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Click to Expand/Collapse OptionEtymArab
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ʔadab أَدَب , pl. ʔādāb
ID 014 • CSw – • BP 1195 • APD ... • Aut SG
1 culture, refinement; 2 ‎good breeding, good manners, social graces, decorum, decency, propriety, seemliness; 3 humanity, ‎humaneness; 4 the humanities; 5 belles-lettres | ‎‎ʔādāb ,, rules, rules of conduct, ‎e.g., ‏‎ʔādāb al-sulūk , rules of decorum, etiquette; ‎‏‎al-ʔādāb ,, decency, ‎morals – WehrCowan1979.
▪ A key concept of Ar-Isl culture and civilisation with a long and rich semantic history. In many contexts, it serves as the secular counterpart of the (more religiously connotated) →sunnaẗ . Based on pre-Isl manners, customs and tradition (which however should not be seen in isolation but in the wider context of Late Antiquity), it developed, after the spread of Islam into the Iranian sphere, under the influence of Pers court culture and was subsequently ‘codified’ in manuals and encyclopedias. In post-classical times, it came to signify ‘culture’ and ‘humanity’ in general. While the sg. today mostly means ‘literature’, the pl. is frequently met in the Ar equivalent of Fr ‘Faculté des Lettres’ or Engl ‘Faculty of Humanities’, kulliyyat al-ʔādāb .
▪ Etymology unclear, no obvious cognates in other Sem langs (those in Te are borrowed ‎directly from Ar); the most common theory is that the sg. was secondary, coined from ʔādāb , a pl. of daʔb ‘custom, habit, wont’, and that it originally ment ‘praiseworthy customs, ‎habits, inherited from the forefathers’. Rolland2014, however, gives Sum DUB > Akk ṭuppu ‘tablet, sacred text’ or oPers dipi ‘to write’ as the most plausible alternatives.
▪ Against Ar lexicographers EtymArab thinks that there is hardly any relation to the vb. I →ʔadaba ‘to invite to a banquet’.
▪ Horst1987: 208 sums up the development of the ‎concept (after Nallino) as follows:
“Tradition → traditionelle (Herzens- und Verstandes-) ‎Bildung → Bildung → Bildungsliteratur → Literatur”.1
1. In Engl, roughly: ‘tradition’ → ‘formation (of the heart and mind) according to tradition’ → ‘formation, learning, cultivation (in general)’ → ‘the literature of formation, learning, culture (in general)’ → ‘literature’.
See below, section DISC.
▪ The etymology of the term still remains rather vague. It does not seem to ‎have any real cognates in other Sem langs. Hbr ʔadīb ‘to let die off, or shrink, to weaken, ‎or make slacken, to let or make shrivel, or disrupt’ (faire languir, faire dépérir) and Soq ʔidbeh ‘front leg/foot’ (pied de devant), which David Cohen lists in his DRS (1970 ff.), would seem quite difficult to relate semantically to the meaning with which the Ar ‎‎ʔadab makes its appearance in the oldest sources, where it signifies “‘habit, ‎hereditary norm of conduct, custom’ derived from ancestors and other persons who are looked up ‎to as models (as, in the religious sense, was the sunna of the Prophet for his community)” (Gabrieli ‎‎1960). With this meaning, it has a parellel in Te, where ʔadab means, among other things ‎‎(probably later meanings), also ‘habit’ (habitude, DRS 1, 1970), but at least this form, Cohen says, ‎‎“est un emprunt direct à l’arabe” (is directly borrowed from Ar). A connection to the verb ʔadaba ‘to invite (to a banquet etc.)’, which Arab lexicographers usually assume and which ‎shows a counterpart in SAr-Soq ʔdb ‘to invite’ and perhaps also Amh aǧǧäbä ‘faire escorte à qu. ‎pour le rendre honneur’, seems rather unlikely, so that the notorious etymology put forward by ‎Nallino 1948/50 – “that the pl. ʔādāb was formed from daʔb [custom, habit], and that the ‎sg. ʔadab was subsequently derived from this plural” (Gabrieli 1960) – does not seem ‎completely unlikely. All the more so since Ilse Lichtenstädter’s cautious proposal (1974) to link ʔadab to a Sum é-dub-ba-a , signifying ‘school’ or ‘university’ (Horst 1987), seems a bit ‎far-fetched, and Asya Asbaghi’s (1988) tracing Ar ʔadab to a – or rather ‎two – earlier (!) Pers ʔadab s which, according to the author, go back to two mPers ‎expressions, is motivated too obviously by Iranian nationalism as to survive a critical check. (It ‎may suffice here to note that the Pers term adab does not appear in Pers sources earlier ‎than 325 aH/936 CE: Khaleghi-Motlagh1985, EIr , “Adab: i. Adab in Iran”, 432).
