Words are sounds of the heart.

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

I thought that my previous entry on Ishtiqaaq marked the end of the linguists’ theories on this phenomenon, but it turns out there is more.

Rather than looking at the roots as individual units, some scholars of Arabic viewed them according to their articulation points (makhaarij) or phonological characteristics (sifaat), and found that when the letters of some roots shared the same (or very close) makhaarij, or when the letters shared similar phonological characteristics, a link between their meanings could be found! One theory put forward in explanation of such a deep relationship between the sounds of words is that it could indicate that early communication was an accoustic expression of what was in a person’s heart and soul; as what comes from the heart reaches the heart, these accoustics were well understood by their recipient.

Ibn Jinni spoke about this phenomenon in his book al-Khasaa’is, and gave some examples, among which are:

  • The verb jalafa جَلَفَ which refers to peeling something [e.g. the skin off fruit], and the verb jarama جَرَمَ which refers to cutting or plucking something off another [e.g. a fruit from a tree]. While there is a clear relationship between the meaning, it appears coincidental as these two words only share the first letter in common – the jeem. However, if their makhaarij are examined [see diagram below], it strikes us that the second root letters of each word the laam ل and the raa’ ر (coloured dark purple) – both share the same makhraj, and the third root letters of each word – the faa’ ف and the meem م (coloured light blue) – also both share the same makhraj!

Also compare the makhaarij of the following examples:

  • One meaning of the word ‘asara عَصَرَ is ‘he withheld, suppressed [something]’ coincides with the meaning of the word azala أَزَلَ ‘he confined, restricted, contrained, withheld [him].’

  • ghadara غدر means ‘he acted unfaithfully, treacherously [to another]’ while khatala ختل means ‘he deceived, beguiled, outwitted [another].’

  • When a horse neighs, it is said he sahala صهل, and when a lion roars or a camel brays, it is said they za’ara زَأَر.

Knowledge really does lead to humility, and the words of Allaah ring true [Yusuf, verse 76],

وَفَوْقَ كُلِّ ذِي عِلْمٍ عَلِيمٌ

Over all those endowed with knowledge is the All-Knowing

8 responses to “Words are sounds of the heart.

  1. Mushtaq AdbulRahman Tahir

    Mash’Allah – great site. Truely a deep language, truely this science is like an ocean, and we haven’t event reached anywhere near the ocean floor.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jazaka’Allah

  2. Subhanallah. This in modern linguistic terms runs on a deeper level, all those letters you mentioned not only have the same makhaarij, (place of articulation in modern phonology), but they are also the same manner of articulation. ر and ل are both known as liquids, ص and ز are both fricatives, خ and the غ are both pharygeal fricatives, and ت and د are both stops. The only non match up was the م and the ف are both from same place but م is a nasal. Keep it up, we’ve barely even dipped our hand in this ocean!

    Yaasir Al-Hotaki

  3. Salamu’alaikum wa rahmatallah

    Jazakamullahu khairan

    Wassalam

  4. wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam wa rahmat Allaah,

    Mushtaq and Yusuf, wa iyyaakum.

    Yasir, Jazaakum Allaahu khayran for that extra information – it adds another dimension of depth to it alhamdulillaah.

  5. as-salamu ‘alaykum

    Jazakumullahu khair.

    I love this ‘series’ on al-Ishtiqaaq. Everytime I hear a new arabic word (which would be almost always in class), I’d find myself thinking hey, that sounds like this or that word… and I’d find their meanings to be similar. Without even knowing such an explanation exists, I found that to be brilliant enough of the Arabic language. So this was some great enlightenment that I proudly take with me!

    Alhamdulillah.

  6. wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam,

    Wa iyyaakum.

    It is heartening to hear that, al-hamdu lillaah.

  7. Excellent work…

    May allah reward you for this

  8. UmmuAbiMaryam

    as-Salaamu 3layki yaa ukhty,

    Thank you for this great site, for allowing us to taste the few treasures that float to the surface while people like you scour the deep of the ocean of knowledge.

    This is so heartwarming ukhty, I envy you with a permissible envy. May Allaah preserve you and increase you in good, ameen.

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