Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Ugaritic Nhl and Udbr: Etymology and Semantic Field

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Ugaritic Nhl and Udbr: Etymology and Semantic Field

Article excerpt

The text RS 94.2050+:52, 56, (1) from the "Maison d' Ourtenu," contains a word that has been poorly documented in Ugarit to date: udbr(h). (2) In the French edition, it is defined as "norm comun de sens inconnu." In the English edition, it is given the meaning 'heir by oath' (p.274) II 'sworn (heir)* (p. 309), derived from the base *dbr, 'to speak' > 'he who has een made to speak', which is not strongly attested in Ugaritic. (3) This semantic derivation comes from a combinaiton of the contextual and primary meanings of the lexical base. Nevertheless, it is highly hypothetical and clearly etymologizing. Even the morphological type is non-existent (/udbarul? < /equtal/) in Common Semitic, Ugaritic, and even Arabic morphology, (4) at least with respect to the initial vowel. It is significant that UDBR is transcribed without vocalizationin the translation of the text, while it is vocalized in the glossary. Therefore, neither the derivation from *dhr, 'to speak' or the vocalizaiton /?undbaru/ is fully warranted, with no textual evidence. Despite this, they apper to be on the right track in terms of context, since they correlate with nhl(h), in accordance with commonly accepted semanties.

Indeed, in Ugaritic lexicography nhl is traditionally taken to mean 'heir' (DUL 627), However, this interpretation is debatable for two reasons. First, the original meaning of this base is 'to acquire possession, to own' (HALOT 686) or, in drived forms, 'bequeath'. In contrast, 'inherit', as such, corresponds ot the base *wrt (5) and therefore 'take possession', in a semantic process that is the reverse of that of the previous base. Likewise, the nominal form nhlt clearly means 'possession, property' that has not been obtained through "inheritance" or a testament in casu mortis, but rather through a donation or transfer from its original owner (HALOT 567). It only takes the meaning 'inheritance' in derived forms.

It is inappropriate to use the term "inheritance" in the case of Baal (KTU 1.3 HI 30; 1.3 IV 16 and par.), except in the broad sense noted above, as in the case of Israel ([nah.sup.a]lah; HALOT 687). The meaning is not strictly "inheritance" in either of these cases. Instead, it is to take possession of a "property" that has been given graciously or gained by force. This lexeme has the same meaning in Akkadian (nihlatum, 'transferred property') and in Arabic (nihlat-, 'present, donation'), and specifically in the Akkadian of Mari (CAD N 2: 'property handed over'), which is possibly a loanword from Northwest Semitic (NWS). (6)

This is the meaning that the term tenahlati has in Emar, in the only attestation of the base /n-h-l/ found in documents from this city. (7) The construction nigh that we come across in Ugaritic texts indicates that the "holder" (in coordination with the PNN) is subordinate to another. This other individual could be considered the primary owner of the possession, who in some way continues to have certain rights or title deeds--even if they are delegated--on the object that is held, which is now directly controlled by "his nhl." In this case, the term could be interpreted as 'his feudatory/sharecropper/concessionaire/lessee', who manages and exploits the property and shares the profits with the owner.

Hence, both individuals are listed in the same register as liable for ground rent or tax. This would explain why in other cases, when the tax/service is associated with the "property" (land), both the owner and the concessionaire are registered per modum unius: PN + w ntilh unt cihd (KTU 4.299:1-22). Here we find the second reason for rejecting the meaning 'heir' for in the case of an "inheritance," the property and potential taxes would be registered or recorded twice (the well-known principle of "double taxation" that so infuriates modem taxpayers, for example, with respect to inheritance tax). Finally, we should question why the other PNN did not have "heirs"(!).

Some of the Ugaritic texts list only owners and their nlilm, who are either anonymous (e. …

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