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A Grammar of Egyptian Aramaic.

A Grammar of Egyptian Aramaic. Handbook of Oriental Studies, sect. I: The Near and Middle East, vol. 32. By TAKAMITSU MURAOKA and BEZALEL PORTEN. Leiden: BRILL, 1998. Pp. xlix + 393. $110.

In a survey article that appeared shortly before the volume under review here, F. M. Fales began by noting that "in the wake of new epigraphic discoveries or of systematic reeditions, the Nineties have brought with them a number of new studies on the various facets of the Aramaic language during the 1st millennium B.C., in which various innovative philological results and shifts in historical-linguistic perspective are prominent" (Incontri Linguistici 19 [1996]: 35-57). The present volume continues these trends. It follows by just three years the publication of M. Palmer's massive dissertation, The Aramaic Language in the Achoemenid Period.' A Study in Linguistic Variation (Louvain: Peeters, 1995). Unlike Folmer, Muraoka and Porten intend their volume to be "a comprehensive grammar of Egyptian Aramaic" (p. xxi), the need for which, as they note, had long been felt, and the time for which had certainly arrived, now that the texts have been carefully re-edited by Porten and A. Yardeni, in the four-volume Textb ook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Press, 1986-99), which serves as the textual basis for the Muraoka-Porten Grammar. It is hard to think of a better team to carry out this important project than Muraoka and Porten--the latter has devoted himself for over three decades to explicating these texts and making them accessible, while the former is well known for his many studies of Aramaic (and Hebrew) grammar--and they succeed, on the whole, admirably. They have produced a thorough, reliable reference grammar of this important and well-documented early dialect of Aramaic.

In their presentation of the grammar, in addition to covering phonology (part I), morphology (part II), and syntax (part IV), the authors have taken the somewhat unusual step of devoting a significant part of the volume specifically to morphosyntax, in which for the most part word function is discussed (part III, pp. 155-211, with sections on pronouns, nouns, and verbs). While occasionally this is rather cumbersome (e.g., demonstrative pronouns are covered in three separate sections, under morphology [[section]14], morphosyntax [[section]41], and syntax [section]65]), in general this arrangement allows in-depth coverage of a number of important topics, such as relative clauses (pp. 168-72), the use of the absolute state of the noun (pp. 177-84), and the use of the "tenses" (pp. 192-2 11, [section][section]50-57; curiously, a section on the passive, [section]54, appears in the middle of these, rather than with the discussion of the derived stems, [section]49). The large amount of space devoted to syntax (pp. 2 13-340) is most welcome. There is a nod to generative grammar in the headings of [section]A: Noun Phrase Expanded and [section]B: Verb Phrase Expanded, but the topics covered in these sections are treated in fairly traditional manner; the arrangement and presentation of these is clear, insightful, and detailed, and can be consulted with profit by Semitists of all stripes. There are, for example, ample discussions of the semantics and syntax of the construct state (pp. 218-28), agreement (pp. 277-85), and word order (pp. 285- 313). A thorough index of subjects (pp. 360-66) allows good access to the scattered discussions of various parts of speech, as does the detailed table of contents (which, however, is missing the important "Mode of Citation" on p. xxxi and the index of words [Aramaic and other languages] on pp. 366-69, immediately following the index of subjects).

There are several very useful appendices: a 19-page index of texts cited in the main body of the book (unfortunately, texts cited in the 1,286 footnotes could not be indexed, for technical reasons), attesting to the very large number of illustrative passages cited throughout the volume, nearly always accompanied by a translation; the index of subjects (and words) already mentioned above; a concordance of the principal editions of the Egyptian Aramaic texts; a list of the texts with their dates and scribes; and a helpful "List of Technical Terms" for readers who may need some clarification of the linguistic terminology used in the volume. Particularly welcome is the table of loanwords from Persian, Egyptian, Akkadian, and Greek given on pp. 370-82, accompanied by a brief semantic analysis of the loans, though there are unfortunately a few glitches here: in the "Lexica" column of the Egyptian section there frequently appears "Glossar," with no indication in the bibliography on p. 381 that this refers to W. Eric hsen's Demotisches Glossar; on p. 380, in the last two lines of the upper paragraph, read "isle" for "ise" and "B3.10:9" for "B3.10:8"; in the bibliography on p. 381 the first entry is corrupt ("Alexander, K. G." is a mistake for George Alexander Kohut, and the work is listed again under Geiger); see also below, ad p. 83, for additions to the Akkadian list.

