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Inscriptional Evidence of Pre-Islamic Classical Arabic: Selected Readings in the Nabataean, Musnad, and Akkadian Inscriptions Paperback – March 15, 2013
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About the Author
Arabic type designer, independent scholar, librarian, and systems engineer. Born 1958 in Sacramento, California, and grew up in Karbala and Baghdad, Iraq. Moved to New York in 1979, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master of Science in Library and Information Sciences. Served for 12 years as a Senior and Supervising Librarian in the New York Public Library, specializing in Arabic, Science, and Business subjects. Served for 15 years as a Systems Librarian and a library IT director in the City University of New York (CUNY.) A known and active Arabic type designer especially noted for his non-traditional, innovative, Arabic typeface designs. Awarded a US design patent in 2000 and a utility patent in 2003 for his Mutamathil Type Style, an open template for simplified, technology-friendly, Arabetic font designs. Published several articles in scholarly journals about Arabic script history, typography, and computing. Contributes regularly to discussions on Arabic script related topics on international typography and archeology forums.
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The author is an Iraqi native, and deeply familiar with not only contemporary Iraqi Arabic dialects but also Yemeni dialects, Nabatean, Akkadian, and has a very deep knowledge of a number of the region's ancient and contemporary alphabets and scripts. The book deals with some very obscure topics. It helps to have a grounding not only in Semitology but a very good grounding in Classical Arabic grammar. A reader who is deeply familiar with Arabic as well as other Near Eastern languages and scripts may get even more out of the book - if she or he is open-minded.
I thought Abulhab's arguments and supporting evidence were excellent. He convincingly makes his case. But, to be sure, it's a controversial case that modern linguistics and philology would probably rather ignore. There are immense political implications to his argument. Understanding the geo-politics involved helps you understand why certain conclusions have been handsomely financed and supported for almost 200 years, and other conclusions systematically buried ignored or ridiculed.
Some Semitists - academic linguists and philologists specializing in the study of Semitic and Afro-Asiatic languages - have long known and admitted that familiarity with Classical Arabic lexicography and grammar is indispensable in studying semitic languages like Biblical Hebrew, ancient Aramaic, Nabatean, South Arabian and Ethiopic languages. In fact, you can easily dig up statements to this effect from previous generations of Orientalists and Arabists. When I was in college, I heard one of my professors openly stated this in a freshman course on the Old Testament. Approaching him after class, he casually made reference to the known Arabisms in the Book of Job as one example.
But Abulhab goes further and hammers home the point that you cannot understand ancient Babylonian and Assyrian texts without using Classical Arabic linguistic tools. If one avoids Classical Arabic one will make critical mistakes. He argues that one reason there are so many bad or contradictory translations of key Ancient Near Eastern texts is that many scholars lack deep familiarity with Classical Arabic. In effect he's saying that if Assyriologists were simply more open to Classical Arabic they could make immense progress in some of their field's key lingering problems.
While the other reviewers' negative comments mainly pertain to issues of copy-editing and line-editing, I found their severity to be unfair. Having ordered the book a couple of years ago actually, and going over it multiple times I see their points. The book needs much better good editing and proofing. That said, there are glaring typos in academic books coming off Brill, SUNY press, the University of Chicago Press, and other established academic houses. I found the prose readable. I could understand Saad Abulhab's arguments with little difficulty.
I've noticed on Amazon that sincere well-meaning reviewers sometimes have very strong emotional, visceral even, reactions to bad style and usage, grammatical errors, or typos. But content and presentation are two different matters. A horrid argument could be brilliantly presented and polished, a brilliant argument could horridly expressed. Does a lie become true if well expressed, or does a truth become false if badly expressed?
Abulhab's arguments and conclusions run counter to some established linguistic dogmas, but they are not without precedent and a few other more established scholars, fair minded one, have made veiled allusions along similar lines that would go over the head of people outside the respective fields. Abulhab's ideas would have once been career suicide. I think this may be changing, but that the truly innovative work will come from outside of the established corners of these fields. This is where revolutions in disciplines usually begin.