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Notes on Tripolitanian neo-Punic.

In 1960 O. Brogan and J. M. Reynolds published seven newly discovered inscriptions from Roman Tripolitania, among them the dedication of a fortified farmhouse (Gasr Isawi) on the Wadi Migdal.(1) The Latin text of eight lines is inscribed within a tabella ansata, below which is a three-line notice in romanized Punic identifying the lapidary scribe. The Punic illustrates four features of the Tripolitanian dialect that are of considerable grammatical interest: (i) the allomorphs of the possessive pronoun of the third masculine plural in complementary distribution; (ii) the vocalization of the definite article; (iii) the independent personal pronoun of the third person used as a true demonstrative; and (iv) the periphrasis of the passive voice by the third person plural of the active. Inasmuch as the Punic text has never been discussed critically, I present here a concise philological commentary, focusing attention on the new grammatical information it yields for late Punic in general and the dialect of Tripolitania in particular.(2)

The Text




Their son Mrausyn is the engraver. This tablet was made by their son.


BYNOM: 'their son'. The substantive byn with the possessive pronoun -om of the third masculine plural. The substantive is in the nominative case, hence the use of the form -om of the pronoun. In line 11, we find bannom 'their son' in the genitive case (governed by the preposition bud) and, therefore, receiving the allomorph -nom of the pronoun. The allomorphs -om and -nom and the pattern of their distribution are entirely consistent with standard Phoenician and Punic morphology and syntax.(3) This is of considerable interest since the dialect did not retain the allomorphs of the possessive pronoun of the third masculine singular in the pattern of complementary distribution of standard Phoenician-Punic. Thus, standard literary Punic used /-o/ "his" with substantives in the nominative and /-i(m)/ with those in the genitive.(4) In contrast, Tripolitanian had /-i(m)/ with both cases. Nominative: IRT 889.1-2a FLABI DASAMA VYBINIM MACRINE FELV CENTEINARI, "Flavius Dasama and his son Macrinus made (this) fortified farmhouse"; IRT 906.1-2a THANVBDA VBYNE FELV MYNSTYFTH, "Thanubda and his son Nasif made (this) stele"; Genitive: IRT 873.1-5 MYNSTYFTH Y MV FEL BIBI MVTHV-NILIM VINSTEB LIBINIM MVTHVNILIM "This stele is that which Bibi Muthunilim made and erected to his son Muthunilim."(5)

MRAVSYN. Evidently a Libyan name but not elsewhere attested in the Punic inscriptions.

AVRYS: 'the engraver, lapidary scribe'. The G-stem (qal) active participle of the verb /h-r-s/, attested in the Phoenician and Punic inscriptions in the form hrs. The shape /CuCyC/ is characteristic of the participle in Neo-Punic. Compare Tripolitanian buny, 'architect' (IRT 906.4) and Plautine dubyr, 'says' (Poenulus, 936). Prefixed to the substantive is the definite article a-, the same form found in Plautine Neo-Punic aelichoth, 'hospitality' (Poenulus, 937). In this dialect a- /a-/ was the allomorph of y- /yC-/. The former is an open unstressed syllable used with substantives beginning with a vowel, while the latter is a closed unstressed syllable, used with substantives beginning with a consonant. Compare Tripolitanian ybur /ybbur/, 'the tomb', in AI I (1927): 233, lines 1-2a: FEL THYBVR LICINI PISO, "Licinius Piso made (this) tomb."(6)

FELV. The third common plural G-stem (qal) perfect of the verb /p- -l/, literally, 'they made', occurring with active transitive meaning in IRT 889.2 and 906.1. Here, however, the third common plural of the active voice is a periphrasis of the passive singular. The logical subject (but grammatical direct object) of the verb is tabula, the agent of the passive expressed by the preposition bud, 'by'. (See discussion of BVD below.) KAI 69.18 confirms this usage in Punic. There we find the third plural of the active voice st, 'it has been set down' (lit. 'they set down'), paralleled by the passive N-stem of ntn, 'it shall be given', in [k]l ms t s ybl st bps z wntn lpy hktbt s [...], "As for any payment which is not set down (lit., "which they have not set down") in this inscription, it shall be given in accordance with the document which [...]."(7) We may further compare Phoenician wmy . bl . hz . ktn . lmn ry . wbmy . ksy . bs, "As for him who never owned a tunic from (the time of) his youth, in my days he was clothed (lit. "they clothed him") in byssus" (KAI 24.12-13) and w l ybqs bn mnm k y sm bn mnm, "And let him not look for anything in it (my coffin), for nothing has been placed (lit. they did not place) in it" (KAI 14.4-5). What is significant in the statement FELV TABVLA Y BVD BANNOM is the marking of felu as passive by the preposition bud, 'by', whose Hebrew cognate, b yad, serves to express the agent of the N-stem (niphal) passive (see comments below on BVD). It is for this reason that I would argue for the correctness of the translation, "This tablet was made by their son," rather than for the literal and (to me) somewhat forced translation, "They [Mrausyn's parents] had this tablet made by their son."

