Archive for the ‘Linguistics’ Category

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (1880-1964)   2 comments

I came across this morning a short article by Herbert Pierrepont Houghton on Georgian nouns. I’d known his name from The Coptic Verb, Bohairic Dialect and from this bookplate, which is affixed to the inside front cover of Chaine’s Grammaire éthiopienne (Beirut, 1907), now part of HMML’s collection.

Houghton's bookplate

Houghton’s bookplate

From 1923-1950, Houghton taught in the classics department at Carleton College, which is only about 120 miles from where I write these lines. According to a brief mention on Carleton’s website, he first studied at Amherst College before earning his doctorate in 1907 from Johns Hopkins. At Carleton, he taught Greek, but also linguistics — a subject not taught nearly as much then as now — Old English, and Sanskrit. As will be seen from his publications (vide infra), however, these were hardly the full extent of his interests. Incidentally, we may note his attention to and appreciation of typography and book design, when we consider the preface to the second edition of his work on the Amharic verb: “This new edition is printed in Garamond type on India eggshell paper… The cover is purposely of a roseate hue resembling one of the shades used in the flag of Ethiopia, the country of which Amharic is the official language.”

His signature in HMML's copy of Chaine, Grammaire éthiopienne.

His signature in HMML’s copy of Chaine, Grammaire éthiopienne.

As I have said before (here, for example), tactile, or even visual-digital, reminders of our forebears can bring a kind of intellectual pleasure, a sign that we, too, participate in their kind of communio sanctorum, and that is one reason why personalia can be so meaningful (to a small group of people, admittedly!).

Transliteration (Houghton's?) in Grammaire éthiopienne

Transliteration (Houghton’s?) in Grammaire éthiopienne

Here are a few of Houghton’s works, listed in chronological order. NB: some of the books (in italics) are very short.

The Moral Significance of Animals as Indicated in Greek Proverbs (Amherst: Carpenter and Morehouse, 1915).

“Saving Greek in the College”. The Classical Weekly 10.9 (Dec. 11, 1916): 65-67.

“Review of The Sanskrit Indeclinables of the Hindu Grammarians and Lexicographers by Isidore Dyen”. The Classical Weekly 34.8 (Dec. 9, 1940): 88-89.

“Languages of the Caucasus: Georgian Noun Formation and Declension”. The Classical Weekly 36.19 (Mar. 29, 1943): 219-223.

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (from the Carleton website)

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (from the Carleton website)

“Review of Verbs of Movement and Their Variants in the Critical Edition of the Ädiparvan by E. D. Kulkarni”. The Classical Weekly 37.6 (Nov. 15, 1943): 68-69.

Languages of the Caucasus: Two Studies (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1946).

Aspects of the Amharic Verb in Comparison with Ethiopic. 2d ed.. (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1949).

“Gildersleeve on the First Nemean”. The Classical Journal 49 (1954): 215-220.

“The Coptic Infinitive”. Aegyptus 35 (1955): 275-291.

“The Seventh Nemean”. The Classical Journal 50 (1955): 173-178.

The Basque verb,: Guipuzcoan Dialect (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1944). Cf. The Verb in Guipuzcoan Basque (Charlottesville, Va., 1956).

“Coptic Substantive Relationship”.  Aegyptus 36 (1956): 153-177.

“The Coptic Sentence”. Aegyptus 37 (1957): 226-242.

“The Coptic Apocalypse”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 40-91.

“The Coptic Apocalypse, part III, Akhmîmice: «The Apocalypse of Elias»”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 179-210.

The Coptic Verb, Bohairic Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959). Originally (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1948), online at HathiTrust.

“A Study of the Coptic Prefixed Prepositional Particles”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 211-222.

An Introduction to the Basque Language, Labourdin Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1961).

“The Akhmîmic Dialect of Coptic, with a brief Glossary”. Aegyptus 42 (1962): 3-26.

“The Coptic Gospel of Thomas”. Aegyptus 43 (1963): 107-140.

Two in-progress bibliographies: Old Georgian, Hagiography   Leave a comment

For a little while I’ve been compiling bibliographic material with Zotero on 1) Old Georgian and 2) Eastern hagiography. With the hope that they might be useful to others, I’ve made them publicly viewable (adding and editing is restricted). Please note: neither bibliography is even nearly comprehensive, and I add new items regularly! Of course, corrections, suggestions, and additions may be sent to me by email (but for additions, please note that an item’s current absence from the list does not necessarily indicate my ignorance of it; i.e. I have an ongoing mental list of things to include).

photo-3Why are these bibliographies needed? For Old Georgian, certainly one of the lesser studied among languages of the Christian east, having in one place a list of resources on the language itself and texts in that language (with translations) will provide access to the available materials for scholars across various disciplines. (There are very many resources on Old Georgian written in Georgian and Russian; for the time being, these are omitted, but I hope to rectify that lack in the future.) For eastern Christian hagiography, what do we have? The fundamental resource, BHO, is now over a century old. More recent bibliographical projects, some still currently underway, have focused on particular traditions or languages, but hagiography, perhaps more so than any other genre, is a perfect arena for cross-linguistic study, and having a way to see hagiographic material for this or that saint in all of the languages known is a definite boon. Obviously, indication of available manuscripts for the texts named would be very useful, but that kind of compilation and presentation is a beast of an effort; for now, the first focus is on published material, especially published material post-1910, the date of BHO.

Here they are: Old Georgian and Hagiographia orientalis. As you have need, check them by browsing, searching, or using the tags, and subscribe to the feed, if you like. Share freely!

These are humble beginnings, but I hope even these first steps will be useful to others!photo-2

Fähnrich’s recent book on Georgian   1 comment

While (Old) Georgian is generally thought of as one of the big six languages of eastern Christianity — considered, that is, apart from Greek and Old Church Slavonic — it seems to have fewer researchers than the other five languages: Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Gǝʿǝz, and Syriac. Those of the Semitic family have a long history of research in Europe from the 16th century on and knowledge of one naturally builds toward knowledge of another. Athanasius Kircher and others before and after him worked on Coptic, the study of which was rejuvenated in the mid-20th century with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices (in quite a more lasting way, we can be sure, than that due to the recent hullabaloo-accompanied discussion of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife). Armenian, while still a language and a tradition apart, is nevertheless an Indo-European language and so not really so foreign linguistically as it may seem to most American and European scholars. But, compared with these languages, Georgian stands furthest away, both for its linguistic uniqueness and perhaps for the distinct Caucasian stamp it shares with Armenian. Scholars writing in Georgian and in Russian have published extensively on the language and its literature, but aspiring students who can’t read those languages have much less to work with. That which is available in the commonly read European languages is mostly in French and German (some of which was translated from Russian or Georgian), and only recently has anything appeared in English.

