am aware of the new edition of the work by Brandenburg (2005), but quote from TLG for ease of access and consistency.

21 See, e.g., the discussion about the Greek background of Sībawayhi in Versteegh 1977, ch. 2–3.

22 Voice: Διαθέσεις εἰσὶ τρεῖς, ἐνέργεια, πάθος, μεσότης· ἐνέργεια μὲν οἷον τύπτω, πάθος δὲ οἷον τύπτομαι, μεσότης δὲ ἡ ποτὲ μὲν ἐνέργειαν ποτὲ δὲ πάθος παριστᾶσα … (Dionysius Thrax, Ars grammatica, Uhlig, part 1, vol. 1, p. 49, l. 1); number: Ἀριθμοὶ τρεῖς, ἑνικός, δυϊκός, πληθυντικός· ἑνικὸς μὲν οἷον τύπτω, δυϊκὸς δὲ οἷον τύπτετον, πληθυντικὸς δὲ οἷον τύπτομεν (ibid., p. 51, l. 2).

23 TLG gives 111 instances, because its lemmatizer misidentifies τύποι ( as a form of τύπτω (aor. opt. act. 3 sg.): evidently, τύπτω’s wonderful ability to produce more than half a thousand forms ultimately backfires. 

24 The preceding מאלה (ماله) is the remnant of the previous example and should be italicised.

25 The actual number is less because the forms of the noun τιμή are misidentified as verbs.

26 Both interpretations are inadequate and can only mislead beginners. DGE βαδίζω I.1 ‘andar, caminar, pasear, ir paso a paso’ is expectedly better, as it underlines the physical stepping involved. DGE has not yet reached περιπατέω.

27 Here and below the totals refer to all the occurrences of the lexeme, including non-exemplification.

28 See Blank & Atherton 2003.

29 For reasons of space and coherence I will skip discussing, what are the reasons and purposes of בפ֗ / בפ֗לאן.

30 I presume that the example לא תאמר | באלמערוף֗ ותכפ֗ר באללה (T-S Ar 31.30r) is Quranic, cf. Q. 3:104, 110; 9:71, 112; 31:17 and perhaps 5:105. Vidro does not mark it explicitly as Quranic, but the translation shows that she believes it to be such.

31 For general history of the translation movement and specific philosophical works see Gutas 1998, 2017; Gutas & Kaldellis 2017; more on sociolinguistic background in Mavroudi 2014. 

32 See Theodosius, Canones isagogici de flexione verborum and Canones isagogici de flexione nominum, Hilgard; for later authors see, e.g., Georgius Choerobscus, Prolegomena et scholia in Theodosii Alexandrini canones isagogicos de flexione nominum, Hilgard, (9 cent.) with 603 mentions of κανών, mostly introduced by formulas κανών ἐστιν ὁ λέγων … / κανὼν γάρ ἐστιν ὁ λέγων …, ‘since/and there is a rule …’, ἔστι κανὼν ὁ λέγων … ‘there is a rule [that states] …’, et sim.

33 For the editions of these fragments, see de Lange (1996). Somewhat aside in the de Lange’s volume stands the Commentary on Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets (ibid.: 165-294; cf. Steiner 2007: 261*-263*). One may argue that a lengthy Bible-centred text can provide sufficient contextualization for solitary Judaeo-Greek words to be comprehensible without diacritics.


Primary Sources

Brandenburg, Ph. Apollonios Dyskolos, Über Das Pronomen, München: K. G. Saur, 2005. 

Brodersen, K. Galenos, Die verbrannte Bibliothek: Peri Alypias-Über die Unverdrossenheit, Wiesbaden: Marix Verlag, 2015.

Burnet, J. Platonis opera, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901 (repr. 1967).

Bywater, I. Aristotelis ethica Nicomachea, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894 (repr. 1962). 

Edghill, E. M. = The Works of Aristotle Translated into English under the Editorship of W.D. Ross. Volume I, Categoriae and De Interpretatione by E. M. Edghill; Analytica Priora by A. J. Jenkinson; Analytica Posteriora by G. R. G. Mure; Topica and De Sophisticis Elenchis by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge, Oxford: Clarendon, 1928.

Fowler, H. N. Plato: Theaetetus, Sophist. Greek with translation by Harold N. Fowler, Loeb Classical Library 123, Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1921.

K. Göttling, Theodosii Alexandrini grammatica, Leipzig: Libraria Dykiana.

Hilgard, A. Grammatici Graeci, vols. 1.3; 2.1; 4.1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1894 (repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1965).

Louis, P.  Aristote. Histoire des animaux, vols. 1-3, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1964-1969.

