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Jemenetisches Worterbuch.

The author states in his foreword that Yemen is "one of the least-documented areas of the Arab world," and this is especially true in the field of lexicography." This might have been true in 1989 when this book was published, but with Moshe Piamenta's (1990, 1991) two-volume Dictionary of Post-Classical Yemeni Arabic (Leiden: E. J. Brill), the situation has definitely improved. Strangely enough, Deboo's dictionary was not used by Piamenta in the latter's work, nor was Deboo aware of Piamenta's work either.

Deboo's dictionary is an alphabetic compilation of the published materials of Peter Behnstedt, Werner Diem, S. D. Goitein, and Ettore Rossi, among others. Consequently, it is almost exclusively a listing of the vocabulary of Northern Yemen (with 163 place names, pp. xiii-xiv), although the author writes that "a few South Yemeni words are included" (p. ix).

How does Deboo's dictionary compare with Piamenta's? To put it bluntly, there is no comparison. Piamenta lists, e.g., ba, imperfect yabi `to come' (1990:43); this is not listed by Deboo. The very characteristic bannad `to close' is cited by Piamenta (1990:40) (a Persian loanword from the present stem of bastan `to knot; tie'); yet it is not in the work undergoing review, and so on.

In terms of using Deboo's dictionary, it is awkward to see fayn, fayna, fen `where', while directly under that citation one reads fayn, fen `to where' (p. 68), only to discover fen listed by itself as `where' (p. 69). Similarly, the reader notices that `hand' is glossed as ed (p. 63); yet there is also id `hand; foot of an animal' (p. 121). Then, too, there is ayd `hand' (p. 28). It would have been more useful to have these three cross-referenced. Otherwise, it is virtually impossible to note the variants.

The dictionary is useful despite many imperfections (especially in conjunction with Piamenta's), and the author was wise to mark a lexeme as Gesamtjemen if it were noted to occur all over the country, or San a if it occurred only in the capital. Any user of Deboo's dictionary, however, must be cautious lest he blindly cite Yemenite words such as aydan `also' listed for San a (p. 28, but not given in Piamenta). Doubtless, this is a loanword from Modern Standard Arabic. To my knowledge, it, along with other common words such as MSA [delta]ahaba `to go', or lam and lan `negative', do not survive with their MSA usages and meanings in any modern Arabic dialect - although I feel certain some reader will write to correct me on these points, in which case I shall stand corrected.
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Author:Kaye, Alan S.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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