Map of Georgia from Marr-Brière

It is well known that Lord Byron had a strong interest in Georgia and its culture. More substantively in the 18th century, Marie-Félicité Brosset (1802-1880) wrote Éléments de la langue géorgienne (1837), a grammatical guide giving attention both to the literary language and the “vulgaire,” including some reading exercises at the end, only one of which might be surely classified as Old Georgian: The Martyrdom of David and Constantine (pp. 268-283); it has the text in Georgian, Brosset’s (now idiosyncratic) transliteration, literal phrase-by-phrase or word-by-word French translation, and a more fluid French translation. More recently came Zorrell’s brief (handwritten!) grammar for reading the Georgian version of the Bible and then N. Marr and M. Brière, La langue géorgienne (Paris, 1931), at the end of which are reading selections in all three scripts (the majority being in mxedruli). The author of the tome considered in this post, Heinz Fähnrich — see on him auf Deutsch here, and in Georgian here; at the latter is a picture of him with renowned Georgian scholar Ak’ak’i Šaniże (1887-1987; see here, very brief, in English and more here in Georgian) — earlier penned a 100-page survey of the language in English (mostly made up of paradigms), and in English we also have the recent, short treatment by Kevin Tuite. Longer than the latter, but still very compendious (and in German), is the little book by R. Zwolanek, with J. Assfalg’s assistance. (See the bibliography below.) This is decidedly not a complete list of grammars for Old Georgian, but it suffices to show the context into which Fähnrich’s new work comes.

This new book is hardly the first grammatical work by Fähnrich on Georgian, even in addition to the translation of Šaniże’s grammar and Fähnrich’s survey in English (see the bibliography below); these works are not closely compared with the new book here. That book appeared in 2011 (or 2012, see below) in Brill’s Handbuch der Orientalistik series. Including bibliography and index, it finishes at 856 pages. The book treats Old and later Georgian separately (15-498 and 511-828), but there is a handy discussion of main differences between the two at pp. 499-510. Most of what I have to say here has to do only with the part on Old Georgian; I studied the second half of the book in much less detail. There is some confusion concerning the book’s publication details: the copyright date in the copy I studied is 2012 (also on the title page), but the ISBN there leads one to an Introduction to Altaic Philology (2010)! The ISBN on the back cover of my copy leads one to the correct book, it seems, but the stated publication date for that one is 2011, and in any case, that is the only appropriate volume that comes up when you look at the author’s books at Brill’s site. Not surprisingly, the cost is exceedingly prohibitive: €217/$298 from Brill, and used copies available through AbeBooks are only moderately cheaper.

Strengths

Now, I point out the book’s strengths. Such judgements are, of course, at least partly subjective, but even so they will serve to give a more precise idea of the book than one might glean from the blurb of a bookseller.

At the outset, it is worth stressing that, while the majority of the book really is a presentation of the linguistic behavior of Georgian (i.e. a grammar), it is not exclusively so. The macrosection called “Lexik,” which covers “Bedeutungsänderungen,” “Normierung von Lautformen,” “Homonyme,” “Synonyme,” “Fachwortschatz und wissenschaftliche Terminologie,” “Wortgut kartwelischer Herkunft” (classified topically), and “Lehnwörter” (classified by origin), is the most interesting. We might justifiably ask whether such a section belongs properly to grammar stricto sensu — I think not, but it is well to recall that the book’s title lacks Grammatik! — but at the same time, its interest is almost undeniable. I wish more lexica included sections like these, and easily navigable. (Cf. R.M.W. Dixon, Basic Linguistic Theory, vol. 1, ch. 8.)

Another not strictly grammatical topic, but one especially important for a non-current literary language, that Fähnrich covers is the corpus, i.e. Old (15-46) and later (514-528) Georgian literature. While serviceable as surveys, these sections would be all the stronger with full references to editions and at least a few textual and literary studies, where they exist.

The fact that the book covers both Old and Modern Georgian in one volume will be appreciated by some linguists, both Kartvelologists and others, and especially worth highlighting here is the aforementioned concluding part of the first main part of the book: “Veränderungen vom Alt- zum Neugeorgischen” (499-510).

Weaknesses

I turn now to some complaints I have about the book. One of the biggest problems with the book is that the sources of text citations are not given. Those from the Bible might be easily identified, but not so with the rest of Georgian literature! Supplied references would be of use not only to those who want to check the further context of a particular word form or syntactic usage, but also to those who are struck by the content itself of an example sentence and who wish to see more. Supplied references also confirm without a doubt the genuine existence this or that form, that it is not a mere contrivance of a grammarian.

A quibble: Why is the section “Stammwechsel bei Verben” (370-371) classed under syntax? This is simply suppletion, and not really a feature of syntax, even though it may the case that “[i]n der altgeorgischen Sprache sind Morphologie und Syntax eng miteinander verflochten” (328). (Whether this is really more characteristic of Georgian than other languages is another question.) While a language’s grammar (understood in the fullest sense) is in fact “an integrated system” (cf. § 1.8 in Dixon, Basic Linguistic Theory, vol. 1) — sections on “morphosyntax” that are sometimes found in grammars bear some witness to this recognition — and so suppletion touches aspects of both morphology and of syntax, in a work ranged according to that traditional tripartite structure of phonology, morphology, and syntax, which Fähnrich’s is, questions of “Stammwechsel bei Verben” are to my mind misplaced if they appear under syntax.

Some long spans of the book consist almost entirely of paradigm after paradigm after paradigm. We expect this in books with titles like 501 [insert language adjective here] Verbs or [Language] Grammatical Tables, but in a bald form such as here it is not an advantageous characteristic of linguistic description. (The same criticism might be raised against Fähnrich’s English survey of Old Georgian.) These paradigms will, to be sure, find some occasional use by certain users in certain circumstances, but more description and explanation, less enumeration, would have better made up what purports to be a fairly comprehensive guide to Georgian as a language.

