About ‘Rooted in the Body’


About the Book

“The body makes its voice heard. From everyday chitchat to formal discourse, speech is peppered with references to the body, even if individual speakers fail to notice it,” writes Lisa J. White, in her introduction.

Consciously and unconsciously, speakers of Arabic use reams of vocabulary derived from the body, making it an ideal springboard for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Arabic morphology. Structurally speaking, Arabic is a language built on abstract roots, short sequences of single consonants that are systematically modified to produce actual vocabulary. Learning to recognize and manipulate those roots is an invaluable skill, especially for non-native adult learners, because it lightens their memorization load significantly.

Rooted in the Body: Arabic Metaphor and Morphology uses delightful side-by-side essays and comic illustrations to invite readers to explore Arabic’s signature morphology as they reflect on some 120 metaphorically charged body parts. Click here to see which ones.

The Authors


Lisa  J. White was a senior instructor of Arabic (2009–2019) and former executive director (1993–97) of CASA (the Center for Arabic Study Abroad) at the Arabic Language Institute of the American University in Cairo, where she taught for over thirty years. A morphology and translation enthusiast, she received the 1999 University of Arkansas Translation Prize for her translation of Mohammed Afifi’s Little Songs in the Shade of Tamaara (2000).





Mahmoud Shaltout is a comic artist, having contributed to numerous local and international publications and exhibitions under his pen name Mac Toot. He is currently assistant professor at the American University in Cairo and holds a PhD in Public Health from the University of Salford, UK.
Follow him on Facebook; Twitter, and Instagram.


Sample Illustrations

Audio extract

Social Media

















“New book on Arabic language aims to make learning vocabulary easier.”
— Razmig Bedirian, The National, February 2, 2021

“Lisa White offers us a work that is both serious and playful. The underlying research premise that morphology enhances the ’embodiment’ of Arabic vocabulary is presented in a brilliant linguistic introduction and fleshed out in a succession of 125 chapters, each exploring one body part. Aesthetic value is enhanced by Mahmoud Shaltout’s graphic interpretations that marry each text to its illustration.”―Sylvie Denoix, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

“Arabic is all roots and branches and sometimes it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. This innovative book provides a marvelous platform from which to look out over the spreading canopy of meaning.”―Humphrey Davies

“This book represents a most welcome innovative, fun-filled, and discovery-laden addition to the library of Arabic teaching and learning materials. Who would have guessed that the body could provide learners at all proficiency levels with such a rich framework for expanding vocabulary and idiomatic expressions and enhancing their knowledge and appreciation of roots and patterns in Arabic. Teachers will find in this book a valuable resource that can easily fit within any existing Arabic curriculum.”―Mahmoud Al-Batal, The American University of Beirut

“Drawing on her vast command of Arabic language and linguistics, as well as her intimate familiarity with Arab society and culture, Lisa White has crafted an exquisite encyclopedic dictionary that displays all the richness, complexity, and inventiveness of the Arabic language. Rooted in the Body is a book of impressive erudition that mirrors the creative and dynamic tradition of classical Arabic philology, evoking the ingenuity and brilliance of an Ibn Duraid and al-Jahiz. It is a unique and marvelous addition to the library of Arabic language studies that will delight students, teachers, and lovers of language.”―William Granara, Harvard University

“Rooted in the Body: Arabic Metaphor and Morphology features a collection of essays by White that investigate how a litany of words can be sourced back to 125 body parts. Each essay is complemented by a rich black and white comic illustrated by Mahmoud Shaltout.”―Razmig Bedirian, The National




























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