Sa‘di as an Innovator in Arabic Semantics

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Department of Iranian Studies, Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
Academic Bio: 
Dénes Gazsi is a holder of two M.A. degrees: one in Arabic and one in Persian language and literature. He has graduated from Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences in Budapest and has been a PhD student at the Department of Iranian Studies at the same university since 2004. Since 2005 he has been working as a lecturer at the Department. The main areas of his research are Arabic language elements in Classical Persian Literature with special regard to the works of Sa‘di as well as the interrelation between the Arabic and Persian language (semantics, syntax).

The vocabulary of Classical Persian has to a great extent been affected in its long development by Arabic. The language of the literary prose of the 13th century AD was already heavily ornamented with a wide range of Arabic elements. This can easily be perceived in the writings of one of the most important personalities in classical Persian literature, Sa‘di.

The existence of such elements in Persian has always been a well-known fact among linguists and scholars both in Iran and Europe. Yet the linguistic analyses prepared by these scholars have mostly been confined to the examination of the basic rules of Arabic morphology and syntax. Thus, these studies do not seem to be sufficient to discern what concepts regulated the semantic changes that occurred in the course of the adoption of Arabic lexemes.

A remarkable feature of Sa‘di’s Persian diction, on the one hand, is that he freely used in it Arabic words with a different meaning than their original meaning. On the other hand, he formed words from Arabic roots that either only theoretically existed in Arabic but were not in circulation or appeared to be new coinages that never came into general use in Persian. From the number of variant readings of such words it clearly emerges that the copyists of the manuscripts in the centuries following Sa‘di’s death were unable to find out what these expressions meant and therefore readily amended their spelling or substituted them for more common Persian words.
In this presentation a handful of such unfamiliar Arabic forms will be elucidated and analysed in detail. After discussing their morphological features, an attempt will be made to show under what consideration could have Sa‘di formed these lexemes and what they were supposed to mean.

Academic Discipline : 
Persian Language and Linguistics
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