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

Abraham Alfāsi's Kitāb Jāmiʿ al-ʾAlfāẓ; and W. Bacher (1882) surveyed briefly R. Abraham ibn Ezra's Hebrew comparisons with Arabic; Bacher also published two synopses (1884, 1885) of the language comparisons occurring in the works of R. Jonah b. Janāḥ. P.K. Kokowtzow (1890, 1916) edited R. Isaac ibn Barūn's Kitāb al-Muwāzana and (1893) appended a translation and notes in Russian. S. Eppenstein (1900) issued a study of the language comparisons with Arabic, taken up by R. Judah ibn. Quraysh. S. Poznanski (1916) published a selection of Hebrew-Arabic comparison data documented in Ibn Balʿam's grammatical treatises and Bible commentaries. These surveys and their like are no more than incomplete monographs based on a selection of the works; they fall short of a thorough discussion of the comparison literature in its entirety. Furthermore, the above-mentioned studies, despite their use of MS copies as a basis and granted that several detailed comparison data were thereby made available to serious students who hitherto had no access to the relevant source material, have meantime become outdated. Several of these studies are now useless for research, first, since text “sources” that were known at the end of the nineteenth century cannot objectively be considered sufficient nowadays; second, because the theory of language adopted by the nineteenth and early twentieth century scholars for evaluating the materials is unacceptable in present times. Take as an example Bacher's surveys: when he reviewed Ibn Janāḥ's language comparisons, there had been issued neither the original Arabic text of Kitāb al-Lumaʿ nor the Hebrew translation of Sefer HaShorashim and he used Sefer Ha-Riqma in its inaccurate version as edited by Goldberg (1856). Subsequently, Kitāb al-Lumaʿ (1886) and Sefer HaShorashim (1896) were published; likewise, a critical edition of Sefer HaRiqma (ed. Wilensky, 1929–31 and ed. Wilensky-Téné, 1964). Kitāb al-ʾUṣūl, which had originally been published in 1875, had now undergone textual improvement2 with further text emendations by Razhabi, 1966, pp. 273–95.

Bacher, in the introduction to his edition of Shorashim, p. xxiv, held that his 1884 and 1885 works had exhaustively collated “everything appearing in R. Jonah's treatises concerning views, arguments and suppositions as to the similarity between cognate Semitic languages

2 W. Bacher, “Berichtungen zur Neubauer'schen Aufgabe des Kitāb al-ʾUṣūl”,
ZDMG 1884, pp. 620–29; ibid., “Weitere Berichtungen zur Neubauer'schen Ausgabe
des Kitāb al-Uṣūl,” ZDMG 42, 1888, pp. 307–10.

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