The Greek death of Sībawayhi and the origins of Arabic grammar

Teddy Fassberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sībawayhi, the founder of the Arabic grammatical tradition, was said to have died in Persia of sorrow after losing to Kufan rivals in a competition in Baghdad. The first part of this article demonstrates the artifice of Sībawayhi's biography, his death tradition in particular, and the stakes involved in its elaboration in early Islamic culture. The second part argues that the tradition of his death was based on the model of Homer's death, which can be shown to have circulated and been creatively adapted in contemporary Syriac historiography. The third part considers the consequences of Sībawayhi's Greek death for the old question of the influence of Greek on early Arabic grammar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-193
Number of pages21
JournalBulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2 Jun 2022


  • Arabic grammar
  • Early Islam
  • Hellenism
  • Homer
  • Islamic biography
  • Syriac historiography
  • Sībawayhi


Dive into the research topics of 'The Greek death of Sībawayhi and the origins of Arabic grammar'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this