As for the arrangement of the book, in rather non-Teutonic fashion, sections are not numbered and subnumbered ad nauseam. While we may appreciate not being brought ad nauseam, some demarcation and clear marking of divisions with an easy system of reference would certainly have made the book more navigable.

The typography of individual letters, words, and lines (in German or in Georgian) leaves little to be desired, but the same cannot be said for the mise-en-page. There is almost no space in the margins, which not only makes the reading experience itself less pleasant, but also leaves little room for notes (only 1/2 inch outer margins). Indeed, a quick glance at one of this volume’s pages reminds one unfortunately of a document produced using the default settings of Word! (With which contrast the default for a document in LaTeX!) In addition, straight (rather than curved) quotation marks are used, which lends an overall cheap appearance to the book, something hardly appropriate for a book the personal possession of a hard copy of which will devour a few hundred dollars or euros from one’s bank account!

I praised above the inclusion of the section on lexicon. The part on loanwords includes a few remarks particular to each case that touch on historical or sociolinguistic factors of language contact thought to have been conducive to linguistic influence, and it is classified according to language (or, at least, family) of origin, but Fähnrich does not actually gives the words in those original languages. Perhaps he assumed that scholars familiar with the source languages could come up with the original words easily enough themselves, but such scholars are not the only people who might find the data of interest.

The upshot

The appearance of Fähnrich’s new book is not unwelcome. With the paucity of materials on Georgian available in widely read European languages, we might welcome almost any attention to the language, especially one with the kind of detail given here. But the $300 price tag certainly limits its distribution and therefore its use, scans of the book notwithstanding. From the perspective of Old Georgian, the one from which I am writing here, the book takes its place among the detailed grammars of Šaniże(Schanidse)-Fähnrich and Marr-Brière, but what does it add to what has been available in them for decades? The strengths that I indicated above — and there are probably more — do make the book stand out, but we do not yet have before us a reference grammar of Old Georgian that will stand for decades as the main go-to resource for students and scholars of the language. Such a work must be not only authoritative in analysis and explanation, it must also be comprehensive in linguistic and textual scope, based on clearly defined sources, preferably with examples from those sources clearly indicated, easily navigable, accessible (i.e. widely distributed), and at least relatively affordable (I would say under $150 or so). And it would not be a bad thing for its author, where needful, to break out of the traditional tripartite mold of grammatical presentation mentioned above and well-known to all of us by bowing to linguistic common sense and being well-versed in up-to-date — I acknowledge the constant movement of this adjective and thus the frequent evolution of its meaning! — linguistic theory. Finally, while the great majority of scholars, but not necessarily students, who might be interested in a Georgian reference grammar can work with German, it is, for better or worse, probably the case that this wished-for book will garner broader readership with English than with German. In the meantime, we can spend our efforts studying those easily available Georgian texts — there are some published in Georgia that are unfortunately very hard to find — in CSCO, PO, Le Muséon, and elsewhere, publishing new texts, making translations, and studying the language itself more closely, and as we do we have the aforementioned grammars, including the one here under review, whose author (with Surab Sardshweladse) has also given us a monumental dictionary.

Some amusing or otherwise memorable phrases and sentences, or, the beginnings of The Quotable Old Georgian

There is very often something amusing in the vocabulary, phrases, and sentences taken out of context that one meets in grammars, whether they are intended for pedagogical or reference purposes, and dictionaries.[1] Here listed from the Old Georgian part of Fähnrich’s work are but a few phrases or sentences useful not only for remembering particular grammatical forms, but which will also serve us well at the next cocktail party we attend. Because Fähnrich fails to cite his sources, I cannot easily give them (although the places of some can be guessed), but I do give the page in his book where these occur.

  • მაქსიმიანე ეშმაკთმსახურისა მეფისა ზე “zur Zeit des Königs Maximian des Teufelsdieners” (305)
  • უდაბნოსა ზედა “in der Wüste” (305)
  • ენასა ზედა ეგჳპტურსა “in die ägyptische Sprache” (305)
  • მწიგნობართა თანა და ხუცესთა “mit den Schriftgelehrten und Ältesten” (308)
  • აჰა, ესერა, სიმრავლც მოაწია ჯინჭველთაი! “Siehe, es ist eine Vielzahl von Ameisen gekomen [sic]!” (323)
  • ვაგლახ მონაზონსა ვეცხლისმოყუარესა “Weh dem geldliebenden Mönch!” (323)
  • თურე ვარა ხარ? “Bist du denn ein Esel?” (327)
  • მატლ ვარ და არა კაც “Ein Wurm bin ich und kein Mensch.” (329)
  • და იყო პირსა შინა ჩემსა, ვითარცა თაფლი ტკბილ “Und es war in meinem Mund wie Honig süß.” (329)
  • ეტლები რკინისა იყო მათი “Sie hatten Wagen aus Eisen.” (335)
  • მამით ნუვის ჰხადით “Nennt niemanden Vater!” (341)
  • ავაგენ ატენი სახლნი “Ich habe in Ateni Häuser gebaut.” (365)
  • ეპისკოპოსმან აღმკუეცნა თმანი “Der Bischof beschnitt mir die Haare.” (366)
  • დასაბამად ქმნნა ღნერთმან ცაჲ და ქუეყანაჲ “Am Anfang schuf Gott Himmel und Erde.” (368)

Note

[1] Cf. Ullendorff’s remarks on the curious presences and absences in Armbruster’s English-Amharic Vocabulary (An Amharic Chrestomathy, 5).

