RAV SAʿADIAH GAʾON
R. Saʿadiah Gaʾon is, in the opinion of R. Abraham ibn Ezra (Moznayim, p. I), to be assigned a place at the head of the list of “the elders of the Hebrew language”;1 it is conventionally held that said “list” is in chronological order. Poznanski (1926, p. 237) was of the opinion that R. Saʿadiah was the first to compile specific works on the subject of Hebrew linguistics. Others thought that the Karaites anteceded R. Saʿadiah in the production of literature on grammar (see Munk, 1851, p. 4; Hirschfeld 1926, pp. 7–8; n. 1). At any rate, as far as can be ascertained, R. Saʿadiah did not compile any work devoted specifically to language comparison. Nonetheless, in R. Saʿadiah's “general” treatises on grammar, lexicon, and biblical exegesis are embedded comparisons of many Hebrew entry words with Aramaic and with Arabic. These comparisons can be graded into three levels according to their explicity: (1) Absolutely explicit comparisons; (2) implicit comparisons; and (3) translation of a Hebrew word by its Arabic cognate translation synonym, in the framework of R. Saʿadiah's Arabic Bible translation. The limitations fixed for the present study are such that discussion of types (1) and (2) only (i.e. explicit and implicit comparisons) is required to the extent that these are encountered in this grammarian's works and in his lexicon. But owing to the meager quantity of material appearing in these two works and considering the important rating of R. Saʿadiah's translation, which served as a source text for scholars in subsequent times, our attention will be focused on the third level, too, namely his elucidations of his biblical translation. The material embedded in the translation text itself, on which no remark or annotation was made by R. Saʿadiah, warrants a separate study. Here these materials are resorted to merely for determining its essential value and status vis-à-vis the material pertaining to the first two classes or as a possible basis for explicit comparisons proposed by scholars who came after R. Saʿadiah Gaʾon.
1 In Ibn Ezra's own words:.