What is it about?

The figure of Bāqil, the archetype of stuttering in Arabian folklore, played the role of a counter-model in the education of the medieval Arabic-speaking elites. In a popular anecdote, Bāqil is asked how much he had paid for a gazelle or a goat. Since he is not able to use language properly, he gestures and lets the animal escape. In this article, I highlight the stages and methods of the construction of this referential character in relation to the development of written culture.

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Why is it important?

Up until now, Bāqil had not been the subject of a study, in contrast to Quss b. Sāʿida l-Iyādī, the archetype of eloquence. Not only is this article the first attempt to synthesize what has been said about this character, but it also pays attention to the diversity of ways in which Arabic writers appropriated him by considering long-term evolutions and applying the principles of functional semiotic analysis posed by the theorist Philippe Hamon.


I hope that this article in French may be worth reading to whoever is interested in semantics, linguistics, literary analysis, and cultural history of the Islamicate world, or more simply to anyone who wants to discover more about a character rather famous in the Arabic world, but quite unknown elsewhere.

Nicolas Payen
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen

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This page is a summary of: La construction d’un personnage référentiel de l’adab : Bāqil et ses bêtes, Arabica, June 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15700585-12341607.
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