TABVLA Y: 'this tablet'. This illustrates the use of the independent personal pronoun as a true demonstrative (deictic) in the Tripolitanian dialect, a usage unknown in standard Phoenician and Punic or, for that matter, in Northwest Semitic in general. That y, the independent personal pronoun of the third feminine singular, does, in fact, express near deixis is confirmed by another instance in IRT 873. 1-2: MYNSTYFTH Y MV FEL BIBI MVTHVNILIM, "This stele is that which Bibi Muthunilim made." To this standard dedicatory formula compare Phoenician KAI 34.1: msbt z s ytn rs, "This stele is that which Aris erected." Clearly, Tripolitanian y, 'this', modifies the substantive mynstyfth, 'stele', in precisely the same manner as does z the parallel substantive in the Phoenician. It is also possible that felu tabula y, literally, "they made this tablet," in the Punic part of the dedication is a translation of, or is related to, hanc tabulam instituerunt in lines 6-7 of the Latin. If so, the correspondence y = hanc would assure the identification of the former as the Punic demonstrative pronoun.

The independent personal pronoun as a demonstrative in Tripolitanian Punic is surely a calque on Latin is, 'he', which functions as a demonstrative in is homo, 'this man'. Evidently, the use of Latin as a second language by Tripolitanian Phoenicians in the late Roman period made a considerable impact on the Punic dialect, resulting not merely in the borrowing of Latin words, but also in direct calquing of the kind, y = ea, 'this'. Indeed, we find another such instance of calquing in the dialect in the numeral [s]ys asar, 'sixteen', which occurs in the following passage (lines 1-5) in an inscription from the Wadi Beni Musa: [VBYS]YS ASAR LIIYRA CHIRVR SATH MIGIN INSEB MES SIS CHON BY-CNIM CHI VR SOREM Y, "[And on the si]xteenth of the month of Kirur, <in> the year of Miggin, he erected here the statue of Sis (studded) with lapis-lazuli stones, for she is the light of Tyrians."(8) The cardinal numeral sys asar, composed of 'six' followed directly by 'ten', is unprecedented in Phoenician-Punic, which always expresses the series eleven ... nineteen as '10-and-DIGIT': e.g., csr w hd, 'eleven', literally, 'ten-and-one'; sr wg ls, 'thirteen', literally, 'ten-and-three'; sr wsmn, 'eighteen', literally, 'ten-and-eight'.(9) On the other hand, the order 'DIGIT-ten' is that of the series eleven ... seventeen in Latin: undecim, duodecim ... septendecim. Tripolitanian Punic sys asar is an evident calque of Latin sedecim.

BVD: 'by'. The Phoenician-Punic preposition bd here expresses the agent of the periphrastic passive felu. Compare the use of Hebrew b yad to express the agent of the N-stem (niphal) passive/essape/in 1 Sam. 27:1 th sph ywm-hd byd s wl, "Now one day I shall be swept away by Saul." Bd is frequently used in Phoenician and Punic as agent of intransitive and transitive verbs: Phoenician tm bd sdnm, "it was deemed good by the Sidonians" (KAI 60.1); Punic k strt rs bdy, "because Astarte requested (it) of me" (KAI 277.6) and anec littor hod es iussim limin co, "I shall make inquiry of these men who are coming out from here" (Poenulus, 949), translated hos percontabor qui hinc egrediuntur foras" in Poenulus, 960.(10)

