The Impact of Grammatical Shifts on the Quranic Rhetorical Questions Translated into English: A Comparative Study

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya, Malaysia

2 Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


This comparative study aimed at finding out the types of grammatical shifts which have occurred in two English translations of the Quranic rhetorical questions, and the impact of such shifts on the said rhetorical questions. For these purposes, the study firstly analyzed the Arabic and English texts syntactically using the x-bar theory for Haegeman (2006) and then classified the grammatical shifts according to Catford’s (1965) kinds of shifts. The X theory has been applied as a tree diagram and liner structure. Where necessary “al-Gadwal fi i’arab al-Quran”/the Quran grammatical analysis” of Safi published in (1995) has been used. The two English translations used in the study were “the Koran Interpreted” by Arberry (1955) and “the Noble Quran: English translation of the meanings and commentary” (1996) by al-Hilali and Khan. According to the analysis, different types of grammatical shifts, e.g. class, unit, structural and level shifts have occurred in the two translations. Further, another kind of shift has appeared in the two translations. This refers to the syntactic shift where a question has been changed into a statement. With respect to the impact of such shifts on the meanings of the Quranic rhetorical questions, sometimes the entire meaning of the ST rhetorical questions is distorted like in al-Hilali and Khan’s translation. In addition, the intended reason of the function is changed like in Arberry’s translation. By and large, it can be argued that the shifts committed by Arberry affected the ST rhetorical questions more than those made by al-Hilali and Khan.