Volume 41, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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Classical Arabic scholars continue to refer to A Grammar of the Arabic Language by William Wright (1830–1889) which they generally cite without any further precision. In doing so, they dissimulate the long history of this work. Basically, it is the translation, published in two volumes (1859 and 1862), of the second edition, in German, of the Grammatik der arabischen Sprache (1859) by Carl Paul Caspari (1814–1892). However, this book has itself a long history. A first edition was published, in Latin, in 1848, under the title of Grammatica arabica. The first part (Doctrina de elementis et formis) had even been printed for the first time in 1844. In the preface to the 1848 Latin edition, Caspari quotes his two main sources: the Grammaire arabe (11810, 21831) by Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838) and the Grammatica critica linguae arabicae, in two volumes (1831 and 1833, respectively), by Heinrich Ewald (1803–1875). The German version of Caspari’s Arabic Grammar was reedited in 1866. A new edition appeared in 1876, prepared by August Müller (1848–1892). This fourth edition was translated into French (two printings, in 1880 and 1881) by an amazing personality, the Colombian Ezequiel Uricoechea (1834–1880). It was also republished (5th and last edition) in 1887. As for Wright’s Arabic Grammar, a second edition, “revised and greatly enlarged” appeared, in two volumes, in 1874 and 1875, and a third edition, revised by William Robertson Smith (1846–1896) and Michael Jan de Goeje (1836–1909), also in two volumes, appeared in 1896 and 1898. This third edition, with some modifications due to Anthony Ashley Bevan (1859–1933), was reprinted in 1933. The latter, constantly reprinted, is the one Arabists generally refer to. Wright’s Arabic Grammar thus appears as the collective work of the 19th and early 20th century’s European orientalism. Interestingly, it also came to remind us that it is impossible to undertake the history of the field without the knowledge of two of its great academic languages: Latin and German.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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