Kitab Al-'Ayn

Written by Nooruddin on .

Al-AynKhalil Ibn Ahmad Al-Farahidi (718-791 c.e.) was the earliest and, some say, the greatest linguist in the Arab world. He was born in modern-day Oman, following the 'Ibadi sect. As a young man,

he traveled to Basra where he became Sunni. Ibn Ahmad is credited with the creation of the current usage of harakat, the written vowel markings of Arabic. He also pioneered prosody, the study of rhythm and meter in language.

His masterpiece is his book Kitab al-'Ayn. "Ayn' is one of Arabic's 28 letters. However, the use of it in Ibn Ahmad's title is matserful. In Arabic, unlike English, there are a number of alphabetic arrangements other then the standard one taught today. In one, the letters are arranged from their positioning in the mouth, beginning with "ayn',  which originates deepest in the throat, and ending with 'meem', pronounced on the lips. Also, "ayn' means a source of water in the desert, as well as 'eye'. It was not only a book of syntax and grammar, but also a dictionary of the root words from which all Arabic vocabulary originates.

In another of his works, Ibn Ahmad gathered all 15 scales of Arabic poetry, and compared them with the language of the Qur'an. He didn't find a single similarity. Like all the great scholars of the time, Ibn Ahmad was also a teacher. Among his students were Sibawayh, Al-Asmaa'i and Abu 'Amr Al-Jahith, who continued the line of great grammarians.

Abu Bakr Al-Zabidi summarized Ibn Ahmad's Kitab Al-'Ayn and gave the following census of the Arabic Language.

No. of words

Root Forms

In Use

Not in Use

750

2-letter

589

161

19,650

3-letter

4,269

15,381

33,400

4-letter

2,820

30,580

6,375,600

5-letter

42

6,375,558

6,429,400

 

7,720

6,421,680

 

Source: Al Jumuah, Vol 22 Issue 09

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