# Formulaic Analysis of the Qur’an

Underlying the Arabic text of the Qur’an is an extensive network of formulaic diction — short repeated phrases that occur time and time again. Built into Qur’an Gateway is a powerful suite of tools to enable you to explore, study, and analyse with these formula.

#### **What is a Formula?**

A formula is simply a group of words that are repeated more than once in the Qur’an. For example, the formula *'mn* + *‘ml* + *ṣlḥ *(i.e. the Arabic root *'mn *followed by the root *'ml* followed by the root *ṣlḥ*)*, *appears 61 times in the Qur’an. You can see every formula that occurs in the Qur’an by choosing ‘List All Formulae’ from the ‘Formulae’ menu in Qur’an Gateway’s menu bar.

**Formula Types**

The qur’anic formulae recorded in Qur’an Gateway fall into three types:

**Root Formulae**— like*'mn*+*‘ml*+*ṣlḥ*above, a root formula is a set of Arabic roots that occur following each other (any particles or pronouns that appear in between are simply ignored).**Roots plus Particles/Pronouns**— in this case, the formula has a “slot” built into it where a particle or a pronoun must appear, in order for the formula’s occurence to be counted in the text. For example, this formula appears 37 times in the Qur’an:

*jry + [PART/PRON] + tḥt +**nhr*

The root*jry*must be followed by a particle or pronoun, then by the root*tḥt*, then by the root*nhr*. This formula occurs in Q. 2:25, where we have:

*tajrī [root: jry] min [particle] taḥtihā [root: tḥt] l‑anhāru [root: nhr*]**Lemmata Formula**— in this case, rather than Arabic roots, the formula consists of lemma — the inflected dictionary form of the Arabic word. For example, here is a lemmata formula that occurs 50 times in the Qur’an:

*alladhī + 'āmana + ʿamila + ṣāliḥāt*

#### Formula Length

As well as different types of formulae, there are also different lengths. Qur’an Gateway records all formulae are 3, 4 or 5 items long. Here are some examples:

Type |
Length: 3 |
Length: 4 |
Length: 5 |

Root | 'mn + ‘ml + ṣlḥ |
jnn + jry + tḥt + nhr |
'rḍ + nẓr + kyf + kwn + ‘qb |

Root plus Particles/Pronouns | ‘lm + [PART/PRON] + 'lh |
jry + [PART/PRON] + tḥt + nhr |
'lh + [PART/PRON] + kll + shy' + qdr |

Lemmata | ayyuhā + lladhī + 'āmana |
'inn + fī + dhālik + 'āyat |
fī + samā' + mā + fī + arḍ |

#### Working with Formula

Here are a few of the many things you can do with formulae in Qur’an Gateway:

- See the formulaic density of the entire Qur’an (the percentage of the entire qur’anic text that is formulaic) at a glance using the Formulaic Density Summary Table.
- View a chart of the formulaic density of individual suras of the Qur’an; choose ‘Charts’, then ‘Formulae’, then ‘Formulaic Density per Sura’.
- Explore a list of all the formulae in the Qur’an by choosing ‘Formulae’ and then ‘List All Formulae’.
- Easily see all the formulae in any passage in the Qur’an: for example, open sura 2 in the verse browser, then click the Formula button at the top left of the screen, choose the formulae type and length you want, then click OK.

- Quickly cross-reference all the formulae in a passage and see at a glance where else they appear in the Qur’an. For example, open sura 2 in the verse browser, then click the Formula button at the top left of the screen, then click ‘Cross Reference Formulae in Suras’.

#### Formulaic Density and Orality

There is a strong argument that a text’s having a high formulaic density, as the Qur’an does, is a very significant indicator that the text (or portions thereof) were originally constructed, live-in-performance, by an oral performer. For more on this thesis, read Dr. Andrew Bannister’s essay, ‘Retelling the Tale: A Computerised Oral-Formulaic Analysis of the Qur’an’, or his book, *An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an* (Lexington, 2017 [2015]).