Reviews of

L’araméen des manuscrits de la mer Morte. I. Grammaire

In Aramaic, Éditions du Zèbre, DSS, Qumran, Ursula SCHATTNER-RIESER, Vasile Condrea on March 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm


2013.03.02 | Ursula Schattner-Rieser, L’araméen des manuscrits de la mer Morte. I. Grammaire. Instruments pour l’étude des langues de l’Orient ancien 5 (IELOA). Lausanne: Éditions du Zèbre, 2004. SFR45 / €33.00. pp. 180. ISBN 1422–7436; 5; ISBN 2–940351–03–1.

Reviewed by Vasile Condrea, Durham University.

Many thanks go to Éditions du Zèbre for kindly providing us with a review copy.

This volume represents ‘l’ensemble des traits pertinents’ of a doctoral thesis written under the supervision of André Lemaire and Jean Margain at É.P.H.E.-Sorbonne/Paris. It has been previously reviewed by Ch. Grappe (RHPR 85 (2005), pp. 430-31), T. Muraoka (BO 63 (2006)), G. J. Brooke (JSNT 28 (2006), p. 142), E. Cook and E. Tigchelaar (JSJ 37 (2006), pp. 491-95), and T. Lim (ET 118 (2007), p. 249). Some reviews are more general (Brooke and Lim), while others present some critical remarks (Cook and Tigchelaar) with the addition that these ‘should not be taken to undermine this overall favorable assessment’ (Cook, p. 491).

The book comprises six chapters preceded by an Introduction générale, which presents the historical stages of the Aramaic language (Ancient Aramaic [AA]; Official Aramaic [OA]; Middle Aramaic [MA]; Late Aramaic [LA]; Modern Aramaic). This volume is addressed to those with a fair knowledge of Biblical Aramaic and/or Targumim Aramaic. Her approach is diachronic and comparative as she often resorts to Nabataean, Palmyrian and Syriac.

In the first chapter, one can find some considerations on the Qumran corpus, writings, and dating of the manuscripts. The following chapter is dedicated to the Aramaic phonetics and phonology, adding interesting observations on the historical evolution of the language. Being mostly represented by literary works, the Aramaic language in Qumran is different from that of the stereotyped letters and contracts found at Naḥal Ḥever, Naḥal Ṣe’elim and Wadi Murabba῾ât. Schattner-Rieser suggests that the Aramaic found in Qumran is an intermediary dialect between the Imperial Aramaic and Targum Aramaic as it provided the connecting link between the two. There are two stages in this process.
(1) The interdental consonants suffer a four-stage transformation from the Proto-Semitic (PS) to AA, OA, MA. (for instance: *ḏ (ז) PS→ ז AA → ז , דOA → ד (ז) MA; *ṯ PS→ש  (š) AA → ת OA → ת MA; *ḍ (ק) PS→ ק AA → ק, ע OA → ע MA [p. 35]).
(2) In the II century CE, Aramaic phonetic laws do not allow for two pharyngeal letters (ח and ע) to be present in the same word and consequently a dissimilation process occurs in which they are changed into laryngeal letter (א). One of the examples is that of לעבק: in OA לעבק (immediately) → לעבע in Qumran (first stage) → לאבע in Targum (second stage) [p.45]. This argument was also developed in her article ‘Note sur *ḍ et la (non-)dissimilation des pharyngales en araméen. A propos d’un chaînon manquant découvert à Qumrân’ in Études sémitiques et samaritaines offertes à Jean Margain (Lausanne: Éditions du Zèbre, 1998).

The morphology is described in the third chapter which examines the pronoun, the verb, and the noun. The exposition follows a standard pattern as Schattner-Rieser uses examples from Biblical Aramaic (to reinforce the argument) and resorts to comparative presentations of the AO, Biblical Aramaic and Qumran Aramaic. This is very helpful as it commences with the data already known to the reader and passes through these different historical stages of the language.

Chapter 4 is dedicated to the particles (preposition, conjunction, and adverb). These particles are said to be flexible as they ‘can have more than one meaning and belong to three categories’ [p. 93] (a few examples of this phenomenon would have been handy). The prepositions in Qumran Aramaic are the same as in Biblical Aramaic to which four other may be added (later found in Targumim Aramaic) – בדיל (because), כפם (according to), עלוי (above), and גב על (near) [p. 93]. A separate section refers to other particles which fall outside the above mentioned morphological classes (הא [there], נה/נא [please],  יא[oh, (father, my brother)], לכה [here, there], ארי/ארו [there], איתי (לא), [there is/there is not], ית [nota accusativi]).

The short chapter discussing lexical problems is divided into three parts: (1) new words that are used more in the later dialects; (2) loan words (from Akkadian, Persian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Syriac); (3) proper nouns.

The final chapter connects the Morphology and Syntax in Aramaic as it presents the syntactical rules for pronoun, verb, noun, numeral and preposition, including a special section on word order [pp. 132-135]. It starts with morphological considerations relevant for the syntax and then passes to the syntax itself. Schattner-Rieser is not interested in answering the question whether the Aramaic in Qumran follows the classic waw-consecutive rule or not. Nevertheless, she lists two examples that seem to contradict it: 1QapGen XIX, 18 and 4Q551, frag. 1a-c, 4-5 [p. 118]. Besides its function as predicate, the participle can also be a verbal noun, a verbal adjective and be used in periphrasis with the verb היה [to be].

This book represents a useful tool for those interested in enhancing their knowledge about the Aramaic language. Due to its straightforward way of presentation, it can easily be used in class for a seamless transition from teaching Biblical Aramaic to Targum Aramaic. It covers the most important features of Aramaic in Qumran and also its connection with the preceding or later dialects. A further discussion of waw-inversive and word-order in Qumran would have been most welcomed in the extensive chapter that deal with the syntax.

Vasile Condrea
Durham University
v.a.condrea [ at ]

  1. It came to my attention that the rest of the thesis this volume is an extract of is readily available online on the author’s web page, along with several other publications. You may check it out here:

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