Bibliography
Fähnrich, Heinz. Grammatik der altgeorgischen Sprache. Hamburg, 1994.
——–. Kurze Grammatik der georgischen Sprache. Leipzig, 1987.
——–. “Old Georgian.” In Alice C. Harris, ed., The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus, Vol. 1, The South Caucasian Languages. Delmar, N.Y., 1991. Pp. 129-217.
Marr, N. and M. Brière. La langue géorgienne. Paris, 1931.
Schanidse, A. Altgeorgisches Elementarbuch, 1. Teil, Grammatik der altgeorgischen Sprache. Trans. H. Fähnrich. Staatsüniversität Tbilissi Schriften des Lehrstuhls für Altgeorgische Sprache 24. Tbilisi, 1982.
Sardshweladse, Surab and Heinz Fähnrich. Altgeorgisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch. With the collaboration of Irine Melikishvili and Sopio Sardshweladse. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 8, Uralic & Central Asian Studies 12. Leiden and Boston, 2005.
Tuite, Kevin. “Early Georgian.” In Roger D. Woodard, ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages. Cambridge, 2004. Pp. 967-986.
Zorell, F. Grammatik zur altgeorgischen Bibelübersetzung mit Textproben und Wörterverzeichnis. Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici. Rome, 1930.
Zwolanek, Renée. Altgeorgische Kurzgrammatik. With the collaboration of Julius Assfalg. Orbis biblicus et orientalis, Subsidia didactica 2. Freiburg and Göttingen, 1976.

Some issues of Aethiopica available online   Leave a comment

Among the links to journals on the left is one to the excellent journal Aethiopica, the latest issue of which arrived here at HMML not long ago. The articles of Aethiopica will be appreciated by éthiopisants, Semitists, scholars of eastern Christianity, and others. Alin Suciu has pointed out that some issues have now been made available online: here you will find vols. 10-13 (2007-2010).

Maltese   7 comments

I’m back from a week-long visit to Malta. As I mentioned in the previous post, I was there for the Symposium Syriacum (first part of the week) and Conference on Christian Arabic Studies (last part). The official languages of Malta (since 1934, reaffirmed after independence in 1964) are English and Maltese, and Maltese is now an official language of the EU (from 2003). As a graduate student I studied Maltese a little in Bergsträsser’s Introduction to the Semitic Languages (206-208, with some scattered remarks on 185-198). On arriving to Malta, the first word I noticed was Ħruġ (= خروج) on a sign in the airport. The language is a fascinating arena for linguists to study language contact, sociolinguistics, and other areas of their field. Here are a few remarks on the language especially from a perspective of historical linguistics.

Some historical points

Maltese is a striking mixture of Arabic and Romance languages, and the background for this mixture is, of course, observable in its history. While the Muslim occupation of the ninth century and Romance contacts from the eleventh are perhaps the most salient events in Malta’s linguistic history, it is worth highlighting especially that a Semitic linguistic substratum is present thanks to earlier Phoenician presence, Phoenician and then Punic and Neo-Punic having been used on the island centuries before. With the expulsion of the Muslims in the mid-thirteenth century, classical Arabic as a standardizing anchor loses its potency and the mixture with Romance elements begins in earnest. Documents in Latin from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries reveal a recognition of “Maltese” as a distinct linguistic entity; among those cited by Wettinger (and Borġ) is one from 1521 with the words ut maltensi lingua dicimus.

  • Neolithic farmers from Sicily arrive around 5000 BCE
  • Bronze Age people arrive around 2000 BCE
  • Phoenicians arrive in the eighth century BCE
  • Carthaginians rule during the Punic period
  • Under Roman rule (province of Sicily) from 210 BCE
  • In the third century CE Vandal and then Ostrogoth rule
  • Byzantine rule from 535 CE
  • Muslims take Malta in 869 or 870 CE
  • They are expelled in the mid-thirteenth century

Pronunciation and orthography

The developed phonological features of Maltese are known from other Arabic dialects (and other Semitic languages), too. These include:

  • h > 0
  • ḫ > ḥ (ħ in the standard orthography)
  • ġ > ʿ which itself somewhat weakens to a pharyngealizing force on a nearby vowel, in Maltese orthography; at word end, ʿ has completely died away, as with the genitive particle, ta < (ultimately) متاع “property, goods (of)”
  • see below for some examples of vowel changes

Maltese orthography was standardized in 1924; for the most part, it still conveys relatively well how one pronounces the language, but it does look a little strange at first glance.

Below are listed some words that reveal divergences of Maltese from (literary) Arabic, and many of these divergences are likewise known from other Arabic dialects. The sign < below, it should be stressed, is meant to indicate genetic relationship, but not necessarily a direct genetic link, that is, the movement is not necessarily directly from high classical Arabic as a literary, recited, or formal linguistic entity, but perhaps from some form of colloquial Arabic spoken on the island in centuries prior.

  • minkeb “elbow” < mankib (Ar. “shoulder”)
  • musmar “nail” < mismār
  • muftieħ “key” < miftāḥ (the correspondence Ar. ā : Mlt ie is very frequently attested)
  • raġel “man” < raǧul
  • mara “woman” < (al-)marʾa
  • baqra “cow” < baqara
  • mejda “table” < māʾida
  • xiħ “old man” < šayḫ
  • xitan “devil” < šayṭān
  • kelb “dog” < kalb
  • ħġieġ “glass” < certainly from zuǧāǧ, but I can’t immediately interpret the change z > ħ

Lexicon

-semantic change in Arabic words

  • ħażin “bad” (Ar. “sad”)
  • ġawhra “pearl” (Ar. more generally “jewel, gem”)
  • ġebla “stone” (Ar. “mountain”)

-when Arabic is used and when Romance

  • skur “dark” (adj.) (cf. It. scuro; note, too, the chance similarity with the root šḥr in Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew!)
  • kannella “brown” (< It. cannella “cinnamon”?)

Many words pertaining to Christianity are of Latin or Italian origin — artal [metathesis!], kappella, kruċifis, anġlu, priedka, &c. — but some, including the following, are from Arabic:

  • knisja “church”
  • xemgħa “candle”
  • isqof “bishop”
  • magħmudija “baptism”
  • nisrani “Christian”
  • qrar “confession”
  • xitan “Satan”
  • alla “God”
  • quddiesa “Mass”
  • talba “prayer”
  • qassis “priest”
  • qaddis “saint”

Four of the elements in the Maltese title are Semitic, one Romance.

Morphology

For nouns and adjectives, the plural forms of Arabic (sound and broken) appear also in Maltese, but Italian or Sicilian nouns generally end with -i in the plural.

