Volume 15, Issue 2 (2024)                   LRR 2024, 15(2): 217-250 | Back to browse issues page


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Tajabadi F. Phonetic Analysis of Qur'anic Distances. LRR 2024; 15 (2) :217-250
URL: http://lrr.modares.ac.ir/article-14-57111-en.html
Researcher, Department of Linguistics, University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, USA , ftajabadi1978@g.ucla.edu
Abstract:   (2015 Views)
Qur'anic intervals (Fawāsil) are considered one of the most prominent verbal features of the Qur'an. Given that there are phonetic explanations for many phonological subjects, this study aims to determine and describe the Qur'anic intervals and present a phonetic explanation for the selection and presence of different phonemes in this position in a descriptive-analytical way. To conduct this research, initially, all the intervals (6236 items), which are the final phonemes of the last words of the verses, were extracted, and their frequency was determined. Next, the presence of each phoneme was examined based on the topics discussed in the science of Tajwid, checking them against the topics and theories of modern phonetics. The findings reveal that factors such as the quantity and quality of auditory and perceptual clues, the degree of phonetic difficulty, and the relative degree of markedness of a phoneme play a decisive role in the presence or absence of that phoneme and its frequency in this position. In simpler terms, sounds with a higher level of hearing and perception, which the listener receives more accurately, and with less phonetic difficulty and markedness, such as vowels and sonorant consonants, have a more significant presence in this position. In contrast, sounds that do not have such characteristics, such as consonants or consonants with a second articulation, play a lesser role.
1. Introduction
Qur'anic distances, recognized as a crucial aspect in Qur'anic research, have captivated scholars' attention since the third century. Various definitions have been proposed for distance, reflecting the diverse perspectives of intellectuals and thinkers on this subject. Siboyee (180 AH) is credited with introducing the term "distance" to refer to the end of verses. However, it was Romani Mu'tazili (384 AH) who first defined it as one of the rhetorical factors and established its limitations. Among the existing definitions, the most comprehensive one involves the interplay of words, letters, and the final word of verses, lending a rhythmic cadence to surahs and contributing to their overall rhyme.
Distances hold significance not only in terms of their structure but also in their semantic connection with the content of the verse (Akhundi, 2016). One of their most prominent features is the creation of phonetic proportionality, unison, and verbal rhyme within the sacred text. A group consisting of Syooti, Baqlani, and Romani even deemed this phenomenon as a verbal miracle—an expression of rhythmic and musical marvel within the Qur'an.
A thorough literature review indicates that most research has taken a descriptive approach to the subject of distance. Among those employing an analytical method, studies focusing on phonological aspects are scarce. Recognizing that the Qur'an is essentially a verbal text meant to be read aloud, this study emphasizes the role of articulation, transmission, and perception of phonemes in terms of audition. For this reason, the present study draws on the principles of Qur'anic phonology, known as Tajwid, and aligns them with ideas from modern phonetics. The aim is to analyze the concept of distance from a different perspective and address the question of whether there is a phonological explanation for different phonemes with varying sequences at Qur'anic distances. Following this brief introduction, the study will delve into a comprehensive literature review, outline the research methodology, and analyze the gathered data to provide insights into the study's central question.
Research Question
Is there a phonological explanation for different phonemes with varying sequences at Qur'anic distances?

