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Ara⁠ʾaytum: The Exegetical Implications of a Qurʾānic Stance Marker

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image of Al-Bayan: Journal of Qur'an and Hadith Studies

Discourse markers are lexical items that play the role of conveying the speaker’s attitude towards the topic of conversation. Although discourse markers have this function, they have little semantic content, yet their importance for understanding (oral) discourse can hardly be overestimated. As such, they have been widely studied in English. While the Qurʾān has a number of these discourse markers, none of them seem to have been properly noticed, let alone studied, by Arabic linguists and Qurʾān commentators. This article introduces what I believe to be the most frequent of these in the Qurʾān: araʾaytum (literally: “have you seen?”) in its various morphological manifestations. This article uses concepts from historical linguistics, pragmatics, and corpus linguistics – and in particular lexical co-occurrences – to examine the development of this form from a sense verb that simply means “to see” to a pragmatic attitudinal marker that is semantically vacuous and whose main function is to express the speaker’s dissatisfaction with, resentment at, or disapproval of the topic of conversation. While the analysis provided in this article is mainly linguistic, the findings will affect the way we read the Arabic-Islamic heritage, especially as regards the authenticity of what are known as the Satanic Verses, also known as the episode of the High-Flying Cranes (Qiṣṣat al-ġarānīq). This article also provides suggestions for the translation of this discourse marker.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Linguistics Indiana


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