Investigating South Arabian words in al-Khahlīl's Kitāb al-ʿayn


  • Orhan Elmaz


This modest contribution attempts to demonstrate the problems related to diachronic research into South Arabian vocabulary. The first Arabic thesaurus, Kitāb al-ʿayn, is said to have been compiled by Omani-born al-Khalīl b. Ahmad by the end of the eighth century AD; in it he mentions fifty-seven words of supposed South Arabian provenance, thirty-six of which have not been dealt with elsewhere. In this paper these words are studied while searching for further corroboration for them and commenting upon their provenance and use. Overall, the paper demonstrates how Classical Arabic lexicography can add to our knowledge of Old Arabic dialects while contributing interesting input for debates on the emergence and development of Modern South Arabian languages and sharpening their history if research is furthered along the lines indicated here.





How to Cite

Elmaz, O. (2014). Investigating South Arabian words in al-Khahlīl’s Kitāb al-ʿayn. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 44, 29–42. Retrieved from