▪ Rolland2014, however, gives Sum DUB > Akk ṭuppu ‘tablet, sacred text’ or oPers dipi ‘to write’ as the most plausible alternatives, adding that there also is Soghdian dyb-yy ‘character, letter’.
▪ But even if there ‎is no direct borrowing from the Pers lexicon, the semantic development of the words from ‘good ‎old customs, praiseworthy habits’ into the whole later concept of ʔadab has certainly been ‎influenced, if not essentially shaped, by the Iranians. It is probably not wrong to follow the entry in ‎the Encyclopedia Iranica (Khaleghi-Motlagh 1985) here, which says that “[t]he origin of the ‎concept can be traced to pre-Islamic and especially Sasanian Iran” (431), and that it is, the ‎moment it appears in Pers sources, “the equivalent of the mPers frahang and nPers ‎‎farhang ” (432), although the coming of Islam by then had already “added to it many new ‎elements and brought about a specifically Islamic synthesis” (431).
▪ If in the beginning ʔadab ‎was more or less synonymous with sunnaẗ , and if it is no lexical borrowing, then the question arises ‎why a new expression was coined by forming a new sg. from a pl. that meant ‘customs, ‎habits, wonts’. A possibility I would suggest is that it was a calque rendering Pers ēwēn (n‎Pers āyīn ) which means ‘custom, rule, correct manner, and the like’ (Khaleghi-Motlagh 1985: ‎‎432) and for the Arabs must have seemed something different from their own sunan and ‎ʔadʔub (another pl. of daʔb ). The fact that after the rise of Islam and the term sunnaẗ being ‎applied to the Prophet’s usage, there was a need to have a term for the secular tradition.
bayt al-ʔadab, n., toilet, water closet: .
qalīl al-ʔadab and ʕadīm al-ʔadab , adj., ill-mannered, ill-bred, impolite, uncivil: .
al-ʔadab al-ʕāmmī, n., popular literature: .
riǧāl al-ʔadab,, literati, men of letters: .
kulliyyaẗ al-ʔādāb, n., college of arts: calqued from Fr faculté des lettres .

ʔaduba, u (ʔadab ), vb. I, to be well-bred, well-mannered, cultured, urbane, have refined tastes: denominative from ʔadab ?
ʔaddaba, vb. II, to refine, educate; to discipline, punish, chastise: causative of I.
taʔaddaba, vb. V, to receive a fine education; to be well-bred, well-educated, cultured, have refined tastes; to show o.s. polite, courteous, civil, urbane; to behave properly or decently, maintain good manners; to educate o.s., refine one's tastes; to let o.s. be guided: .

BP#2030ʔadabī, adj., moral, ethic(al); literary: nsb-adj | šaǧāʕaẗ ʔadabiyyaẗ moral courage; wāǧib ʔ. moral obligation, ʔadabiyyan wa-māddiyyan morally and physically, al-falsafaẗ al-ʔadabiyyaẗ ethics, moral science, al-qism al-ʔ. humanities division (higher education)
ʔadabiyyāt,, literature, belles-lettres; the humanities: n.abstr. in ‑iyyaẗ from ʔadab .
ʔadabḫānaẗ, pl. ‑āt , n., toilet, water closet: from ʔadab and ḫānaẗ (< Pers) →s.v.
BP#3204ʔadīb, pl. ʔudabāʔᵘ , adj./n., cultured, refined, educated; well-bred, well-mannered, civil, urbane; a man of culture and refined tastes; man of letters, writer, author: PP/adj. formation from ʔadab .
ʔadībaẗ, pl. ‑āt , n., authoress, writer: f. of ʔadīb .
maʔdubaẗ, pl. maʔādibᵘ , n., banquet, formal dinner: from the vb. →ʔadaba ‘to invite, entertain’ rather than from ʔadab .
C taʔdīb, n., education; discipline; punishment, chastisement; disciplinary punishment | maǧlis al-t. disciplinary board
taʔdībī, adj., disciplinary; punitive, retaliatory: nsb-adj from taʔdīb .
taʔaddub, n., good breeding, good manners, civility, politeness, courteousness, tact: vn. V.
ʔādib, n., host: lexicalized PA I from the vb. →ʔadaba ‘to invite, entertain’ rather than from ʔadab .
muʔaddib, pl. ‑ūn , n. educator; teacher in a Koranic school (Tun. ): nominalized PA II.
muʔaddab, adj., well-bred, well-mannered, civil, urbane: PP II.
mutaʔaddib, adj., polite, well-bred: PA V; pl. ‑ūn : n., educated people: nominalized PP V.
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