In verb conjugation, there is nothing surprising if we keep in mind developments that show up in other Semitic languages and especially Arabic dialects. There are six main vocalic structures for the perfect (3ms), e.g. talab, ħareġ, fehem, seraq, kiser, qorob. For the 3fs the theme vowel is reduced and -et comes at the end, and for 2cs and 1cs the ending is -t (no vowel) and the first vowel of the stem has been reduced, as with fehmet “she understood”, fhimt (NB -e- theme vowel > -i-!) “you/I understood”. These same patterns occur again in the plural: for 3cp, we have e.g. fehmu, etc., for 2mp fhimtu and for 1cp fhimna. Imperfect and imperative forms are similarly unsurprising: joħroġ/oħroġ, joqtol/oqtol, jifhem/ifhem, jifraħ/ifraħ. Non-Semitic verbs in Maltese are adapted to the attachment of these prefixes and suffixes. Space here precludes further presentation of verbal forms (including the derived forms, which do occur in Maltese), but suffice it to say that anyone familiar with morphological developments across the Semitic languages will find few snares in the language.

I hope to look into syntax in a future post.

Bibliography*

Borġ, Alexander. “Maltese as a National Language.” In Stefan Weninger, ed., The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook. Berlin, 2011. Pp. 1033-1041. [With bibliography.]

Brincat, Joseph M. Maltese and Other Languages: A Linguistic History of Malta. Sta Venera, Malta, 2011.

Moser, Manfred. Malti-Ġermaniż ‧ Dizzjunarju kbir. Deutsch-Maltesisch ‧ Großes Wörterbuch. Wiesbaden, 2005.

Schabert, P. “Text aus Malta.” In W. Fischer and O. Jastrow, eds., Handbuch der arabischen Dialekte. Wiesbaden, 1980. Pp. 286-291.

Wettinger, G. “Plurilingualism and Cultural Change in Medieval Malta.” Mediterranean Language Review 6-7 (1993): 144-153.

*There are a few items on Maltese listed in the section “Arabic (dialectal)” of del Olmo Lete’s bibliography for Semitic languages.

Foreign languages and close reading   2 comments

In my experience, there is no other reading than close reading when reading in a foreign language. This is surely one of the benefits of reading in a foreign language, even when there may be a translation (or the original?!) in one’s own language to hand. There are layers in some books that ache for uncovering which we may easily pass over in our mother tongue but to which we nevertheless yield, tiresomely but grinningly, when the texts before us poke and prod with their reminders, perhaps just under our consciousness, that we better pay damn close attention or we’ll be lost. The ever-mustachioed Albert Schweitzer, who spoke both German and French from his childhood, opined that no one ever really has two mother-tongues, and that one of them requires more mental labor to use (see the note below). As for myself, I’m hardly a bilingual to that degree, so non-English reading (or listening!) often demands acute scrutiny and constant re-evaluation of the accumulating thoughts in the words.

While “close reading” is, as far as I know, a named product of twentieth-century literary criticism, it is hardly a new way of reading when understood broadly. Exegesis of important texts — poetic, religious, legal, etc. — has in various contexts long spawned voluminous commentaries filled with interpretation made up of sentences in a number far out of proportion to the words in the original text that they explicate. To be sure, there is a practical aim for some of this careful reading and explanation, especially in legal or, in certain societies, religious texts. But to be equally sure, another aim is mere, pure pleasure (delectatio), that which comes from the intellectual practice with considering in detail words, meanings, and grammar, and finally arriving at some understanding, and then going back to doing it again tomorrow; and of course, following all this slow, careful reading, or alongside it, may also be the animated discussion of it with fellow-readers.

Indo-Europeanist Calvert Watkins — in the preface to his delightful How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics, which I’ve finally gotten round to reading — quotes the definition “Philology is the art of reading slowly,” a description he inherited from his teacher Roman Jakobson (see Watkins’ article in Comparative Literature Studies 27 [1990]: 25), for whom, too, it was an inherited classification. One reason philology is so often (but not always) associated with texts in foreign languages is that those texts are the ones we absolutely must pay close attention to while reading, that is, those are the texts we must read slowly; otherwise we may as well pack up and go home, and do so the poorer.

This weekend, then, perhaps with even more gusto than usual, let’s read something hard, preferably in a foreign language, and have fun with it, and if we’re lucky, there’ll be someone else equally minded for us to share the pleasure with.

Notes

1. The interesting passage from Schweitzer will be found on pp. 51-52 of his autobiography, Aus meinem Leben und Denken (Leipzig, 1933), which I read years ago when first studying German, and which I recently translated (roughly!). Here it is, for those that care to read it: schweitzer_on_french_german

2. Nietzsche’s remarks quoted here are most apropos to the concept discussed here.

Moving from printed to handwritten texts   2 comments

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was no printing, and students learned to read and to write in almost the same breath(s): the results of their hands matched the patterns of their eyes. Nowadays, of course, students in almost every case learn to read new languages with printed books open in front of them and nothing handwritten to be found. It easily goes unrecognized or unremembered that handwriting is part of a language taken in full, and that really both learner-readers and learner-writers of it do well to pay close attention to accepted written forms of the language, that is, handwriting. I quote T.F. Mitchell, who penned a manual for Arabic handwriting:

It is a curious fact that students of Arabic have in the past strangely neglected those elements of grammar without which there would be no grammar, viz. the letters. … we may go further and say that the number of those who write Arabic in an acceptable manner is remarkably small. We may note, too, in passing that handwriting shortcomings are not confined to students of languages having exotic scripts; a letter written in French by an English scholar of French rarely, if ever looks French, and if the language had been, say, a Scandinavian one, the foreign origin of the writer would have been even more immediately revealed. There exists, then, it would seem, a definite hiatus at the beginning of all language instruction which a systematic study of written forms would do much to remove. This hiatus is at its widest when the habitué of a given alphabet is confronted with another, when, for example, the user of a native roman scripts is called upon to write Arabic. (Writing Arabic, pp. 2-3)

He is pointing to two possible problems: one, in the case that the new language uses a script closely related to that of the student’s own language, of assuming that genetic relatedness of script equals identity of script, and two, in the case that the new language uses a script unrelated to that of the student’s language, of simply writing on paper (when that is even still done) in a script exemplified by printed type in that language’s script. I cannot forget the opposition I have encountered when teaching Hebrew from some students reticent to separate their Hebrew writing from the printed Hebrew in front of them, but with Hebrew, as with Arabic and other languages, there really is a distinction, in this case between modern cursive script and what is commonly printed in books (then there is also Rashi script). Of course, with Hebrew and with other languages, typefaces were first cut and their style later developed at least partly in recognition and remembrance of handwriting, but even if one wants to use a more monumental style of writing closer to that often found in type, it is more genuine to find some such hand to mimic, rather than a type based on that kind of hand. In our own mother-tongues (assuming that’s the language we get schooled in) we learn handwriting and printed letters as having different shapes, especially in the case of cursive writing, and, while there may be some conscious notice of this discrepancy when we first learn the two kinds of letters, for most of us that cognizance soon vanishes.

