Comparative Semitic Philology in the Middle Ages: From Sa'Adiah Gaon to Ibn Barun (10th-12th C.)

By Aharon Maman; David Lyons | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FOUR
THE IMPLICIT COMPARISON

The explicit comparison, as demonstrated above, involves the juxtaposition of a lexical entry word from one language with a lexical entry word from a second language, accompanied by an explicit remark as to the similarity between them; the remark is identifiable by being phrased as a specific term or by being an intentional turn of phrase, a clearly defined statement of the affinity between the mutual entry words, whether that affinity is etymological, semantic or whatever.

In contrast to some frequently encountered lexicons and Bible commentaries the juxtaposition of two cognate entries with the use of no specific comparison term, prima facie juxtaposition of such could be treated as no more than a translational definition of the biblical entry word. However, it is feasible that such records include language comparison also and may well be based upon such comparison. For example, in the entry

(Jāmiʿ al-ʾAlfāẓ, p. 12), Alfāsi states: (Isa. 26:19) (Zach. 8:12) .

By setting the definition of Bib. Heb.

by the Arab. cognate , the grammarian may possibly be employing language comparison, whereas it might be merely an unintentional translator's definition in which case there is no distinction between the cognate tr. syn and the comparison , for then it could be assumed that the intention is to posit a plain translation synonym. To obtain a correct concept of the term “unsophisticated translator/translating,” it is worthwhile to compare Ibn Barūn's translation for the word , (Kitāb al-Muwāzana p. 47): (Isa. 24:5) , while in the entry itself, (ibid., p. 52) the definition/rendering is: .

This is to be explained as follows: At the entry itself, where the translation was adduced for the purposes of (explicit) comparison, the grammarian took care to render it with a cognate, while in the record external to the entry he used an unsophisticated translation, a noncognate translation synonym. Theoretically, a cognate can serve as an unsophisticated rendering also, when recorded casually. It is hardly possible to set criteria of preference between these two options of

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