Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Tres notes de lexicologia semítica: entre l'arameu, l'àrab i el grec

Juan Pedro Monferrer Sala


The linguistic make-up of the Syro-Palestinian Church comprised two
clearly differentiated sectors: the Greek-speaking coastal regions and Hellenised
cities, on the one hand, and the inland regions, on the other, where a variety
of dialects were spoken. This geographical division was only a partial factor,
however. Although the tendency of individuals to group together in Greek
and Aramaic-speaking areas was initially determined by social inertia strongly
influenced by reasons of language, the subsequent Arabo-Islamic occupation
brought with it a new linguistic factor Arabic. Contrary to the opinion of
some scholars, Aramaic was also spoken in the major cities and towns.
It is known that Palestine was a highly active centre of Greek culture at the
time of the Arabo-Islamic occupation; it also known that for a brief period of
time Greek continued to be the language of the new Islamic Arab state. However,
the Greek language of the Islamic Arab state was used not by Greek officials,
the latter having fled with Heraclius, but by the Syriacs.
The presence of the language of the Syrians (an expression frequently
found in Greek texts from the 4th century onwards) appears to have been much
greater than believed until very recently. The Aramaic speakers of Syria, Palestine
and Mesopotamia not only kept alive the various Aramaic dialects used in
everyday life, but they also knew Greek.
The constant contact between Greek and the various Aramaic dialects,
therefore, contributed to the exchange of cultural elements both in the Christian and the Jewish world. It is in this context that the present article proposes
the following three etymologies: (1) An Aramaic-Arabic hapax: the Arabic
síq is a form deriving from the Palestinian Christian- Aramaic síq, with a total
consonantal shift from the Aramaic and a vocalic interference as a result of
the transition from Greek to Aramaic. The sequence would be as follows: síq
(Arabic) < síq (Aramaic) < shkov¿, enclosure, monastery. (2) An Aramaic
loan-word: sábún < sapúná: in verse 1 of the sixth stanza of zejel no. 137 by the
Cordoban writer Ibn Quzmán (12th century), we find a term which had previously
been supposed to be Romance in origin: sábún, soap, with the article,
which in Hispano Arabic must have been realized as sábún. The loan-word
sábún entered Arabic directly from Aramaic. The word has been documented
in Hebrew, rabbinical Aramaic and Syriac. (3) A possible Semitic word that
failed to prosper: the author is inclined to think that the word endib/via, endive,
was formed from ejntuvbia

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