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 THREE
EXPLICIT COMPARISONS
Two characteristic features are present in explicit lexical comparison:
1. The grammarian recording a comparison juxtaposes two lexical entries, pertaining to two distinct languages.
2. A special expression is used to indicate that there exists a linkage, whether etymological, or semantic, or of whatever kind, between the two entries.

3.1 The nomenclature of the languages and the terminology for comparison

The stock of expressions serving in this context is fairly well defined and virtually unambiguous. By and large the nomenclature and term recur for each and every language comparison, with very few changes or variations. The repeated application and occurrence of each expression and/or term led to a professional technicalization of these usages in comparative language science. It is reasonably probable that terms consisting of one word and embodying the nucleus of the term are an outcome of a reduction of the basic expansive expressions that can be seen to be structured on the same nucleus. However, the opposite development may also have occurred, i.e. concise expressions that were originally customary underwent an expansion, thus bringing about more lengthy phraseology.

The range of terms must be considered an essential element in the comparison methodology (of each and every grammarian, lexicographer and exegete) and corresponds with each respective “system” of concepts. The terminology adopted by the grammarians is highly instructive for an appreciation of the character of their theories of language comparison, whether individual theories or those held in common by one or other of the schools of the medieval linguists. Terms can further serve us in tracing whether or not one lexicographer relied on another.1 For these reasons a study of the terminological

1 For instance, judging from the comparison terms adopted respectively by R. Judah

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