BANNOM: 'their son'. This is the substantive ban with the possessive pronoun -nom of the third masculine plural, as discussed s. v. bynom in line 9. The unusual shape, ban, of the substantive, for which I have no explanation, is elsewhere encountered in Tripolitanian Punic in IRT 877 banem, 'his son': CENTEINARI MV FEL THLANA MARCI CECILI BYMVPAL EFSEMACER BYN BANEM, "(This is) the fortitled farmhouse that Thlana Marcius Caecilius son of Mupal built in the name of Macer, the son of his son (i.e., his grandson)."(11) Plautine Punic provides yet another instance of this form: Poenulus, 1141, bane silli, 'my son' (var. bene silli). Tripolitanian bannom is of special interest as it reveals the possessive pronoun -nom of the third person masculine plural affixed directly to the substantive. This is confirmed by Neo-Punic bn m/bannom/, 'their son', in Trip. 38.6: bhytnm wbhyt bn m rsm w y s n, "during their lifetime and during the lifetime of their son Arisim and (their son) Iyosan." The spelling bn m (instead of *bnn m) indicates direct affixing of the pronoun, with the consequent doubling (not orthographically expressible) of the n. When the "heavy" possessive pronoun (the pronoun beginning with a consonant) was not directly affixable to the noun stem by reason of the syllabic structure of the substantive, it was affixed to the intervening vowel -o-, as we see in the Plautine Neo-Punic bymysyrthochom/bymyssyrt kom/, "in your protection" (Poenulus, 933).(12)

1 O. Brogan and J. M. Reynolds, "Seven Inscriptions from Tripolitania," Publications of the British School at Rome 28 (1960): 51-54, no. 5. The editors read lines 9-11 as follows: NYMYSAGENPVVBVNOM/MRAYSYNAV[.]YSFELVMB-VL/AYBYDBANNOM. The correct reading of MBVLA in lines 10-11 is TABVLA; the initial portion of the Punic in line 9 is incomprehensible to me. Other than the text and notes given by Brogan and Reynolds, we have for the Punic only the reading and fragmentary translation of F. Vattioni, "Glosse puniche," Augustinianum 16 (1976): 550, no. 55: NYMYSA-GEN PVV BUNOM MRA YS YNAV. YS FELV MBVL AY-BYD BANNOM, "Nymysagen ... il loro figlio (?) ... hanno fatto ... lo schiavo del loro figlio." The Latin inscription, to which the Punic is appended, is as follows: Marcius Metasan / Fidelis filius et Fl(abi ?) Hlanochulam et Sei/c[ham] et Fidel[is] neopo//t[es .] SSIPSA Flabiae (?) et PVII hanc t[ab]ulam instituerunt [..] V [.]et / SDP[.]VIS bibant. The reconstruction "Seich[ham]" is based on the name Saicham in IRT 886a.1-2; the reading "hanc t[ab]ulam" is proposed by Brogan and Reynolds, "Seven Inscriptions," 53, n. 6.

2 The Punic inscriptions in Latin letters from Roman Tripolitania date from the early second to the fifth century A.D. They have been found in all parts of the province, although the majority comes from the hinterland. No authoritative collection of the texts or grammar of the dialect yet exists. However, a preliminary but full collection of the texts, with translations, selective notes, and bibliography, is that of F. Vattioni, "Glosse puniche," Augustinianum 16 (1976): 536-49 (= "Le Iscrizioni latino-puniche"). See also the briefer but more recent study by A. F. Elmayer, "The Re-interpretation of Latino-Punic Inscriptions from Roman Tripolitania," Libyan Studies 14 (1983): 86-95. The historical context of the inscriptions from the hinterland is discussed by D. J. Mattingly, "Libyans and the 'Limes': Culture and Society in Roman Tripolitania," Antiquite's africaines 23 (1987): 71-94.

3 On these pronouns and their complementary distribution, see C. R. Krahmalkov, "Studies in Phoenician and Punic Grammar," Journal of Semitic Studies 15 (1970): 181-85.

4 Krahmalkov, "Studies," 185-88.

5 Tripolitanian Punic morphology is reflected in the Neo-Punic of the Plautine comedy, Poenulus, in this same replacement of /-o/ by /-i(m)/ in the preposition ythem, 'to him' (for earlier *ytho): Ythem anech nasothi li yth irs aelmchoth sith, "To him I bring on my behalf this sherd of hospitality" (vs. 937). On the reconstructed reading of this verse, see C. R. Krahmalkov, "Observations on the Punic Monologue of Hanno in the Poenulus," Orientalia 57 (1988): 63-66. Another instance of ythem but with the meaning 'for him' occurs in vss. 935-36: Dobrim chy fel yth chil ys chon ythem liful yth binim, "They say that, everything that he was to do for his son (lit. "for him"), he did."