Minio-Paluello, L. Aristotelis categoriae et liber de interpretatione, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949 (repr. 1966). 

Mure, G. R. G. = The Works of Aristotle Translated into English under the Editorship of W.D. Ross. Volume I, Categoriae and De Interpretatione by E. M. Edghill; Analytica Priora by A. J. Jenkinson; Analytica Posteriora by G. R. G. Mure; Topica and De Sophisticis Elenchis by W.A. Pickard-Cambridge, Oxford: Clarendon, 1928. 

Ross, W. D. Aristotelis analytica priora et posteriora, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964 (repr. 1968).

Ross, W. D. Aristotelis ars rhetorica, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959 (repr. 1964). 

Schneider, R. Grammatici Graeci, vol. 2.1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1878 (repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1965).

Uhlig, G. Grammatici Graeci, vol. 1.1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1883 (repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1965).

von Arnim, J. Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, vol. 2, Leipzig: Teubner, 1903.



Secondary Sources

AHDEL = American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. 2011. Retrieved July 13 2022 from

Auroux, Sylvain. 1992. "Introduction: Le processus de grammatisation et ses enjeux." In Histoire des idées linguistiques: Tome 2: Le développement de la grammaire occidentale, edited by Sylvain  Auroux, 11–64. Liège: Mardaga.

Aussant, Émilie, and Jean-Luc  Chevillard. 2020. "Foreword." Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft 30 (1): 3–8.

Blank, David L., and Catherine Atherton. 2003. "The Stoic Contribution to Traditional Grammar." In The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics, edited by Brad Inwood, 310–327. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blau, Joshua. 2006. Dictionary of medieval Judaeo-Arabic texts. Jerusalem: Academy of Hebrew Language.

Connolly, Magdalen M. 2018. Linguistic Variation in Egyptian Judaeo-Arabic Folk Tales and Letters from the Ottoman Period (PhD), University of Cambridge.

Cooper, Glen M. 2019. "Ḥunayn Ibn Isḥāq and the Creation of an Arabic Galen." In Brill's Companion to the Reception of Galen, edited by Petros Bouras-Vallianatos and Barbara Zipser, 179–195. Leiden: Brill.

de Lange, Nicholas R. M. 1996. Greek Jewish Texts from Cairo Genizah. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

DGE = Adrados, Francisco R., and Juan Rodríguez Somolinos. 1980–. Diccionario Griego-Español (DGE). Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas.

Ebbesen, Sten. 2007. "The Traditions of Ancient Logic-cum-Grammar in the Middle Ages—What's the Problem?" Vivarium 45 (2): 136–152.

Friedlaender, Israel. 1902. Der Sprachgebrauch des Maimonides : ein lexikalischer und grammatischer Beitrag zur Kenntnis des Mittelarabischen: Lexikalischer Teil. Arabisch-deutsches Lexikon zum Sprachgebrauch des Maimonides : ein Nachtrag zu den anderen arabischen Lexicis. Frankfurt a. M.: J. Kauffmann.

Gutas, Dimitri. 1998. Greek thought, Arabic culture: The Graeco-Arabic translation movement in Baghdad and early Abbasid society (2nd–4th / 8th–10th centuries). London: Routledge.

---. 2017. "Gelehrte als Vermittler philosophischen Denkens: Ḥunain ibn Isḥāq, Ṯābit ibn Qurra." In Philosophy in the Islamic World, Volume I: 8th – 10th Centuries, edited by Ulrich  Rudolph, Rotraud  Hansberger and Peter Adamson, 680–704, 766–768. Leiden: Brill. [First published in: Ulrich Rudolph, ed., unter Mitarbeit von Renate Würsch, Philosophie in der islamischen Welt / 8.–10. Jahrhundert, Basel, Schwabe Verlag, 2012, 480–496, 543–544].

Gutas, Dimitri, A. Kaldellis, and B. Long. 2017. "Intellectual exchanges with the Arab world." In The Cambridge Intellectual History of Byzantium, edited by Anthony Kaldellis and Niketas Siniossoglou, 79–98. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

King, Daniel. 2012. "Elements of the Syriac Grammatical Tradition as these Relate to the Origins of Arabic Grammar." In The Foundations of Arabic Linguistics: Sībawayhi and Early Arabic Grammatical Theory, edited by Amal Elesha Marogy, 187–209. Leiden: Brill.

---. 2013. "Grammar and Logic in Syriac (and Arabic)." Journal of Semitic Studies 58 (1): 101–120.

Lallot, Jean. 1988. "Origines et développement de la théorie des parties du discours en Grèce." Langages 92: 11–23.

