Dissimilation of ē to ā in the Qurʾānic Consonantal Text

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Marijn van Putten

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Abstract

The alifāt maqṣūrah are kept strictly distinct in the Qurʾānic Consonantal Text. Depending on whether the final root consonant is a yāʾ or a wāw, they are spelled with ى and ا, respectively. As these two characters behave distinctly in qurʾānic rhyme, it is clear that they represent two distinct vowels in Qurʾānic Arabic, ē and ā, respectively. The current article shows that in a specific phonetic environment—namely, if y or ī stands in the vicinity of ē—it dissimilated towards ā. While representation of this dissimilation in the orthography of the Qurʾān has disappeared in modern print editions, careful examination across a large number of early qurʾānic manuscripts reveals that this original dissimilatory practice was reflected regularly in these manuscripts, and therefore also in the ʿUthmānic archetype.

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