November 10, 2005

10th Century Comparative Linguistics

I must have been starved for an Afro-Asiatic linguistic blog. Here's another post from Jabal al-Lughat:

Yehudah ibn Quraysh was a rabbi of the late ninth/early tenth century from Tahert (modern Tiaret, in Algeria.) Shocked to hear that the Jews of Fez in Morocco were neglecting the study of the Targum (an Aramaic translation of the Bible), he wrote a letter to them intended to establish that they could not and should not get by on the Hebrew alone - because other languages, especially Aramaic and Arabic, are essential in elucidating the Hebrew. In the process, he casually noted most of the correct sound correspondences between Hebrew and Arabic, and ended up writing what amounts to an extensive comparative dictionary of the three languages, even throwing in 9 Berber comparisons and 5 Latin ones at the end. He definitely hedges his bets on the cause of this obvious similarity between the three languages, but seems to come surprisingly close to the correct explanation - common descent - at times... something to bear in mind next time you read about Sir William Jones having founded comparative linguistics in 1798.

Follow the link above for an excerpt from Quraysh's work, in Arabic with English translation.

While I'm at it, here are a few more interesting Jabal al-Lughat links.

UPDATE: If you want to buy a Hebrew translation of the book, you can get it here.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at November 10, 2005 08:20 PM | TrackBacks
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