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A dictionary of Aramaic ideograms in Pahlavi.

The late H. S. Nyberg's work on the Frahang i Pahlavik (abbreviated here FrPhl) was pursued over many years, and its publication has been eagerly awaited for a long time. It has now appeared, many years after the author's death, thanks to the efforts of his former students, the Iranian scholar Bo Utas and the Semitist Christopher Toll. They are to be congratulated for the energy and time invested in this work of love, but some disturbing questions cannot be avoided. As the manuscript was not ready for print, it was decided to publish the extant notes while supplying the commentary to the text from lecture notes taken by students of Nyberg. It is doubtful whether this does justice to the late master. If he had lived to put his hypotheses and conjectures on paper, he might have wanted to reconsider some of them. They do contain a great many untenable, sometimes fantastic, speculations. It is arguable that in deference to the memory of a great scholar it might have been better to leave the incomplete manuscript unpublished. The user of the book must at any rate be wamed that many of the statements, however confidently expressed, should be treated with some caution. This applies to the Semitic as well as to the Iranian aspects of the work.

The book is extremely complex to work on, and its layout as printed does not make its use any easier. The text bristles with problems of reading and interpretation, in addition to problems of manuscript transmission. It might have been a useful service to indicate which ideograms are actually encountered in epigraphic texts or in Book Pahlavi, and which figure only in the Frahang i Pahlavik. It must, however, be obvious that the occurrence of ideograms in the extant literature is not the only yardstick for deciding whether they are genuine. Ideograms that correspond to known Aramaic words are undoubtedly also part of the repertory, even though they are still unattested in Pahlavi outside the Frahang; and others may still tum up in Aramaic literature, and should not all be dismissed as spurious.(1) It does not seem plausible that recent scribes could or would invent Aramaic forms at the time in which the book was compiled. The store of ideograms listed here, with all their numerous corruptions and incongruities, must have largely come down in school traditions from an earlier date, when they were still in use. They were most probably diligently memorized by students over many centuries.

There is a problem with the history of the FrPhl. It

exists only in very late manuscripts, from the seventeenth century onwards, with a great many effors of transmission and many variants, which make it almost as fluid as oral transmission. The book may have been treated to some extent as an open-ended notebook, in which copyists and users could make additional remarks, or introduce their own lists. This would account for the lack of homogeneity in its composition, for the fact that genuine ideograms are listed side by side with variant spelling of the same Iranian word, and other similar features.

Another problem that besets the exploration of the ideograms is that of the existence of several variant letters used to convey certain identical sounds, and of the frequent interchange of letters.(2) Here is a list of the most prominent categories of corruption attested in ideograms:

/T/ and /D/ interchange in the Aramaic words used as ideograms, as they sometimes do in Middle Persian words. Some clear examples are: 7:21 GLLTA(3) = pwst `skin', for Aramaic gld; 7.6 KWTYNA(4) = stl `mule', for Aramaic kwdn"; 23.3 SSDRWNtn' : STRWNtn' = plyst tn' `to send'.

/P/ and /B/ also interchange in some cases. Examples: 1:16 KWKBA : KWKPA = St lk', for Aramaic kwkb; 11.2 PLBAY, PLBA = Zywndk `living being', the Aramaic word that underlies the ideogram being perhaps (if Geiger 1912:305 is right) bry , bryt . Similarly, 11:19 LP(YD)A : LPYA = lytk' `boy', for Aramaic rby (cL Geiger 1912:305); 7:20 GWBTA : GWPTA(5) = pnyl `cheese'. 10:31 A CTPH(6) = ngwst' `finger', for Aramaic sb t , where transpositions of letters also occur.(7)

/M/ tums up for /N/ in 19:2 SWMAHL = gwlbk `cat', for Aramaic swnr , and /N/ seems to tum up for /M/ in 1:17 TTLWNtn' = w lytn' `to rain', where Nyberg is probably right in assuming the ideogram is a graphic distortion of YNTLWN - from the Aramaic root mtr.

/S/ occurs instead of /S/ in some ideograms; cf. 1:11 SMSYA ["corrected" by Nyberg to SMSA] = xwl `sun', for Aramaic sms ; 2: 11 STRA = I k' `side', for Aramaic str ; 17:3 XWBSYA = zynd n `prison', for Aramaic hbws . /S/ occurs instead of /S/ in 10:36 KLZDH (an error for KLSH): GRSH = skmb' `belly', for Aramaic krs or krsh.

/N/ is sometimes changed to /L/, since the other value of /n/ is /r/, and it is then identical to the usual phonetic value of /l/. This is attested in the word 7:7 KLYA(8) : KYNA = gwspnd' `sheep' (on which see below).

It is possible that on one or two occasions an assimilation of /D/ took place before /N/, unless they are matters of simple graphic corruption. One example is 10:10 AWNYA = gws `ear', from Aramaic wdn .

