Farabi's Logico-Linguistic Ideas in Comparison with Theories and Principles in Contemporary Linguistics

Mahmood Reza MORADIAN
1.811 587


Abstract. This research is an attempt to make a comparison and contrast between Farabi's logico-linguistic ideas, as an Iranian scientist, philosopher, and logician, with the contemporary linguistic theories and principles. To make this comparison and contrast possible, we would review the most relevant and outstanding contemporary linguistic theories and then compare them with those of Farabi. To our astonishment, we made it clear that Farabi introduced the science of language to the learned people of his time around ten centuries ago long before the introduction of linguistics as a separate branch of human sciences. He enumerated the sciences of his time as (1) the science of language, (2), the science of logic, (3) educational sciences, (4) natural sciences, (5) theology, (6) civil sciences, (7) the science of jurisprudence, and (8) theosophy. The science of language includes further sciences of (1) the science of singular terms, (2) the science of compound terms, (3) the science of the rules of singular terms, (4) the science of the rules of the compound terms, (5) the science of the rules of correct writing, (6) the science of the rules of correct reading, and (7) the science of poetry. It is noteworthy that Farabi's ideas regarding the phenomenon of language bear overwhelming similarities with those of contemporary linguistics. For example, according to Farabi, the science of the rules of singular words, as the third of his seven-category science of language, studies the letters, sounds, and words of a specific language. In the science of the rules of compound terms, as the fourth category, sentences and their components are studied. The ideas and theories he developed in this regard have many things in common with Chomsky's Constituent Grammar. Furthermore, Farabi makes a distinction between the science of syntax and the science of logic and creates a relation between them which reminds us of Chomsky's Universal Grammar including principles and parameters, the Language Acquisition Device, and surface and deep structures. In Farabi's opinion, the science of logic makes three different interpretations of the term logic. According to the first interpretation, logic refers to the external speech which is represented in the form of sounds of a language. That is, the external speech receives phonetic representation. This interpretation is similar to Chomsky's surface structure. In the second interpretation, logic means the soul-centered inner speech, which resembles the deep structure of Chomsky. In the third interpretation, logic is equal to the thinking faculty of the soul which is unique to human beings like Universal Grammar, the Innateness Hypothesis, and the Language Acquisition Device.  This paper is thus a description of the above-mentioned ideas, theories, and principles and the elucidation of their similarities and differences with those developed by Farabi.


Farabi's Logico-linguistic Ideas, Contemporary Linguistics, Farabi, Saussure, Chomsky

Full Text:



Anderson, J. R. (1983). The English Noun Phrase in its Sentential Aspect. Ph.D. Thesis, MIT.

Brown, H. D. (2014). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, (6th Ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.

Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton.

Chomsky, N. (1964). Current Issues in Linguistic Theory. The Hague: Mouton.

Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (1976). Reflections on Language. London: Temple Smith.

Chomsky, N. (1990). Language and mind. In D. H. Meller (Ed.), Ways of Communicating.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 56-80. Cook, V. J. & Newson, M. (1997). Chomsky's Universal Grammar: An Introduction (2nd. Ed.). Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Farabi, A. (2010). The Enumeration of Sciences (Ehsa-ol-Oloom), (Trans. By Hossein Khadive Jam). Entesharat Elmi-Farhangi. Tehran, Iran.

Isac, D. & Reiss, C. (2008). I-Language: An Introduction to Linguistics as Cognitive

Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McLelland, J. L. & Rumelhart, D. E. (1986). Parallel Distributed Processing: Volume 2.

Psychological and Biological Models. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Nasr, S. H. (1964). Three Muslim Sages. In Harvard Studies in World Religions, No. 1.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Piaget, J. (1980). The Psychogenesis of Knowledge and its Epistemological Significance.

In M. Piattelli-Palmarini (Ed.), Language and Learning. London: Rourledge and Kegan Paul. Richards, J. C., Platt, J., & Platt, H. (1992). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching &

Applied Linguistics. Longman: London. White, L. (1989). Universal Grammar and Second Language Acquisition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.