Primary Use: Reference grammar of classical and modern Arabic Format: Two Volumes (combined into one book in later editions) with an index in the back of the second volume Pages:
Vol. 1: 317
Vol. 2: 450
Exercises: No Meant For: Intermediate to advanced
This book is the seminal work on Arabic Grammar, and is often referenced in other Arabic grammar books. First translated from the German and published in 1859, this book underwent a major revision in 1874 and another revision in 1896. Since 1967 it has been published in paperback form containing both volumes in one book, although few changes have been made since the third edition in 1896.
This book contains practically every grammatical construction in Arabic and one would be hard-pressed to find an Arabic grammatical term or lexical item that can't be found in Wright's Grammar. It even includes a fairly large section on poetry and poetic license in Arabic.
This book employs a lot of Latin terminology for grammatical terms and often does not mention the English grammatical term, for instance using 'Nomina Verbi' for 'verbal noun' or 'masdar.'
The book includes many examples of the particular grammatical issues described, which can be particularly helpful when the English/Latin description is not fully understood. Tables are not often employed, and one occasionally finds things written not just in Arabic script but in Greek, Ethiopic, Hebrew, and other scripts as well.
This book doesn't have chapters as such; rather, the book is organized into main topics. Each page has a main theme indicated at the top of the page, and the English letters A,B,C, and D are located on the sides of the page as a means of easily finding a topic.
Although this book is organized so that the grammatical topics flow from one subject into the next, this book is only recommended as reading from cover to cover for the severely masochistic. It works best as a reference.
How to Use It
In order to use this book to the fullest extent, one must already know the following:
- The Arabic Script
- The Arabic alphabet in order
- Arabic grammatical terms
- English and Latin grammatical terms
Although this book is not easy to use and it seems as though one must know a lot prior to its use, students should not be afraid of using this book. It can unlock the secrets of the Arabic language; it just takes patience in learning how to use it. The various terminology can be picked up the more one uses this book.
The first thing to note is that in more modern editions of Wright's Grammar, both volumes are rolled into one large book. The page numbers go up to page 317, then restart with the second volume at page 1 (after going through the introduction to the second volume). There are also two tables of contents; one at the beginning of the book, and one at the beginning of the second book (after the first book ends at p. 317). It can be helpful to either take the book into a bookshop to have it rebound as two volumes, or to put a post-it note in the book where the break between the two volumes occurs.
The table of contents for both Volume I and Volume II are only marginally helpful. They can be used if one would like to use this book to get a good sense of an entire topic. It is also worth looking over the table of contents to start out with just to see how these books are laid out and the differences between the two volumes.
The best way to utilize this book is to use the three indexes, which are located in the back of the second volume.
The first index is 'Technical Terms, Mnemonic Words, Paradigms, Etc.' This index is a list of words such as الوصف (description) in Arabic and is organized in Arabic alphabetical order.
The second index is 'Arabic Words, Terminations, Etc.' This is also a list of words in Arabic organized in Arabic alphabetical order and includes the words and endings not found in the first index. This is where one will find particles such as أن and the various kinds of و which, as this book shows, doesn't just mean 'and.'
The third index is 'English and Latin Technical Terms (Including Some Arabic, Expressed in Roman Letters), Grammatical Forms, Constructions, Etc.' This index is listed in alphabetical order in English.
The second index is generally the most helpful for the intermediate student who is learning how to use Wright's Grammar. For instance, one might come across a sentence somewhere with the word ما in it that doesn't seem to take its usual meaning. The word ما can then be looked up in Wright's Grammar alphabetically under the second index. Here, one finds a whole list of this word located in different sections of the book. The student can then look up the various forms of ما that might fit the sentence structure.
The index is unfortunately not very self-evident when it comes to looking up words; however, once the system is learned it becomes relatively easy to use. Let's take ما again as our example. One of the entries is as follows: ما, indefinite, i. 277A; ii. 137 D; with intensifying force, ii. 276 B. Here, the roman numerals i. and ii. Indicate which volume. For the first instance, p. 277 must be looked up on that page in the first volume and not in the second; the second instance must be looked up under p. 137 in the second volume. The letters A and D correspond to the location on that page where one will find the ما in question. It is located in two different areas because it is relevant to the discussion in both areas; thus, it is worth looking up in both places as it may be discussed in two slightly different ways. Sometimes is difficult to see what is meant by words such as 'indefinite' or 'with intensifying force' which may refer to the usage of the particle itself or to the words that follow. In these cases, one must look up the examples in the corresponding pages to get a clearer sense of what the words are referring to.
Caspari, C.P. A Grammar of the Arabic Language. Trans. W. Wright. 1st ed. 1859. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.