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Semitic Studies in Honor of Wolf Leslau on the Occasion of His Eighty-fifth Birthday, November 14th, 1991, 2 vols.

Edited by ALAN KAYE. Wiesbaden: OTTO HARRASSOW1TZ, 1995. Pp. xix + 1,719. DM 368.

The name Wolf Leslau is synonymous with the study of Modem South Arabic and the Ethiopic languages. His numerous works, dating from 1933 until today, attest to an indefatigable and consummate skill in research and publication over some sixty years. A remarkable number of scholars - 129 - have contributed articles to these two volumes to pay him tribute. The articles include studies on the Afroasiatic family and its various branches - Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, and Cushitic - as well as on individual languages within these groupings; there is even an article on Indo-European. They concern many aspects of linguistic study - historical, synchronic, etymological, phonological, syntactic and semantic, orthographic, etc. There is a lengthy encomium by the editor, Alan Kaye, detailing the education and professional development of Wolf Leslau, and Monica S. Devens' annotated bibliography of Leslau's works totals 300 items - five of them yet in press! The articles dealing with Arabic, the primary interest of this reviewer, would alone constitute an impressive Festschrift. The review will perforce be limited to particular articles in this group.

Dominique Caubet, "The Active Participle as a Means to Renew the Aspectual System: A Comparative Study in Several Dialects of Arabic" (pp. 209-24): The active participle of Arabic is a fascinating part of the morphology; it covers a variety of meanings and a variety of functions, but not all participles share them all. Caubet has performed an important service with this study of the role of the active participle in North African Arabic dialects, providing both data and interesting analyses. Her intent is to incorporate the participle within the verbal system, showing it to be an integral part of the aspectual system of Arabic, all the while maintaining the distinction between nomadic and sedentary dialects. The participles may denote progressive ("is doing"), future ("is going to do") or perfective ("having done") sub-aspects. Caubet points out that participles of many verbs denoting motion, physical or psychological states, or qualities may have all three of these meanings. This is remarkably parallel to my findings in an analysis of the active participles of Modern Standard Arabic in the course of setting up a semantic classification of the MSA verb, and it would be useful to do a thorough comparison of the standard language and the dialects to gauge the extent of agreement or divergence between them, as well as of the evolution of verbal sub-aspect markers.

It does not appear that we see a renewal there of the aspectual system so much as the continuation of a long-established one. The innovations are in the imperfect tense itself, with the addition of verbal prefixes that signal the sub-aspects, like Moroccan ka-ykteb or Egyptian bi-yiktib, 'he writes'.

Bernard Comries' "Towards a History of Maltese Arabic" (pp. 234-44) is a masterful summary of the history of Maltese, separating the Romance from the Arabic elements and showing that while Maltese is certainly Western Arabic, closest to Tunisian (e.g., like other North African dialects it has the 1 s. impf. form in n-, as in niktib 'I write'), it is a more archaic form of Western Arabic, preserving features like word-initial stress in the perfect (kftib 'he wrote') instead of the stress-shifted forms (kteb) of North African Arabic. Indeed, Maltese is a repository of archaisms lost in mainstream vernaculars and so is valuable in reconstructing the history of the western varieties of Arabic. Comrie gives phonological, lexical, and syntactic isoglosses to demonstrate its close relationship to vernacular Arabic as opposed to Classical Arabic, and calls for greater collaboration between specialists in Maltese Arabic and in vernacular Arabic in general, which will lead to a better understanding of the historical development of both Maltese and the Arabic dialects.

Benjamin Hary, "On the Use of ila and li in Judeo-Arabic Texts" (pp. 595-608), analyzes the usage of Judeo-Arabic authors in translating sacred texts from Hebrew into Arabic and Spanish. He notes a persistence in literal translation in order to duplicate the source text, to the extent that the Hebrew direct object particle Jet is translated in Arabic as ila 'to' or li 'to, for'. The surprise is that this was done only in translating literary texts, albeit not in spoken Judeo-Arabic, where correct Arabic was desired. A possible explanation is that, in many Arabic dialects with an Aramaic substratum, colloquial la 'to' precedes personal direct objects, and the use of this preposition in the colloquial may have facilitated the unexpected use of this construction in the literary, certainly in the case of those of Iraqi origin. Similarly, in Spanish, where et is translated as a (used with personal or personified direct object; it is homophonous with a 'to'), this normal usage in spoken and written Spanish must likewise have encouraged this word-for-word translation of et.

Clive Holes, "Kashkasha and the Fronting and Affrication of the Velar Stops Revisited: A Contribution to the Historical Phonology of the Peninsular Arabic Dialects" (pp. 653-78): Peninsular Arabic is characterized by widespread affrication - in the north and east, roughly, to [ch] as in dic 'rooster'; in the center, to c [ts]; and in the south to s. The western dialects retain unaffricated k. On the basis of the geographical distribution of the sound changes involving/k/and/q/Holes convincingly reconstructs the waves of historical migrations across the peninsula to explain the present-day distribution of these isoglosses. Holes posits the historical changes from original k to c to c, but finds motivation for the change k to s less clear. In the evolution from Latin to French, k (i.e., "c") changed first to c [ts] and then to s (cf. Latin cantare [k-] 'to sing', English chant [ts-] via medieval French, and modern French chanter [s-], 'to sing'); this suggests a model for Arabic k also having gone through to present-day s.

After believing all these years that Arabic script derives from Aramaic script via the Nabateans, who linked the letters together with a more cursive style, I encountered Gerard Troupeau's "Reflexions sur l'origine syriaque de l'ecriture arabe" (pp. 1562-70), in which he presents a compelling argument for a Syriac origin, specifically from estranghelo to Kufic. This also accords with early tradition as transmitted by al-Baladhuri and Ibn al-Nadim, and promulgated again in 1964 by the Nabatean specialist Abbe Jean Starcky. Now someone must come forth and achieve a consensus on this issue!

This invaluable encyclopedic collection of essays is a great tribute to a great scholar. Alan Kaye deserves our thanks for bringing it into existence, and all those interested in Semitic languages and linguistics owe it to themselves to study it.

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Author:McCarus, Ernest N.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1998
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