The writings discussed above, in which phonetic hypercorrection is involved, i.e., /P/ : /B/; T/ : /D/, operate in the same way as they do in the Iranian words in the Pahlavi script. This fact points to a mode of transmission of the ideograms that must have been partly oral. The spelling of the ideograms thus became influenced by a scribal tradition of pronunciation. This is also supported by the substitution of /N/ and /M/, and of /N/ and /L/, in addition to the fact that in a word such as 19:13 SGDH = nm c `adoration', the first letter shows a prothetic vowel probably added by the Iranian scribes to a word beginning with two consonants. If the interchange of /S/ for /S/ came, as suggested by several scholars, under the influence of Arabic, there are a number of words where Arabic cannot explain this substitution. The graphic similarity of /S/ and /S/ may account for this change, or perhaps the phonetic similarity between the sounds.

These types of change should be kept separate from the many cases of purely graphic, or orthographic, corruption. A short list of such phenomena may be given:

Reduplication of letters is fairly common, as in 7:21 GLLTA (see above).(9) Another group of typical reduplications is the intrusion of an /M/ before final /H/, these two letters being graphically very similar: 10:35 LBBMH = dl `heart', for Aramaic lb or lbh; 10:33 GBMH = pwst `back', for Aramaic gb or gbh.

The inversion of the order of letters is attested in KLYA : KYNA `sheep' (cf below); 7:16 TYBA = xwk' `gazelle', for Aramiac tby ; 17:3 XWBSYA = Zynd n `prison', for Aramaic hbws ; 4:9 KXMA = It' `flour', for Aramaic qmh ;(10) 7:10 XLLN = mes sheep, ewe', for the plural of Aramaic rhl .(11)

The change of /B/ to what looks like /G/, /D/, or /Y/ can be explained as a graphic contraction, by the fact that /B/ was often joined to the following letter. E.g., 21:11 YNSBWNtn' : YNSDWNtn' = ysttn' `to take'; 20:21 YDLWNtn' (i.e., YBLWNtn') = bwltn' `to carry'; 7:18 XLYA = syl `milk', for Aramaic hlb (this could also serve as an illustration for the generalized spurious ending -YA, discussed below). This type of confusion is not unknown in Middle Persian words, too; cf 11:24 ywd n (for ywb n) : yw n = pwln k : pwin `young man' (with Iranian juwan treated as `ideogram' for the Iranian aburnay).

The change of /K/ to /G/, /D/, or /Y/ is quite well attested. Example: 10:36 KLZDH (an error for KLSH) GRSH = skmb' `belly'.

The change of /Z/ to what looks like /D/ is not uncommon. This is the case in the "phonetic" spelling of the divine name wxrmzd, written wxrmdd, identical in shape with wxrm ; or ydd n for yzd n. In ideograms this phenomenon is clearly present in 20:14 XDYTWNtn' = dytn' `to see', for the Aramaic root hzy. An example in the opposite direction is: 10:36 KLZDH (an effor for KLSH, the /S/ being composed of DD/) GRSH = skmb' `belly'.

The change of /W/ to what looks like /Y/ (or one of its homographs) is somewhat more doubtful. My example is 1:19 NYLYA : NWLA = ts `fire', where, if my interpretation is correct, there occurs, besides this change, also the addition of the generalized ending -YA, discussed presently.

Original /YN/ was sometimes coffupted into /T/, as in XT = agar `if', from Aramaic hyn. Somewhat more speculative is XTTWN, if the suggestion in appendix 2, below, is accepted.

The introduction of spurious endings, like -YA in substantives, is another type of common development of some ideograms in Pahlavi. For example, cf. 1:11 SMSYA (discussed above); 7:22 ZKYA = xyk `wine' or `water skin', for Aramaic zyq ; 17:3 XWBSYA = zynd n `prison', for Aramaic hbws ; 4:12 DKRYA(12) = mwg `date palm'; 10:10 AWNYA = gws `ear'. This ending could have been generalized from a word such as 1:9 SMYA = sm n `sky', where the Aramaic plural ending must have been original. It is no use speculating about the possibility of the dual form being preserved in some of these forms.

In verbs - WN has been made to be a standard ending, with no reference to the Aramaic etymology of the words, and often a prefix Y- occurs at the beginning of the verbal ideograms.(13) It is typical of several verbal ideograms that they contain non-original -X-.(14)