Other than giving attention to handwriting to be a more complete student of a language (foreign languages and our own), are there other reasons? Quintilian thought it a necessary concern for orators (Inst. orat. 1.1.28; Latin available here, English translation here, somewhat altered below):

Non est aliena res, quae fere ab honestis neglegi solet, cura bene ac velociter scribendi. Nam cum sit in studiis praecipuum, quoque solo verus ille profectus et altis radicibus nixus paretur, scribere ipsum, tardior stilus cogitationem moratur, rudis et confusus intellectu caret: unde sequitur alter dictandi quae transferenda sunt labor.

The art of writing well and quickly is not unimportant for our purpose, though it is generally disregarded by distinguished people. Writing is of the utmost importance in the study which we have under consideration and by its means alone can true and deeply rooted proficiency be obtained. But a sluggish pen delays our thoughts, while an unformed and illiterate lacks understanding, a circumstance which necessitates another task, namely the dictation of what is to be copied.

He’s talking about orators, but it’s not a big leap from the specific task of oration to other activities attendant to life as a well-educated human being. It is true, of course, that a great many people now write very little in longhand, chained as so many of us woefully are to the beguiling convenience of computers, tablets, and phones. While this is not the place to fully trace it out, there is some kind of analogy between printed books (and even electronic books) and digital text entry on the one hand and reading manuscripts and longhand writing on the other. We must remember, too, that at different points in time for different languages and parts of the world writing itself was a new technology.

Particular orthography in use at a given time or in a given region (note, for example the que in the Latin sentence quoted below) can, it is true, be gotten by printed editions — assuming, at least, that the texts’ editors aren’t overly normalizing — but graphic ductus, of course, is only the privilege of manuscripts (or inscriptions). (Yes, there is a ductus to printed letters, too, but they’re not our concern here, as they’re a given in language instruction these days anyway.) Printed type is a leveler of sorts: while there can be variation in type, there are multiple copies of the same type; with handwriting, it’s all at least a little different, even when written by the same person. The gap between handwriting and printed type varies from language to language, and from script to script within one language. Armenian erkat’agir for uncial and bolorgir for miniscule are not at all unlike their printed cousins, but nōtrgir and especially šłagir show less resemblance to printed type. If we turn to Greek and Latin, many documents on papyri, for example, are written in scripts that require much practice and patience to read (note the items in the bibliography below) when compared with the fonts of printed texts.

The pithy saying qui scribit, bis legit will be known to some readers (see this post elsewhere for a little discussion of it). The monk Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) in his De laude scriptorum (ch. 6; pp. 60-61 in the ed. listed below), has the same idea in more words:

Fortius enim, que scribimus, menti imprimimus, quia scribentes et legentes ea cum morula tractamus.

Every word we write is imprinted more forcefully on our minds since we have to take our time while writing and reading.

In my previous post, I hinted at the manuscript work of our intellectual forebears. A perusal of William Wright’s recently published letters (ed. Bernhard Maier, see below) will illustrate how often he copied manuscripts for his colleagues in other parts of the world, as will for other scholars manuscript catalogs of European collections, which sometimes have copies of manuscripts from elsewhere in the hand of scholars whose names we know well. It’s hard to doubt that there be some utility in copying by hand manuscripts, even in part, even though this is hardly a necessity any more as it was before the days of relatively easy and inexpensive photography. Close copying of a script hitherto at least somewhat unfamiliar can be very instructive. Thorough exposure to one particular scribe, too, or at least one particular style seems most advisable. (A similar view led Janet Johnson, in her Demotic Egyptian grammar, to use the work of just one scribe in scans as examples for each chapter.) Perhaps before that, reading manuscripts of known texts, especially with a printed edition at hand for comparison might be especially helpful at earlier stages when students don’t know the language as well as they later will.

Where do we find samples of manuscripts in different scripts for perusal, study, and copying? There are, of course, myriads of freely available inscriptions and manuscripts in a great variety of languages available online: αἰτεῖτε καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν, ζητεῖτε καὶ εὑρήσετε, κρούετε καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν. Also in the previous post I mentioned some manuscript facsimiles published by former generations of scholars. Fortunately, these are not only represented by the past. An extremely fine — not to mention extremely heavy (but moderately priced for its great quality and worth) — recent example is the Album of Armenian Paleography (ed. M. Stone et al.), which is notable for going into the 19th and (in the section “archival documents”) 20th centuries; a letter written in Armenian by the famous French linguist Antoine Meillet is even included. Specifically for more modern kinds of handwriting, I already mentioned Mitchell’s book on writing Arabic. I have beside me a reprint of Witter’s Deutsch-Englische Schreib- und Lese-Fibel und Neues Erstes Lesebuch für Amerikanische Freischulen (St. Louis, 1881), which teaches handwriting exactly alongside of Frakturschrift to American students studying German. Students learning Russian, too, find themselves in special need of instruction for the language as handwritten when compared to printed or electronic texts, and at least one modern textbook I know of points this fact out. Finally, two posts back I gave several examples of Greek typography and especially noted the ligatures based on Greek handwriting in Byzantine manuscripts; there is some video and explanations showing the basics of this kind of writing here.

As a simple example in closing, here are some images from an Arabic manuscript I recently cataloged, CFMM 274, an early twentieth century manuscript of hagiographic texts. Anyone who has lived in an Arabophone culture and grown accustomed to handwritten notes, letters, etc. will have little difficulty reading this scribe’s handwriting, but students who have spent most of their time with printed Arabic materials will find themselves facing more difficulty. Printed Arabic type is based on clear letter shapes that have a ductus with obvious beginning, middle, and end. This is the case, too, with some manuscript hands, Naskh, for example, but in the hand in these images, it is at least in some cases easier to think in terms of words being written than distinct letter shapes strung together. The teeth of some letters (e.g. sīn and šīn) so noticeable in Arabic type (and Naskh and other scripts), is here almost completely absent; single dots are the same, but double dots are a line and a triad of dots is a (sometimes) curvier line. There is, I think, no real shortcut to getting familiar with harder-to-read hands: one must slog along, preferably with a text not too difficult in terms of vocabulary and content, often stopping to compare this word with that elsewhere on the page; our knowns inform our unknowns, then becoming knowns for further elucidation of other unknowns (I’m sure Seneca, Boileau or the like has said this more finely, but no place comes immediately to mind).