While the arrangement of the content is commendable, the physical formatting of the volume is less so: a number of features make the book difficult to read, including the lack of spacing between paragraphs, long lists of forms (e.g., of nouns, pp. 78-81) that would be clearer if presented in columnar form, and a generally cluttered appearance. (On the other hand, the presence of running headers noting the sections covered on each page greatly facilitates the use of the extensive cross-referencing within the volume.) The camera-ready manuscript could have profited from one last proof-reading. There are, for example, a number of vestigial hard hyphens (e.g., "unfortu-nately" p. xxiii; "sen-tence" p. 294; others on pp. 5, 109, 271), typos ("interjectiions" p. xi; "langauges" p. xxvi; Arabic [uspur.sup.[subset]] [right arrow] [usfu:r.sup.[subset]] p. 14 n. 65; "concer<n>s" p. 101 n. 458; "Grundstam<m>" p. 110 n. 510; on p. 107 line 8 read [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]innani for [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]unnani and "know" for "known"), repeated lines (pp. 110-11 n. 512), and i nfelicities of English ("having regard to other dialects" for "considering other dialects" p. 86; "dealt as" for "treated as" p. 129 n, 598). Some of the cross-references, especially to footnotes, betray an earlier stage of the manuscript: e.g., p. 18 a. 93, for "n. 170" read "a. 373"; p. 100 end of second parag., for "n. 7" read "n. 450"; p. 113 n. 519 for "[section]3u" read "[section]3s"; p. 113 a. 521 for "n. 80" read "n. 523." Most of these, however, are obviously minor problems.

The authors employ a number of innovative grammatical terms. Some of these are relatively harmless, such as "unmarked" and "marked" for the morphologically masculine and feminine forms, respectively, of numerals, used, as throughout Semitic, with nouns of the opposite gender. Other innovations are less happy. The labeling of pronouns as "disjunctive" and "conjunctive" throughout the volume, instead of "independent" and "suffixed," respectively, is unfortunate; the latter are well established in Semitic grammar and the former otherwise have quite different uses. Likewise unsuccessful is the term "pseudo-prepositions" (p. 87 [section] 20e) for fixed prepositional expressions formed of a preposition and a noun, such as bgw inside." To these quibbles about new terminology I would also add a minor complaint about old terminology: although the volume is explicitly "not a beginner's grammar" (p. xxi), nevertheless the authors might have dispensed with the promulgation of the Latin terms of earlier generations of Semitists, such as "status constructus" and "dativus commodi vet incommodi."

There is much that is new, or newly conceived, in this impressive volume, In the remaining paragraphs I wish to comment on only a few of the many aspects of Egyptian Aramaic grammar that Murnoka and Porten consider in such insightful detail.

Pp. 2-8, 19-20: The discussion of the Egyptian Aramaic reflex of Proto-Semitic *d is unclear to me. On p. 2 it is stated that the letter <D> = Proto-Semitic (PS) *d and *d, but in the chart immediately following it is said that *d is represented by <Z>. The discussion that follows on pp. 3-6 unfortunately does not clarify matters. If I understand the authors, they suggest that a phoneme /d/ remained in the language, but that its pronunciation came over time to be more closely represented by <D> than by <Z>; while it would be difficult to disprove their suggestion, Leander's conclusion, cited p. 5, that *di had already merged with *d and that spellings with (Z> were simply historical, seems preferable. We may propose that with the onset of spirantization, the original phoneme * /d/ had (at least) two allophones, [d] and [o]), the second of which overlapped with the pronunciation of the original */d/; this would have been a sufficient condition for a complete neutralization of the contrast between the two phone mes, i.e., a full merger. (Similarly with the merger of PS *t and *t: I do not understand the claim on p. 2 that (T> = PS and *t, when on pp. 7-8 no evidence is presented to suggest that PS remained a distinct phoneme. Also difficult is the statement on p. 20, at the end of [section]3j [citing R. Degen], that "positional allophones of the plosives could only begin to function after the interdental phonemes /d, t/ had shifted to /d, t/ respectively": allophones do not "function"; and the partial overlap of allophones of distinct phonemes in specific environments is a common phenomenon, e.g., German /d/ and /t/ both = [t] word-finally.)

Pp. 38-40: The evidence presented to suggest the elision of unstressed short vowels is not persuasive. The word ds[contains] 'door' is a loan from Assyrian dassu (pronounced [dassu]; earlier daltu) and so the plural dsyhm "their doors" is probably formed on an unaltered base /dass-/, whereas examples such as dssy[contains] and dssn "doors" show assimilation to the common Aramaic (and Northwest Semitic) /qVtal-/ plural base of /qVtl/ singulars and thus are, in fact, evidence that the second vowel had not elided. The same may be said of sg. kd[contains] "the pitcher" and pl. kddn (i.e., [kadda[contains]] vs. [kadadin]). In the alternation of tl and tll "protection" it is likely that two noun bases are involved, also mentioned as a possibility by the authors on p. 39.

P.83, [section]19 1: A number of the words cited under "Words of Obscure Origin" are out of place, since their origin is in fact known; some are common Semitic (e.g., bqi "legumes," dhn "millet"), others are loanwords and so belong in the following section (e.g., from Akkadian:[subset]gr "wall" [left arrow] igaru; nhtm "baker" [left arrow] nuhatimmu; probably also sp([contain]) "jar(?)" [left arrow] sappu a container; the latter two should be added to the list of loans from Akkadian on p. 377).