There is not much hard evidence for the presence of Arabic ideograms in Pahlavi. There are, to my mind, only two rather problematic cases which cannot as yet be explained in terms of Aramaic. In 6:1 YLKA : BKA = tlk' `vegetable', the proper ideogram is presumably the first word, Aramaic yrq , while the second word may be taken to be the New Persian word, of Arabic origin, baqla(t), introduced as a gloss in order to elucidate the meaning of the lemma.(15) And in 9:3 ASDL (or the like) = sgl `lion', several scholars have suggested a derivation from Arabic asad + the phonetic complement -ar, as in ABYtl = ptl `father'.(16) This explanation is difficult. The phonetic complement in ABYtl is not -ar but -tar,(17) and in view of the fact that the number of such phonetic complements in nouns is very limited,(18) one fails to see the purpose of it here. The vocabulary of Aramaic is still imperfectly known, and the discovery of new material may make the Arabic hypothesis redundant. As an alternative explanation, one may suggest that the transmission of this word may have been corrupted to such an extent that its reconstruction is no longer possible. The other supposed Arabic words among the Pahlavi ideograms have proved to be no more than phantoms. The lists of such words drawn up by Melzer (1927: 318f., 332), in his attempt to prove that Pahlavi contains not Aramaic ideograms but actual loan-words, have failed to prove his point.(19) It is surprising that Toll (1990: 29 n. 12) should cite Melzer's discussion with approval. I do not know which of the two occurrences of MSNA in the FrPhl Melzer (1927: 318) considers(20) to mean `Schleifstein'. One is clearly the Aramaic word for `shoe' (7:23); the other, which has caused problems, I would suggest be interpreted as follows: 14:9 MSNA = myxgl (variant: myxk'l) `harm, damage', from the Aramaic root sny, which has among its meanings (in pe al and pa el) the sense of `to change for the worse; corrupt'. This is quite a prominent sense of the word, although it is not clearly expressed in the dictionaries. (It does get some recognition in the recent dictionary of Sokoloff.(21) The form msn could be an infinitive of the pe al or af el form, or a participial form. If this is accepted, we have here another instance of /S/ representing original /S/. There is no justification for positing Arabic misann as the background reading of this word. The idea that AWLA = pltwm `first' (not in the FrPhl) is derived from Arabic(22) is incorrect.(23)

Here are notes on some further points of detail, picked almost at random. To save space, I have not taken the trouble of noting every suggestion in the book with which I disagree:

1:10 RXYAn' = bg n' `gods; lords'. The fact that the plural form is used is unusual, unless there is a special stress implied. Since the word is ambiguous, and can refer either to a divine entity or to a ruler, the use of the plural may imply, on the analogy of yazdan, more specifically, the gods (unless preceded by a pronoun like im, awe, asmah). If this is so, the use of the expression pression o bayan gah sud should perhaps mean `he went to the abode of the gods' rather than `he went to the (allotted) place of the lords'.(24)

1:14. The suggestion that what is written CDH, denoting baxt `fate', should be emended to read Aramaic sdqh advocates the substitution of one unsatisfactory reading by another, and has little to commend it.

1:19. That NKLYA, an uncertain reading aligned to NWLA = ataxs `fire', should be interpreted as the Aramaic word for `alien', and that it should therefore denote `holy', is quite eccentric. This sense of the Aramaic word is only approximated by Mandaic, for theological reasons that have to do with the gnostic character of the Mandaean religion, but can hardly be imputed to ordinary users of Aramaic. As suggested above, I propose to read NYLYA.

2:2. Readings like damik (for zamig), a supposed southwest Iranian form of the word for `earth', or damistan (27:13) `winter' (for zamistan) are unwarranted. The divine name Ohrmazd is also written with a spelling that looks like wxrmdd, and the word for `time', zaman, is written dm n (27:9). In these cases even Nyberg does not claim that they should be read with a d.

2:19. The readings offered under this heading are rather adventurous. The only safe word in this group is kosk.

3:4. It seems reasonable to suppose, as Nyberg does, that Syriac q[sup.e]thatha `covered watercourse, conduit, moat', has some connection with MP kahas (Phl. kts, i.e., kathas or (*)kathath, which undergoes a process of dissimilation?). It is, however, unlikely that the Middle Persian word is boffowed from the Syriac, rather than the other way round. The Syriac word has no cognates in Semitic, as far as I know, while the Middle Persian word is to all appearances derived from the Iranian root kan- `to dig', with several other forms that corroborate it (i.e., NP kat, kariz `subterranean canal'). The Persian connections of the word were already partly seen by Geiger 1912: 299.

5:8. It is a pity that Nyberg (or the editors of the book) ignores the detailed discussion of this group of words by Geiger (1912: 303), whose solutions seem more convincing than those suggested here by Nyberg.

6:6. Nyberg seems to have missed here the ideogram for `grass' or `straw', Aramaic gbb , written here like GBXA. Cf. Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Jastrow 1903: 204) where the word is defined `rakings, small stubble, straw, etc. used as fuel', or `rakings of wool, a ball of wool'. The MP equivalent is giyah.

7:4 LMKA presents an interesting case of what seems to be an old Iranian borrowing into Aramaic, which in turn is used as an Aramaic ideogram for the corresponding Middle Persian word. The Aramaic word in question is rmk( ), which has a good chance of deriving
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Title Annotation:Henrik Samuel Nyberg's 'Frahang i Pahlavik'
Author:Shaked, Shaul
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:2662
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