An Eleventh-Century Karaite Hebrew Grammar

By Maman, Aharon | The Jewish Quarterly Review, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

An Eleventh-Century Karaite Hebrew Grammar


Maman, Aharon, The Jewish Quarterly Review


An Eleventh-Century Karaite Hebrew Grammar GEOFFREY KHAN, JUDITH OLSZOWY- SCHLANGER, AND MARIA ANGELESGALLEGO, EDS. The Karaite Tradition of Hebrew Grammatical Thought in It) Class'ical Form: A Critical Edition and English Translation of al-Kitäb al-Kdfifl al-Luga l- 'Ibräniyya by 'Abu al-Faraj Harun ihn al-Faraj, I- II. Leiden: Brill, 2003. Pp. xci + 1097.

THE STUDY OF ELEVENTH- CENTURY KARAITE HEBREW GRAMmar has been enhanced during the last two decades, especially since the Firkowitch manuscript collections in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg are again accessible to the public. One of the immediate consequences is the publication of the critical edition of Abfl 1-Faraj's AlKitäb al-Käfi fr al-Luga l-'Ibräniyya (hereafter: Al-käfi), by Goeffrey Khan et al.1 Prior to this publication, only small portions of Abfl 1-Faraj's works and theory have been studied and published.2 For the first time, the text of any of Abfl 1-Faraj works is presented comprehensively.

Khan's introduction to Al-kafi is historical and general. He touches little upon the contents of Al-kafi, yet the text in its comprehensiveness speaks for itself. We are lucky that Al-kafi survived not only in its entirety but also in several copies, one of which is assumed to be an autograph. Khan's translation into Knglish is brilliant - it makes the text lucid and constitutes in itself a tremendous contribution to the field. Khan and his collaborators have accomplished the enormous task of collating the text of Al-kafi and preparing the critical apparatus, in addition to the task of translating the original Arabic into English.

AL-KAFI'S STRUCTURE

Al-kafi was not Abu 1-Faraj's first grammatical treatise. Initially he composed AL-Kitabal-Mushtamil 'aia L- 'Udul wal-FuJul fi L-Lugha L- 'Ibraniyya (The comprehensive book on the roots and branches of Hebrew language), which is an encyclopedic biblical Hebrew grammar; afterward he presented an abridged form in Al-kafi then he went on to make a third and fourth shorter versions in the form of Al-Mukhtajar and Kitabal-'Uqud (pp. xi- xii). Unlike Al-kafi, Miuhtamd did not survive in its entirety, and its size contributed to its comparably poorer circulation and preservation. It was thus a wise decision on the part of the editors to prepare AL-kafi first for publication.

This decision is further justified by the fact that Abu 1-Faraj's linguistic theory is the same in both Miuhtamd and Al-kafi. Indeed, Abfl 1-Faraj did not write Al-kafi from scratch. He rather used the model and style he developed in Miuhtamd. The material is presented according to the taqolm ( = classification) method (e.g. 1.14.12, 1.15.2), so much so that though AL-kafi is an abridgement it is not as concise and economical as it could have been. For instance, the content of MiuhtamU part III- where the grammar is presented in a mnemotechnic way following the Hebrew alphabet4 - Is well presented in the same structure in Al-kafi, though not as an independent part but rather embedded in part I, chapters 24-28 (pp. 228-523). Though shortened to half its original size, this section in Al-kafi is still extremely large, consisting of over 27,000 words and taking up about a quarter of the book. Many grammatical rules dealing with morphemes consisting of more than one servile letter, for example, are repeated in different sections for the sake of formality, because they are discussed in each of their composing letters.5 Had Al-kafi been redacted differently or had the rhetoric and dialectical style at least been avoided (as, e.g., in 1.27.5 16), it would have been much smaller in scope.

Hence Al-kafi 's basic organizational structure is not different from that of Mujhtamd. The abridgement was achieved either by omitting entire sections, as is the case of parts VII and VIII, or by eliminating examples and remote discussions.7 Other parts of Miuhtamd are represented as well in Al-kafi, though not as independent sections. …

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