AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 8, Number 1. February 2024 Pp.237-242

The Emergence, Growth, and Maturation of the Arabic Language

Father Anastas Al-Karmali (d. 1947 AD, 1366 AH)

Reviewer: Prof. Dr. Saeed Jassim Al-Zubaidi

Department of Arabic Language
College of Science and Arts, University of Nizwa
Sultanate of Oman


Book Review

The writer had heard about Al-Karmali before reading him or anyone who wrote about him. He motivated me to choose this book from among what he had written, and it fell into my hands. I began to look at it repeatedly and examine its thirty-nine chapters. I am not one of those whose hearts are consumed by envy, hatred, or grudges. According to what Al-Karmali mentioned. Rather, I read it in a beneficial manner, as he said: “With an open heart and a grateful heart[i].” A passionate observer meant for me the opportunity provided by “The Iraqi Academy Papers” to commemorate him and explain his role in serving Arabic: as a council, lecturer, and author.

Among his extensive linguistic efforts, which were monitored by our Professor Ibrahim Al-Samarrai (may God have mercy on him), who said about these efforts: “The word fascinates him, so he researches its construction, origin, derivation, and its closeness to another Semitic language, or a non-Semitic language, he does not miss using it, the aspect of eloquence in that usage, the widespread error in its use by the public, and how it moved away from eloquence, becoming a disgraced colloquialism”.[ii]

From this point of view, I examined his book: “The Emergence, Growth, and Maturation of the Arabic language.”

It is clear from this title that this scholar monitors Arabic in its three stages: emergence, growth, and maturation, with his belief in historical linguistic development: He confirms what was said in its origins: “A group holds that words were initially placed on a single consonant, a vowel, and a vowelless consonant”.

“Another group says: Words are formed at the beginning of their emergence into three letters”. Then he chooses “the first opinion… so we decided to publish it and detail its facts”.[iii]

The statement about the duality of the Arabic word is not new, as Al-Khalil bin Ahmad Al-Farahidi (d. 175 AH) established (Kitab Al-Ain) “on four categories: the dual, the tripartite, the quadruple, and the quinqueliteral[iv]”.

This opinion was stated by Dominican Bishop Augustine Marmarji (d. 1963 AD, 1382 AH)[v]. Perhaps Father Anastas looked at Al-Khalil’s statement, as he published an excerpt from “The Book of the Eye” in Al-Aytam Press/Baghdad in 1914 AD[vi].

Al-Karmali was influenced by Sibawayh (d. 180 AH) is evident in his use of the word (kalam), as Sibawayh said: “This is a chapter on the knowledge of speech from Arabic[vii]”.

As concerns the title of his book, we have the following observation:

The scholar used the word (Iktihaliha, Maturation), and the stem (K, H, L) means: “The one whose hair turns gray, and who becomes old mature[viii]”. That is, language has reached maturity and strength, and it indicates the third stage of development, but I’d rather like him to have used the word (its completion) due to the perfection it achieved until God chose it as the language of His revelation, it would have been more accurate in expression, and this is not in the sense of (becoming mature), because after that the old person will grow older and die!

What the author mentioned in:

* Some Indispensable Linguistic terms

   It is an indication of the author’s extensive knowledge of the rich heritage of Arabic, and the linguistic items that he mentioned under this title are derived from the “dual” which he saw as the origin, which turns into a triplet during expression, filling, or attaching[ix]’, and this was stated by: “Al-Ispahani, the author of the book, the Unfamiliar Words of the Qur’an.” I believe that the author benefited from the approach of Al-Khalil (d. 175 AH) in composing the word, which was based on “an analysis of the sounds of the word[x]”. On his way of arranging speech, he said: “You should know that the dual word acts in two ways… and the tripartite word acts in six ways… and the quadrable word acts in twenty-four ways… and the quinqueliteral word acts in one hundred and twenty ways…”. An example of this is: “The dual… the chapter on the correct dual letter ‘ayn’ with the qaf and what comes before it is neglected…  the chapter on the correct tripartite ‘a ha q’[xi]” and so on. Ahmed bin Faris (d. 395 AH) benefited from this and added a new arrangement of the items that had not been preceded by anyone, including his saying: “Chapter on the hamza and the tha’ and whatever comes as a third item with them[xii]”.