CFMM 274, p. 1

The title and first sentence read قصة القديس الكامل مار اهرون بقلم تلميذه بولس. في كل جيل وفي كل حين يتلألأ الصديقون محبّو الله.

CFMM 274, p. 96

Here is the title of another text in the manuscript: قصة القديس مار اولوغ احد رفاق القديس مار اوجين.

CFMM 274, p. 177

Finally, these are a few lines from the life of Būṯāmīna (or Būtāmīna) — I’ve not yet identified this female saint, but in addition to this text, we have a Garšūnī copy (MGMT 157, pp. 42-44), also late, in which she is called Būṭāmīnā; I’ll be grateful for any other information on her. The text reads: في رؤيا بعد موتها بثلاثة ايام وبيدها اكليل وضعته على رأسي وهي تقول لي « ستكون معي بعد قليل » وفي اليوم الثاني قطع رأسه بعد ما اعترق بيسوع المسيح اعتراقًا جيدًا.

The easy access to quality images in great quantity of manuscripts brought about by digital photography, the internet, etc. means that students and teachers have right at their disposal a slew of manuscripts with which to practice both their reading and their writing, not to mention their literary and linguistic acumen. We are no longer pressed to feed ourselves on printed editions merely, and we would do well to make ourselves quite at home with manuscripts as often as possible, and that means tolerance and familiarity with a broad range of handwriting in the languages we work with.

Bibliography

Klaus Arnold, ed., and Roland Behrendt, tr., Johannes Trithemius, In Praise of Scribes (De laude scriptorum) (Lawrence, Kansas, 1974).

Malachi Beit-Arié et al., Specimens of Mediaeval Hebrew Scripts, 3 vols. [the last still forthcoming, I think] (Jerusalem, 1987-).

Janet H. Johnson, Thus Wrote ʿOnchsheshonqy: An Introductory Grammar of Demotic, 3d ed. (Chicago, 2ooo). Downloadable here.

Bernhard Maier, ed., Semitic Studies in Victorian Britain: A Portrait of William Wright and His World Through His Letters, Arbeitsmaterialien zum Orient 26 (Würzburg, 2011).

T.F. Mitchell, Writing Arabic: A Practical Introduction to Ruqʿah Script (London, 1953, with reprints).

C.H. Roberts, Greek Literary Hands, 350 B.C.-A.D. 400 (Oxford, 1956).

Richard Seider, Paläographie der griechischen Papyri, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 1967).

________, Paläographie der lateinischen Papyri, 3 vols. (Stuttgart, 1972).

Michael E. Stone, Dickran Kouymjian, and Henning Lehmann, Album of Armenian Paleography (Copenhagen, 2002).

Sir Edward Maunde Thompson, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Paleography (Oxford, 1912).

R.G. Turner, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (Princeton, 1971).

Siegbert Uhlig, Äthiopische Paläographie (1988); ET, Introduction to Ethiopian Palaeography (1990).

Ada Yardeni, The Book of Hebrew Script (London, 2002).

Ḥasan Pāšā’s commentary on Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. Masʿūd’s Marāḥ al-arwāḥ   Leave a comment

The lion’s share of cataloging work I do at HMML is by means of high-quality digital images, the result of partnerships HMML maintains with the institutions and individuals that own the physical manuscripts themselves. HMML and Saint’ John’s University do, however, have a (physical) manuscript collection of their own, including Latin, French, Arabic, and Gǝʿǝz books (and scrolls). I’d like to share one such manuscript now, Or. A 11.

(Short) title of the book on front end-paper

This is a seventeenth-century copy of a commentary (šarḥ) on the important Arabic grammatical — specifically morphology (taṣrīf) — work by Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. Masʿūd (probably fourteenth century), which has the title Marāḥ al-arwāḥ (The Resting Place of Spirits). Ibn Masʿūd’s book itself has been published together with an introduction, English translation, and commentary not long ago (2001) by J. Åkesson. As she mentions in her introduction, Ibn Masʿūd’s work was the object of more than one commentary, but that of Ḥasan Pāšā b. ʿAlāʾa ‘l-Dīn al-Aswad al-Niksārī (late fourteenth century), called Al-mifrāḥ fī šarḥ marāḥ al-arwāḥ (The Joy-giver, A Commentary on the Resting Place of Spirits), has the claim of earliest. This particular copy is the work of a scribe named Muṣṭafá b. Isḥāq, completed 25 Ṣafar 1079 AH (= 4 August, 1668 CE).

Final folio, with colophon

There are a few other manuscript copies of Ḥasan Pāšā’s commentary, including Wien A.F. 206 (no. 204 in Flügel’s catalog, vol. 1), which is available on microfilm at HMML. I do not know that there is a printed edition of it, but I will gladly learn to know that there is.

Some folios near the beginning

Some water damage can be seen in this image, and it is present on many folios, but very mild, the text thus still legible. The script is pleasant and mostly clear. As can be seen in this excerpt, the commentator cites the text commented upon, or at least the beginning of it, with the rubric qawluhu and then proceeds to offer his own remarks.

If the study of ancient and medieval grammatical works in any language (Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, etc.) is an arcane and perhaps abstruse field, then inspecting commentaries on those works is even more so, but let this little notice serve at least as a gentle indication and reminder that such texts exist and that they are worth studying.

Bibliography

GAL II 21; GALS II 14 (the commentary is mentioned in the section on the Marāḥ)

Joyce Åkesson, Arabic Morphology and Phonology: Based on the Marāḥ Al-arwāḥ by Aḥmad B. ʻAlī B. Masʻūd (Leiden, 2001). Rev. by W. Smyth of her earlier edition of pt. 1 (the strong verb) in JAOS 112 (1992): 711-712.

Kees Versteegh, Landmarks in Linguistic Thought III: The Arabic Linguistic Tradition, Routledge History of Linguistic Thought (London and New York, 1997).