2. Literature Review
Numerous studies have delved into the concept of distance in Qur'anic verses, with scholars analyzing its various characteristics and applications. The issue of distances has been examined from diverse perspectives, encompassing phonological, semantic, stylistic, literary, and text linguistic aspects. As mentioned earlier, the contribution of phonological studies has been minimal. Phonetic research on distances can be categorized into three groups: a) Studies that approach distances from a musical standpoint, exploring aspects like rhyme, rhythm, and music (e.g., Morovati & Shekarbeygi, 2013; Pashazanoos et al., 2015); b)Investigations focusing on phonosemantics, exploring the relationship between phonetic elements and their meaning (e.g., Seifi et al., 2013; Rahimi Torah, 2014; Firooraghi & Khani Kalghay, 2019; Talebi Qareqashlaqi, 2020; Romadhan, 2009); c)Studies that describe and explain the phonological and phonetic characteristics of distances (e.g., Al-Dubai, 2015; Kord Zafaranloo Kambuziya & Shahverdi Shahraki, 2017; Tajabadi & Kord Zafaranloo Kambuziya, 2018).
While most research focuses on the first group, this study concentrates on the third group to maintain content coherence. In his research, Al-Dubai (2015) examined Quranic distances based on their phonetic characteristics. He categorized some distances into clusters, determining various cases, including clusters with pharyngealized, nasal, concussion/qalgalah, liquid, voiced consonants, and ultimately clusters with voiceless consonants. His conclusion highlighted a connection based on common features among different apparent distances. Kord Zaferanloo Kambuziya and Shahverdi Shahraki (2017) by applying generative phonology and focusing on rhyme at the end of verses, identified natural classes of consonants in the final position of verses or Qur'anic distances. They concluded that many phonemes used at the end of verses within each sura share common phonetic features, forming natural classifications. In their pursuit of finding a pattern for the phonetic balance of Qur'anic distances, Tajabadi and Kord Zafaranloo Kambuziya (2018) examined the final phonemics of all distances of verses based on their phonological distinctive features. Their research revealed that the chain resulting from all final phonemes of each distance of each sura does not provide a specific pattern for the phonetic balance of the verses. However, they identified a special order in terms of the manner and place of articulation on the dual chains articulated by the final phoneme of verse distances at the beginning and end of surahs, which can be employed as a yardstick for distinguishing between Makki and Madani surahs by computer analysis.
A brief examination of existing research indicates a gap in studies based on phonetic and cognitive examinations of distances, highlighting the necessity and innovative nature of conducting such research.

3. Methodology
This research aims to examine the presence of various phonemes in the distances of Qur'anic verses from a phonetic perspective. To achieve this, the research data, comprising distances of all verses (6236 in total), were systematically gathered. The term 'distance' here refers to the final phoneme of the last words of the verses (the letter or the letter of distance) in a paused form. The choice of these words in the pause form is deliberate, as the proportion of the distances is based solely on the pause, and the assimilation of these words occurs due to both the pauses at the end of the lines and the disappearance of the movements (Zarkeshi, 2006, p. 62). Otherwise, due to differences in diacritics, the discussion of proportion and assimilation in many distances is eliminated. Following the extraction of the final phoneme, its frequency was calculated across all distances. Attempts were then made to provide explanations for the different sequences of each phoneme, considering arguments in Tajwid, articulatory phonetics, acoustic, and auditory phonetics. Finally, a general overview of the matter will be presented.

                                                                4. Results
This study demonstrates that the presence of different phonemes in the distances of the verses can be explained through discussions in articulatory phonetics, auditory, and acoustic articulation.The study's outcome indicates that:
 A) 87.5% of the total Quranic distances end with sonorous phonemes (vowels and sonorous consonants), resulting in an elevated auditory and perceptual level. In contrast, obstruents exhibit a low sequence in this position due to their consonantal strength, resulting in low sonority.
B) Among the obstruents, Must'iliah plays a very minor role in distances. In addition to the reasons attributed to the entire consonant, factors such as characteristics of secondary articulation, phonetic difficulty, and their markedness exacerbate this situation.
C) In the case of qalqala, which can be found in this position more than the other obstruents, it can be said that their prevocalic features during articulation provide more articulatory, auditory, and perceptual clues to the listener. Consequently, they can be received more properly and effectively by the listeners.
In summary, this paper emphasizes that the auditory and perceptual level of each phoneme is the primary factor in determining their presence or absence, as well as their abundance in the context of Qur'anic distances.
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Article Type: مقالات علمی پژوهشی | Subject: Linguistics
Published: 2024/12/30

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