6 See C. R. Krahmalkov, "A Neo-Punic Shaft Tomb Inscription from Roman Tripolitania," in Michigan Oriental Studies in Honor of George G. Cameron, ed. L. L. Orlin (Ann Arbor: Dept. of Near Eastern Studies, Univ. of Michigan, 1976), 58-59.

7 M. G. Guzzo Amadasi, Le Iscrizioni fenicie e puniche delle colonie in occidente, Studi Semitici 28 (Rome: Istituto di Studi del Vicino Oriente, Universita di Roma, 1967), 172, correctly perceives st as passive in her translation "Ogni pagamento che non sia stabilito su questa tavola sarh dato secondo lo scritto che ..." However, S. Segert, Grammar of Phoenician and Punic (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1976), 190, par. 64.323, observes of similar cases in Phoenician and Punic: "In most of the instances, the alleged passive construction can be understood also as an active construction with the general subject not expressed (cf. 72.5): ksy bs 83.11:12 'he was covered with byssus' (or: 'they covered him ...'); y sm bn mnm 82.31:5 'nothing was put in it' (or: 'they did not put anything...'); s tn ly LPu 85.82:1 'which was erected for Y.' (or: 'which they erected ...')." It is my considered opinion that these passages are all instances of the third common plural of the active voice used in periphrasis of the passive singular. This usage is well attested in Aramaic and Hebrew; see A. E. Cowley, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch, 2nd English ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 460, par. 144g; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1967), 32, par. 160.

8 Text: O. Brogan and J. M. Reynolds, "Inscriptions from the Tripolitanian Hinterland," Libya Antiqua 1 (1964): 45, no. 4. Note the occurrence of the third feminine singular independent personal pronoun, y, in line 5.

9 For these numerals in Phoenician-Punic, see J. Friedrich and W. Rollig, Phonizisch-punische Grammatik, Analecta Orientalia 46 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1970), 119-23, par. 242; S. Segert, Grammar, 121, par. 53.281.2.

10 On the reconstruction of Poenulus 949, see C. R. Krahmalkov, "The Punic Speech of Hanno," Orientalia 39 (1970): 68-69.

11 "Efsemacer" represents *efsem Macer (bsm M qr). Compare Neo-Punic KAI 124.1-2 (=Trip. 31.1-2): g y bn hn Imbsm g y bn bnm m qr <ytn> t mdm wt hm q m ygn wt hmhz rbd lmbmlktm btm, "Gaius son of Hanno <donated> the columns and roofed the structure and paved the market place at his own expense in the name of Gaius, the son of his son Macer." The corresponding Latin portion of the bilingual reads: C(aius) Annonis f(ilius) nomine [C(ai)] Annonis f(ilii) n(epotis) sui columnas cure superficie et forum d(e) s(ua) p(ecunia) d(edit).

12 See C. R. Krahmalkov, "Observations on the Affixing of Possessive Pronouns in Punic," Rivista degli Studi Orientali 44 (1970): 184-85. My earlier analysis of Poenulus 933 in "The Punic Speech of Hanno," Orientalia 39 (1970): 61-63, must be revised. Poenulus 932b-933 comprises a statement which must be read: yn byn ui bymarob syllochom alonim uy-bymysyrthochom, "My nephew is in your custody, O gods, and in your protection." The substantive marob derives from the root /-r-b/, which has the meaning "to hold (someone) in one's personal custody." The verb is so used in Hebrew in Gen. 43:9: rbnw, "I shall take him (Joseph) into (my personal) custody." In Phoenician we find the active participle in KAI 60.5-6: lknt gw rb lt msbt z, "The community shall appoint a custodian in charge of this stele." On the translation of KAI 60.5-6, see C. R. Krahmalkov, "The Periphrastic Future Tense in Hebrew and Phoenician," Rivista degli Studi Orientali 61 (1987): 73-80.

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Date:Jul 1, 1994
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