Phoenician-Punic Grammar and Lexicography in the New Millennium

By Schmitz, Philip C. | The Journal of the American Oriental Society, July-September 2004 | Go to article overview

Phoenician-Punic Grammar and Lexicography in the New Millennium


Schmitz, Philip C., The Journal of the American Oriental Society


Linguists, Semitists, historians, and biblical scholars will welcome two new research aids by Charles R. Krahmalkov. A specialist in Northwest Semitic languages and epigraphy, the author has produced brief, accessible, and innovative analyses of the Phoenician language and its vocabulary. Since 1970, Krahmalkov has published fundamental studies elucidating Phoenician-Punic grammar and syntax. Transliterated Punic texts are among the least intelligible in the surviving corpus of Northwest Semitic. Krahmalkov has long pondered the Punic passages of Plautus' Poenulus and the Neo-Punic stelae in Latin letters from Tripolitania, and his achievements have made these vocalized texts fundamental for grammatical description of Phoenician and Punic. (1)

Both books are accessible to specialists and educated non-specialists. All Semitic texts are transliterated, and the writing is clear and precise, avoiding technical jargon and needless formalism. Examples almost invariably include transliteration. English translation, and morphological or phonological analysis. When the author comments on a form or construction, he cites complete phrases or sentences (in transliteration and English translation) in support of the analysis. Italic capitals transliterate Phoenician letters; Latin letters are transliterated with boldface lowercase roman type. (2)

The reader can discern the textual base of both the grammar and the lexicon from the reference lists (PPD 19-21; PPGK xvi-xix). (3) Most published texts are represented, with some omissions. (4) Krahmalkov generally follows established readings, but offers several brilliant new restorations and alternative readings. Specialists may find some readings open to question.

The limited bibliographical citations make these works truly a personal statement. (5) Scholarly consensus is inconsistently represented, compelling readers to weigh the evidence by comparison with other grammars and lexica. I will review the grammar first, then the dictionary, despite the reverse order of publication.

A PHOENICIAN-PUNIC GRAMMAR

Introduction

THE PHOENICIAN LANGUAGE (1-15). Krahmalkov sets out cultural and geographic terminology first: the indigenous name of Phoenicia was PT /put/; the name of the Phoenicians and their language was /ponnim/ (note the interpretation of Ps. 45:12b-14a). A discussion of Plautus' Poenulus establishes this usage (3-5). Linguistic diversity characterized "Greater Phoenician" (6) as a language in all periods and regions (6). The essay then sketches the southern coastal dialects (7-8), the northern coastal dialects (Arvad, Byblos) (8-9), and western Phoenician (10-15).

ALPHABET, ORTHOGRAPHY, AND PHONOLOGY (16-37). According to the author, the consonantal system for writing Phoenician derives from literary Ugaritic, but Phoenician scribes infrequently employed waw and yod as vowel letters in spelling foreign names and writing certain inflectional morphemes (e.g., pleonastic spelling of the pronoun 'NKY 'aniki "I"; plene spelling of the first-person singular possessive suffix -i "my"). The tendency to employ vowel letters increases with time in Punic and Neo-Punic. In Phoenician, 'alep is infrequently used to represent final vowels in transcribing hypocoristic personal names and foreign personal and geographic names. Krahmalkov delineates orthographic distinctives of Cypriote inscriptions and the increasing divergence of Punic and Neo-Punic spelling practice.

Before surveying phonology, Krahmalkov acknowledges the sporadic and incomplete character of the evidence, cautioning that his own description is "perforce fragmented, incomplete and always problematic" (20). These limitations arise in part because the author makes more extensive use of examples from transliterated Punic and Neo-Punic texts than any previous grammar of the language.

According to Krahmalkov's analysis, the Proto-West-Semitic sibilant series [theta], s, s merged in Phoenician as simple /s/, represented orthographically as S (25-26). …

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