Pp. 97, 108-10: The form of the G-stem infinitive is given on p. 97 as l-l/lm- (plus base), but on p. 108 ([sectopm]24p) it is noted that the only examples without the preformative m are the frozen examples of l[contains]mr when it introduces a direct quote; since the latter is no longer used like other infinitives, only the form of the infinitive with m should be listed. The inclusion of the preposition l- as part of the infinitive is strange, since examples of the infinitive without it are attested and its occurrence is clearly dictated by the exigencies of syntax.

P. 113: Following a number of studies, especially by J. Tropper and R. Voigt, it is now quite clear that common Semitic had a single causative marker, /s/, which in most of West Semitic became /h/ via a sound change, the latter in turn becoming either /[contains]/ or [empty set] in several languages via both phonological and morphological processes. The early Aramaic forms such as yhskr (Sefire) are important witnesses to an intermediate phase of this chain of development.

P. 119, [section]30: The designation of the grammatical subject of a passive as "the agent or doer of an action" is presumably a lapsus calami for something like "the patient/recipient/goal of an action."

P. 122 n. 564: Concerning the roots of I-y verbs that, in later Aramaic dialects, have geminated second radicals in the prefix-conjugation (yd[contain] ykl, ytb), the authors make the interesting observation that those roots have as their second radicals one of the six bgdkpt stops; and they are undoubtedly correct to point to the relationship between the prefix-conjugation and the imperative in considering the source of that gemination. It might be suggested that there was another catalyst, viz., an analogy with verbs I-n, which in most Aramaic dialects have imperatives without the n, like the inherited imperatives of the relevant verbs I-y; thus, e.g., with forms of ntr "to watch" and yd[subset] "to know": tar: da[subset] :: yitrar: X = yidda[subset]. (The same type of analogy probably accounts for the doubling of the first radical of geminate verbs in many Aramaic dialects; e.g., with forms of nht "to descend" and [subset]lI [earlier *gll] "to enter": *hut *[subset]ul(l):: *yihhut : X = *y[subset][subset] ul(l); this development assumes, of course, that in the masc. sg. imperative form *[subset]ul(l), the original geminated final -Il would have been simplified in speech. The new form *yi[subset][subset]ul then later underwent nasalization, to *yin[subset]ul, in Egyptian Aramaic [see Muraoka-Porten, pp. 13-16, 133] and in other dialects.)

P. 262 n. 1052: The Akkadian preposition ana does not take pronominal suffixes; if it governs a pronoun, the latter is an independent dative pronoun; further, the dative and genitive-accusative forms become interchangeable in the later dialects (see von Soden, GAG [section]41c). (In the second reference in fn. 1052 to von Soden's AHw, correct "op. cit., 13" to "op. cit., 48b, [section]13.")

P. 295 [section]77ca.: In sentences such as tr[subset][contains] zi [subset]l' zylk hw "that gate is not yours," the final third-person pronoun should not be called "enclitic' since there is no evidence of the phonological reduction typical of such forms in Syriac.

One last comment. It goes without saying that the authors are fully versed in the considerable prior scholarship on Egyptian Aramaic and on other early forms of Aramaic. Their attitude toward the work of other scholars, however, sometimes strikes the reader as dismissive at best. This is all the more unfortunate when their barbed criticisms result from misconstrual. An example: in n. 512 on p. 111 they state, "For [W.R.] Garr [in his Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine, p. 121] to be able to speak of the Nifal 'dying out' in Aramnic, he must be able to produce more abundant evidence for its presence in

Old Aramaic in the first place"; yet what Garr says is simply, "[The N-stem] died out in Aramaic"; since the N-stem was a feature of Proto-Semitic and Proto-Northwest Semitic, and since it is not found in Aramaic (as Garr clearly states, ibid.: "As in other Aramaic dialects, there was no niphal conjugation in Old Aramaic"), it is entirely correct to say that it had "died out" in the latter. Another misrepresentation of Garr appears on p. 149 n. 648. Other scholars also come under what seems unwarranted attack, e.g., J. Fitzmyer (e.g., p. 101 n. 458), V. Hug (p. 206 n. 898), and D. Testen (p. 75 n. 373, on PS *#Cn > #Car; the fact that a sound rule applies to a small number of forms is quite irrelevant, as shown, e.g., by much of the history of English and Latin phonology). The authors' treatment of Folmer's admirable Aramaic Language in the Achaemenid Period is especially curious. Folmer covers only a selection of topics, albeit a large selection; Muraoka and Porten, in their desire to be comprehensive, must perforce go over much of the same ground again. Folmer's discussions of many topics are longer and more nuanced than those of Muraoka and Porten; it is therefore puzzling that her work is often only mentioned cursorily in a footnote, without any significant engagement (e.g., "cf. Folmer 1995: 262-325" on pp. 218-19 n. 924; "Cf. also Folmer 1995: 521-87" on p. 296 n. 1159), except on the not infrequent occasions when her conclusions come in for (again, unwarranted) sharply negative appraisal (e.g., p. 298 n, 1168). Is it simply that Folmer's work appeared too late to be taken fully into consideration in the present volume? If so, the authors should have said so; as it stands, their lack of commentary on much of Folmer's fine study is difficult to comprehend.
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Author:Huehnergard, John
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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