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

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
HAI GAʾON, ABŪ-L-FARAJ, SAMUEL HANAGID, AND
ABRAHAM HABAVLI

14.1 R. Hai Gaʾon

R. Hai Gaʾon lived and flourished in Babylon in the years 939–1038 C.E. and compiled a comprehensive lexicon of Hebrew and Aramaic, entitled Kitāb al-Ḥāwi. The greater part of this lexicon has not survived, and of the surviving remnants only about a third have appeared in print (Harkavy 1895, 1896; Abramson 1977; Maman 2000).1 In addition, certain citations from al-Ḥāwi, recorded by several scholars, were assembled by M. Steinschneider (1901) and S. Poznanski (1901). Abramson (1977, p. 108) collected other quotations from the lexicon that had been unknown to Steinschneider and Poznanski but never published them. On this scanty basis the aforementioned scholars have attempted to evaluate the true nature of al-Ḥāwi.

R. Hai Gaʾon culled his entry words from the Bible, the Mishna, the Tosefta, the Midrashim, and the Talmuds. His lexicon is edited according to the alphabetical order of the root, but its arrangement is anagrammatic (see, e.g., Abramson, 1977)—according to a system adopted in several Arabic lexicons that had been composed about 200 years before the time of R. Hai (see Kopf 1976, pp. 117–18). By this system, the arch-entry for any given bi-literal or tri-literal root incorporates not only the entry words pertaining to that specific root but also the several entry words arrived at by a permutation of the letters of that root. For example, at root

(in letter in al-Ḥāwi), entry words from the following roots are dealt with: .2. Included in the lexicon are also roots that have no linguistic actuality (in Hebrew or Aramaic), these being accompanied by a marginal note (unused) to that effect.

Henceforth R. Hai's language comparisons are discussed on the basis of those portions of the Kitāb al-Ḥāwi that have been published.

1 I am preparing all those remnants for publication.

2 On a detailed presentation of this system see Maman 1999, pp. 235–39.

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