I say that it would have been better for the author to mention his benefitting from (The Book of Al-Ain), as he reviewed its invaluable introduction, which contains “the beginnings of phonological information that science did not recognize… until several centuries after the era of Al-Khaleel”. This is an observation that does not overlook Al-Karmali’s work, nor disparage it. Rather, it is a warning to those who preceded Al-Raghib Al-Isfahani (d. 502 AH), whom he named (Al-Ispahani) influenced by what Yaqut Al-Hamawi (d. 626 AH) reported in “The Dictionary of Countries” (Ispahan)[xiii], so Al-Karmeli preferred him over everyone else, demonstrating his knowledge of the Arabic heritage.

The order in which words appeared in their first form:

   Al-Karmali said appertaining to this: “The vocabulary that first emerged was based on a single spelling, imitating nature”. The entire topic was taken from what Al-Khalil narrated in (The Book of Al-Ain), he said: “The letters: A, B, T, Th, along with what they were completed with, so it was the orbit of the Arabs’ speech and expressions, so nothing departed from it”. He said: “As for the double articulation, it is in the same position as the clamor, the earthquake, and the like”. This includes what Al-Karmali mentioned in: “Proof of what was mentioned above from the words of the predecessors”.Arabic Language Expansions

   Al-Karmali said: “What expanded the words of those who spoke Arabic “the word ‘dād”… was what occurred of inversion, substitution, misspelling, distortion, and the similarity of the lettering and Arabization”. It is an advanced view in explaining the growth of the language. Al-Karmali missed out a feature that preceded all the expanders he mentioned, which is (derivation), which is considered the first means in Arabic expansion.

What indicates AlKarmali’s mastery of languages ​​is his discussion of the following comparisons:

– “contrasting Arabic and Greek.”

– “contrasting Latin (Roman) and Arabic”.

–  “contrasting Persian and the ancient extinct languages ​​of Arabic.”

–  “contrasting the Semitic and Arabic languages”.

– contrasting the Saxon and Arabic languages”.

– “the benefits of contrasting Arabic to other languages”.

Here, I should bow in reverence and admiration for this venerable scholar, the likes of whom I have not come across before, in establishing a comparison between living and extinct languages ​​and Arabic, which calls for reviving the contrastive linguistic lesson called (comparative) in our time, and disseminating it to demonstrate the ability of Arabic to influence and be influenced, and the importance of this appeared in his useful and accurate words in (The Benefits of Contrasting Arabic with Other Languages).

– As for these topics in Al-Karmali’s book, his clairvoyant views are evident in the following:

– Conditions for taking from a language.

– The war between Arabic and foreign words.

– Which recent foreign words must be eliminated, and which ones will be spared?

– The death of an Arabic word, its disappearance and decline.

– Examples of dead or obsolete words.

– What shall live longer, and what shall not perish in this language.

Al-Karmali successfully presented these ideas, which are of great benefit to those who wish to expand on them and use them as the topic of a thesis or research.

As for the two topics:

– The origins of words and their letter structures.

– Arabic meters and formulas.

It is significant that they include morphological knowledge and are a translation of the idea that he believed in (the dual origin of the language), and in them he lamented the linguists that “they did not pay attention in each of them to that apparent commonality”.

Except for what he found with “Ibn Faris, for his venerable book (Al-Meqayees “Standards”) that cannot be corrected”.

Either because of its rarity, or because of its unfamiliarity”. This calls for researchers to delve into it, scrutinize it, and benefit from it, because “it is numbered in the hundreds”.

I hereby conclude with what I began with in my remark on the book’s title and what Al-Karmali stated in support of that remark, saying: “The perfection of Arabic in its various faces or its maturation”.[xiv]

I find that (completion) is more effective and appropriate.

