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