Syriac, Arabic, and Turkish in a late copy of the Kitāb al-tarǧamān   1 comment

HMML's copy of the 1636 ed., open to the section corresponding to that shown from the manuscript below.

Church of the Forty Martyrs (Mardin) no. 492, dated Nov 8, 1906, is a late copy of Eliya of Nisibis’ Kitāb al-tarǧamān fī taʿlīm luġat al-suryān (that is, The Book of the Translator, for Instruction in Syriac), his very important Syriac-Arabic lexicon arranged by topic, rather than by the alphabet. The Kitāb al-tarǧamān was published in Rome in 1636 without attribution to Eliya (he is not named in several of the manuscripts either), almost 250 years later by Lagarde (with the Syriac in Hebrew script), and again recently in Iraq. There are a few brief studies on the work, and I discuss it more fully in a paper that has been accepted in the Journal of Semitic Studies, so I’ll not say much more about it generally. Here I only want to highlight the notable manuscript identified above. It is of interest especially for the fact that there is a dedicated slot on every page for Turkish words, even though in many places Syriac and Arabic is all that there is. I have said that there is a “dedicated slot” for Turkish; that is, these words are not merely added in the margin, as in some other manuscripts of Eliya’s book. (In addition to Turkish, Latin and Italian equivalents also show up in some manuscripts.) The image below has the manuscript open to §2.1, with some general vocabulary on humanity and its environment. Syriac is in the right column, Arabic in the center, and Turkish on the left, all written with Syriac letters. The usual arrangement in the manuscripts with only Syriac and Arabic is with the former on the right and the latter on the left (that is, opposite from Obicini’s and Lagarde’s presentations with Syriac following Arabic). It should be noted, too, that this manuscript dates to a time prior to that of the official adoption of a Latin-based alphabet for Turkish, which took place in 1928 as one of Atatürk’s reforms.

CFMM 492, p. 22

Here are the basic meanings listed in this part of the work, along with the Turkish words written according to standard orthography:

  • human being insan
  • human beings insanlar
  • person insan
  • people insanlar
  • elements aşraf [?!]
  • fire ateş
  • air, wind rüzgâr
  • water su
  • earth yer
  • mixture mizac
  • hot sıcak
  • cold soğuk
  • wet nem, yaş (note: two words in Turkish, the former really meaning “moisture”, for one in Syriac and Arabic)
  • dry kuru

Linguist R.M.W. Dixon has roundly criticized conventional dictionary arrangement, lamenting that, while grammar and other linguistic fields have advanced much in the past few centuries, dictionary-making has not. He recommends, rather than plain alphabetical arrangement, that the order for the lexicon be according to semantic types, and with a kind of index in alphabetical order that points back to this thesaurus. Ten centuries ago, Eliya of Nisibis thought along similar lines for Syriac and Arabic, and some subsequent copyists thought it prudent to tack on other languages (Turkish, Latin, Italian) while tracing this same arrangement.

[Thanks to Reyhan Durmaz for some comments on the Turkish words.]

Bibliography

R.M.W. Dixon, Basic Linguistic Theory, vol. 1, Methodology (Oxford, 2010). See chap. 8, esp. 8.2.

Paul de Lagarde, Praetermissorum libri duo (Göttingen, 1879).

Adam McCollum, “Prolegomena to a New Edition of Eliya of Nisibis’ Kitāb al-tarǧamān fī taʿlīm luġat al-suryān,” Journal of Semitic Studies, forthcoming.

Thomas a Novaria (Obicini), Thesaurus Arabico-Syro-Latinus (Rome, 1636).

Gérard Troupeau, “Le lexique arabe-syriaque d’Elie Bar Shinâyâ,” in J. Hamesse and D. Jacquart (eds.), Lexiques bilingues dans les domaines philosophique et scientifique (Moyen Âge – Renaissance) (Brepols, 2001), 25-30.

Stefan Weninger, “Das ‘Übersetzerbuch’ des Elias von Nisibis (10./11. Jh.) im Zusammenhang der syrischen und
arabischen Lexikographie,” in W. Hüllen, ed., The World in a List of Words (Tübingen: 1994), pp. 55-66.

The 16th-century scribe ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz from Mardin   1 comment

CFMM 466, f. 296v

Church of the Forty Martyrs (Mardin) ms 466 is a copy of Išoʿ bar ʿAli’s Syriac-Arabic lexicon dated 1857 AG (= 1545/6 CE). The script is a very fine Serṭo — descriptions of scribal hands can tend to sound like you’re talking about wine! — with just the right amount of flourishes for the scribe to show some uniqueness while still making his text simply legible. After the lexicon proper ends, there is a short list (see the image above) of words that have šīn in Syriac but sīn in Arabic, and vice versa; note that a later reader has marked the pair sahrā and šahr with an X, and rightly given the Arabic meaning of sahrā as qamar (“moon”) rather than, strictly speaking, šahr (“month”), although the two sibilant words are surely related, just as “moon” and “month” are in English and other Germanic languages (but not Indo-European more generally).

On the same page as this little comparative list comes the colophon, written sideways, from which we learn both the scribe’s name and the date of copying. Aside from the frequently found terms of scribal self-deprecation, the colophon informs us that ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz completed the work “in a small amount of time in the year 1857 AG in the monastery of the see of Antioch, Dayr Al-Zaʿfarān”, and some of this information is repeated again in a Garšūnī colophon on ff. 300v-301r. This scribe, whose hand penned these lovely letters, was from Mardin, he tells us, specifically the part known as Qāṣur or Qāṣrā (see Payne Smith col. 3708 for references to these toponyms). I was so inspired by the work of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, that I composed a few humble lines in his honor, to be sung to the tune of Abdul Abulbul Amir:

Of the sons of Mardin there’s scribes and there’s monks,

And many who write in Serṭo.

But of all of those writers, there’s none, I believe,

So precious as ʿAbdulʿazīz!

The note above the colophon is a purchase note in Garšūnī, where we learn that the scribe’s own son, Rabbān Pawlos of Al-Manṣūrīya (from which place we also know a female scribe named Maryam from about the same time period as ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz), bought the book in February of 1886 AG (= 1575 CE) from a certain Rabbān Šemʿon known as Ibn Al-Qarya (?).

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