Michael G. Carter, London and New York: I.B. Tauris and Oxford University Press India, in association with the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, 2004. 159 pages.
In the “Foreword,” Michael Carter states that his book is aimed at the general reader who is interested in the history of Arabic grammar and, in particular, in the achievement of Sibawayhi, the discipline’s architect and originator. This much-needed and long-awaited effort is a welcome addition to the field of Arabic grammatical theory, for it contextualizes Sibawayhi’s grammatical ideas, as set forth in his Al-Kitab, by giving a short account of his background and life (p. vii). The reader, whether advanced or novice, will appreciate how accessible the material has been made. To be sure, reducing Sibawayhi’s complex and profound observations to 145 pages runs the risk of making it even harder to understand. But the author avoids such pitfalls with ease and grace. In fact, a knowledge of Arabic is not essential; but, as the author says, “given the nature of the topic it will certainly be useful” (p. vii). All examples are transliterated and translated, and technical terms and basic concepts are explained as often as possible.