The Scope of the Focus Particle ʾInnamā in the Qurʾān

Kai Borrmann, Yehudit Dror


According to traditional Arabic grammar, the particle ʾinnamā has two functions: it serves as an emphatic particle (ḥarfu taʾkīd) or as a particle of restriction (ḥarfu ḥaṣr) denoting “only.” Our research focuses on the restrictive function of ʾinnamā, particularly its scope. Scholars typically explain that ʾinnamā is restricted to clause-initial position, while it always effects the last component in that clause. Our examination raised several findings regarding this particle: First, sentences introduced by ʾinnamā are often categorical statements discussing what it takes to be a believer, an unbeliever; of being God, the Devil or the Prophet. It is therefore comparatively easy to interpret and paraphrase them as conditionals or “if... then” statements. Also, these universal affirmative or negative propositions lend themselves as premises for further deductions that might be drawn from them. Second, the scope of ʾinnamā is versatile ‒ it can be a noun phrase, a prepositional phrase or a verbal phrase followed by its direct object, a relative clause or a complete sentence. These distinctions are not always clear-cut; in some cases there is a choice between two possible domains or scopes, depending on the structure of the ʾinnamā clause. In most cases, however, the verses allow one interpretation only, which is reducible to a genuine symbolic form of modern logic notation.


Focus particle, Scope, Proposition, Meaning, Qurʾān

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