LSJ= Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott, and Henry Stuart Jones. 1925–1940, 1996. Greek-English Lexicon with revised supplement. 9 ed. Oxford: Clarendon.

Matthaios, Stephanos. 2009. "Aristarch, Dionysios Thrax und die Τέχνη γραμματική. Zur Echtheitsdiskussion des ersten Lehrbuchs über die Grammatik." In Ἀντιφίλησις. Studies on Classical, Byzantine and Modern Greek Literature and Culture in Honour of John-Theophanes A. Papademetriou, edited by E.  Karamalengou and E. Makrygianni, 386–400. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.

---. 2020. "Greek Scholarship in the Imperial Era and Late Antiquity." In History of Ancient Greek Scholarship From the Beginnings to the End of the Byzantine Age, edited by Franco Montanari, 260–372. Leiden: Brill.

Mavroudi, Maria. 2014. "Greek Language and Education under Early Islam." In Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts: Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone, edited by Behnam Sadeghi, Asad Q. Ahmed, Adam Silverstein and Robert Hoyland, 295–342. Leiden: Brill.

Montana, Fausto. 2015. "Hellenistic Scholarship." In Brill's Companion to Ancient Greek Scholarship, edited by Franco Montanari, Stefanos Matthaios and Antonios Rengakos, vol. 1, 60–183. Leiden: Brill.

Pagani, Lara. 2010. "La Techne grammatike attribuita a Dionisio Trace e la nascita della grammatica nell’antichità greca." Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione Classica 138: 390–409.

Robins, Robert H. 1966. "The development of the word class system of the European grammatical tradition." Foundations of language 2: 3–19.

Shanidze, Mzekala 2000. "Greek influence in Georgian linguistics." In History of the Language Sciences; Geschichte Der Sprachwissenschaften; Histoire des sciences du langage edited by Sylvain Auroux, E. F. K. Koerner, Hans J. Niederehe and C. H. M. Versteegh, 444–447. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Singer, Peter N., ed. 2013. Galen: psychological writings, translated with introductions and notes by Vivian Nutton, Daniel Davies and P. N. Singer with the collaboration of Piero Tassinari. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Steiner, Richard C. 2007. "The Byzantine biblical commentaries from the Genizah: Rabbanite vs. Karaite." In Shai le-Sara Japhet. Studies in the Bible, its exegesis and its language, edited by Mosheh Bar-Asher, Dalit Rom-Shiloni, Emanuel Tov and Nili Wazana, *243–*262. Jerusalem.

Swiggers, Pierre, and Alfons Wouters. 2007. "On the origins of the participle as a part of speech." In History of Linguistics 2005, edited by Douglas A. Kibbee, 50–66. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

---. 2011. "Grammatical doxography in Antiquity: The (hi-)stories of the parts-of-speech system." In History of Linguistics 2008, edited by Gerda Hassler, 69–91. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

TGL = Thesaurus Linguae Graecae© Digital Library. Ed. Maria C. Pantelia. University of California, Irvine. (accessed Jun. 17, 2022).

Vagelpohl, Uwe. 2018. "The user-friendly Galen: Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq and the adaptation of Greek medicine for a new audience." In Greek Medical Literature and its Readers from Hippocrates to Islam and Byzantium, edited by Petros Bouras-Vallianatos and Sophia Xenophontos, 113–130. London: Routledge.

Versteegh, C. H. M. 1977. Greek elements in Arabic linguistic thinking Leiden: Brill.

---. 1980. "Hellenistic education and the origin of the Arabic grammar." In Progress in Linguistic Historiography: Papers from the International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences (Ottawa, 28–31 August 1978)., edited by E. F. K. Koerner, 333–344. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

---. 1990. "Borrowing and influence: Greek grammar as a model " In Le langage dans l'Antiquité, edited by Pierre Swiggers and Alphons Wouters, 197-212. Leuven: Peeters.

Vidro, Nadia. 2020a. "A Book on Arabic Inflexion According to the System of the Greeks: a Lost Work by ḤUNAYN B. ISḤĀQ." Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik 72: 26–58.

---. 2020b. "Grammars of Classical Arabic in Judaeo-Arabic: An Overview." Intellectual History of the Islamicate World 8 (2-3): 284–305.

Watt, John. 1993. "Grammar, Rhetoric, and the Enkyklios Paideia in Syriac." Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 143 (1): 45–71.

Wouters, Alfons. 1979. The grammatical papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt: contributions to the study of the Ars grammatica in Antiquity. Brussels: Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België.





If you enjoyed this Fragment of the Month, you can find others here

Contact us: 

The manuscript in this article is part of the Cairo Genizah Collection in Cambridge University Library. To see more items from this collection visit: