Reviewed by Adam C. McCollum, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
In this book, the author, assistant professor of Islamic studies at the University of Vienna, turns his attention to hapax legomena (i.e. words occurring only once) in the Qurʾān, and more specifically such words whose roots are not otherwise known in Arabic. In Arabic, as in other Semitic languages, analyses of word formation and the lexicon are usually tied closely to an abstract root. Following an introduction, the work consists of two main parts: descriptive (Ch. 2, 11–122) and semantico-historic (‘Bedeutungsgeschichtlicher Teil’, Ch. 4, 131–230). Ch. 3 is an excursus (123–30) that puts the Qurʾān-focused lexicographical research within the context of broader Arabic lexicography.
Ch. 2 provides a theoretical framework on which the analyses in Ch. 4 hang. That analytical chapter contains a string of investigations on each of the fourteen hapax legomena that comprise the book’s focus. Each investigation consists of the cited passage (in Arabic) with remarks on the history of its interpretation in Western scholarship (including translation), on the word as it has been treated in Arabic-language lexicons, and on the word in exegetical literature on the Qurʾān (tafsīr), and a proposed translation (into German) is presented.
While the author used much primary and secondary literature across several disciplines, there are some bibliographical lacunae, including two very important works: Joseph Greenberg’s ‘Patterning of root morphemes in Semitic’ (1950) and Stephen Kaufman’s Akkadian influences on Aramaic (1974); the latter, for example, might have been well used at page 147 and the former in the discussion of root structure in subsection 2.7 and elsewhere.
There is a great mass of data on these (and other) lexemes presented throughout the book, not least in a number of charts in the appendices, and this collected information is thankfully now at the disposal of researchers working on similar topics. More strictly textually-oriented scholars will perhaps find the numerous charts, graphs, and even mathematical formulas less appealing than other parts of the book, which can nevertheless still be read profitably without a focus on the numerical data.
The Arabic parts, whether individual words or longer passages, are very well typeset, including the vocalized Qurʾānic excerpts. In addition to Arabic, a number of other scripts also appear, and they, too, have been arranged well. There are occasional errors in accents and spacing (e.g. page 7, note 3; page 8, five lines from the bottom; page 9, note 41, preceding the italics). Unfortunately, there is no quick comprehensive list of abbreviations, a fault all the more detrimental because of the author’s fondness for them.
Linguists who do not focus on Arabic or other Semitic languages—there is much here of relevance to root structure—will find the introduction and, perhaps less so, some of the discussion in Ch. 2 relevant to their research, but it is Arabists who will get the most out of the book, whether they are concerned with Arabic as a language or with the Qurʾān and its interpretation (in Arabic and in German and, occasionally, in English).