Finally, the humanistic tradition, before it was scientific and cultural, to which (The Iraqi Academy Papers) was used to remind us of the eminent figures, especially the members of the Iraqi Academy among them, is extremely faithful, and the performance of the message with the wide dimensions that it promotes deserves to receive our support and to supplement it with up-to-date research.


[i] The Emergence, Growth, and Maturation of the Arabic language: Father Anastas Mary Al-Karmali. Beirut: Dar Al-Warraq. 1st edition, 2019 AD, p. 10, p. 256.

[ii]  Father Anastas AlKarmali and His Linguistic Views, Institute for Arab Research and Studies, Arab League. Cairo: Al-Ma’rifa Press, 1969, p. 12.

[iii] The Emergence, Growth and Maturation of the Arabic Language, p. 12-13.

[iv] The Book of Al-Ain, edited by: Mahdi Al-Makhzoumi and Ibrahim Al-Samarrai. Beirut: Al-Alami Publications Foundation, 1st edition, 1988 AD, 1/48.

[v] See: Arabic Lexicography in the Light of Dualism and Semitic Linguistics: The Dominican Augustin Marmarji. French Fathers Press in Jerusalem, 1937 AD.

[vi] See: Father Anastas Mary Al-Karmali, his Life and Writings: Gorgis Aw’wad. Baghdad: Al-Ani Press. 1966 AD, p. 110.

[vii] The Book of Sibawayh, edited by: Abdul Salam Muhammad Haroun, Beirut: Dar Al-Jeel. 1st edition, 1966 AD, 1/12.

[viii] Kitab al-Ain, Chapter on the Ha, the Kaf, and the Laam with them, Kahl, 3/378. 1/59. 1/60-190.

[ix] See: Father Anastas AlKarmali and His Linguistic Views, p. 88.

[x] Introduction to Kitab Al-Ain, 1/10.

[xi] Kitab Al-Ain, 1/59. 1/60-190.

[xii] Dictionary of Language Standards, edited by: Ibrahim Shams al-Din, Al-Alami Publications Company, 1st edition, 2012 AD, p. 24.

[xiii] See: Mu’jam al-Buldan (Dictionary of Countries), Beirut: Dar Sader. 9th edition, 2015 AD, 1/206-201.

[xiv] Kitab Al-Ain, 1/55. pp. 90-99; pp. 100-107; pp. 108-110; pp. 117-119; pp. 120-123; pp. 126-133; pp. 134-172; pp. 175-181; p. 191; p. 203.




Al-Hamawi, Y. (2015). Dictionary of Countries. Beirut: Dar Saader, 9th edition.

Al-Karmali, A. M. (2019). The Emergence, Growth, and Maturation of the Arabic Language. Beirut: Dar Al-Warraq, 1st edition.

Al-Makhzoumi, M. and Al-Samarrai, I. (eds.) (1988). The Book of AlAin. Beirut: Al-Alami  Publications Foundation, 1st edition.

Al-Samarrai, A. R. (1970). Father Anastas Mary Al-Karmali. Baghdad: Directorate General  of Culture.

Al-Samarrai, I. (1969). Father Anastas Al-Karmali and His Linguistic Views. Institute for  Arab Research and Studies, Arab League, Cairo: Al-Ma’rifa Press.

Aw’wad, G. (1966). Father Anastas Mary Al-Karmali: His Life and Writings. Baghdad: Al- Ani Press.

Haroun, A. S. M. (ed.) (1966). The Book of Sibawayh. Beirut: Dar Al-Jeel, 1st edition.

Marmarji, A. D. B. (193). Arabic Lexicography in the Light of Dualism and Semitic 

 Linguistics. Jerusalem: French Fathers Press.

Shams al-Din, I. (ed.) (2012). Dictionary of Language Standards. Beirut: Al-Alami

Publications Foundation, 1st edition.


Professor Dr. Sa’eed Al-Zubaidi is a professor of Arabic Grammar. He currently works at the Department of Arabic Language, University of Nizwa, Oman. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Baghdad, Iraq. Professor Al-Zubaidi published 36 books and tens of research papers and supervised 52 MA and Ph.D. students and received a number of rewards.