Archive for the ‘Kaufman, SA’ category

Kaufman, Stephen A., “The Phoenician Inscription of the Incirli Trilingual: A Tentative Reconstruction and Translation,” MAARAV 14.2(2007): 7-26

January 26, 2009

The Incirli trilingual, not to be confused with Zincirl, was discovered in 1993. Unfortunately it had been exposed to the elements and is extremely weathered. Further complicating the reading, it was overwritten in Greek and is therefore sort of a stone palimpsest. A new website (much better than the old one) has been put together here  with pictures of the stone and more information. Pictures are also available from Inscriptifact. On seeing the stone, you will understand why this is presented as a tentative reading. 

The three languages of the original inscription are Phoenician, Hieroglyphic Luwian, and Neo-Assyrian. The two line Neo-Assyrian introduction has been read tentatively as well, but is not presented in this article. Unfortunately, Dr Kaufman reports that the Luwian and the rest of the cuneiform seem beyond reconstruction. 

The inscription is attributed Awarikku, King of the Danunites and commemorates a gift of land from Tiglath-Pileser III. Awarikku seems to have been rewarded for maintaining loyalty to Assyria during the well-known revolt led by Matiel of Arpad in the late 740’s BCE. It seems to follow the form of other lengthy stela texts by beginning with an introduction, the historical background for the erection of the stele, the narrative of the revolt, and finally ending with curses. I will leave the transcription and translation for you to read in the article, but summarize some of the more interesting findings and implications here.

First, Tiglath-pileser III is also referred to as Puˀ/wal with an intervocalic glide, spelled פאל quite clearly in at least one place (and probably the others) in contrast to biblical פול, vocalized Pûl. If it were pronounced according to the latter then one would expect פל in the Phoenician orthography. Also known as Pulu in later Babylonian records, this finally gives contemporary confirmation that Pul and Tiglath-Pileser III were indeed one and the same king. Also interesting is that Tiglath-pileser is spelled תכלתאפלסר (Tukulti-Apil-Ešarra) which corresponds to Assyrian orthography rather than the phonetic pronunciation as found in other Northwest Semitic texts (תגלתפלסר in 2 Kg 16:7 and תגלתפליסר in Samalian).        

More Assyrian influence is found in line 5 where Pul is referred to as פאל מל[ך] אשר רב “Puwal, the great king of Assyria”. Here, רב is the Assyrian word for great which seems to be reserved  for the Assyrian emperor as opposed to the “kings” of provincial areas and vassal states. See Hosea 5:13 and 10:6 where the Assyrian king is referred to as מלך ירב

Line 8 reads  אנך וריכס מלך ז בת מפש “I am (A)warikus, King of the dynasty of Mopsos”. Note the use of the demonstrative pronoun ז for the relative/genitive, similar to archaic Hebrew (יהוה זה סיני “YHWH of Sinai” Jd 5:5) and זי / די in Aramaic. This is not usually recognized by the grammars as a relative in Standard Phoenician which instead uses אש (though Old Byblian does use ז which was later replaced by אש).

Line 20-21 on the reverse reads וכרת ב.. ארצת אצר ותחת כל בת נפש which Dr. Kaufman translates (emphasis his), “Then I mined the treasure lands and beneath every tombstone.” Though a bit damaged, the reading כרת from כרה “to dig, mine” seems clear. In Is 3:20 וּבָתֵּ֥י הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ refers to an “amulet worn around the throat”, but that seems to make no sense here. In later Aramaic and Post-Biblical Hebrew, נפש means “funerary monument”, thus something like “tombstone” is all that can make sense (I wonder, might this reading take some of the luster from Kuttamuwa’s so-called “soul”?).

Most importantly, perhaps, is the discussion within the narrative section of the practice of sacrificing a royal offspring in a crisis (see Mesha in 2 Kg 2:27) using the terms גזר, זבח and כפר. Unfortunately connections to the Punic molkomor and biblical Molek are not completely certain. In lines 11-12, Kaufman reads:

 וזבח מלך ארפד ליען הדד מלך וגזר מצפר כ ארפד פחד מלך אמ/שר חי/על

“And the king of Arpad (Matiel) sacrificed for the benefit of Hadad-Melek (or “for the purpose of a molk-offering for Hadad”), and redeemed [the human sacrifice] with butchered animal parts, because Arpad feared (a living molkomor/ the King of Assyria. He went up…)”

Thus in the first case הדד מלך can either be taken as one word, the god Hadad-Melek (See also Kaufman’s “The Enigmatic Adad-Milki”) or as two, “for Hadad, a molk“. In the second case we can either read that Arpad was afraid of a מלך אמר חי or that they were afraid of the מלך אשר, in which case על is a verb starting the next phrase “He arose…”


Kaufman, Stephen A., “The classification of the North West Semitic dialects of the Biblical period and some implications thereof,” Pages 41-57 in Proceedings of the 9th World Congress of Jewish Studies. Panel Sessions: Hebrew and Aramaic Languages. Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1988.

January 20, 2009

Language classification is complicated in areas of language contact since interference from surrounding dialects and languages (ie borrowing, analogical change, etc.) tends to obscure the genetic connections (assuming that there is validity to the genetic model). Thus the Stammbaum  approach (ie family tree) tends to be modified by the wave theory of change, the idea that linguistic features radiate out from some cultural center into the surrounding dialects. As Garr has argued, this especially seems to be the case for Syria-Palestine in the first half of the first millennium which represents a linguistic continuum of dialects in contact with each other. Therefore, scholars meet with great difficulty when attempting to shoehorn some of these peripheral dialects into neat categories such as “Aramaic” or “Canaanite”.

The most notorious among the NW Semitic dialects have been Ugaritic, Samalian, and Deir Alla. Ugaritic is something of a special case since it is an earlier dead-end branch from the Late Bronze Age, a peripheral member the proto-Canaanite-Aramaic dialect continuum (Kaufman’s term), and no universal consensus seems to have been reached on its classification. There does seem to be a consensus that Samalian is properly Aramaic, again, a peripheral dead-end variety. In this paper, Dr Kaufman will take up the issue of Deir Alla. Both Randall Garr and Jo Ann Hackett have addressed Deir Alla in their dissertations, Garr grouping it with Aramaic but Hackett South Canaanite.   

The most common approach to the classification of dialects among students of Semitic has been to assemble lists of isoglosses and simply count the presence or absence of features in the dialect, grouping it where it shares the most in common. Quite often this approach suffers from a lack of methodological rigor, most notably the assumption that all isoglosses are equal. If one follows the genetic model of language development, then it makes sense that only shared innovations are significant for genetic subgrouping. This is because shared innovations demonstrate that a subgroup has continued to develop independently after a split in the family tree. 

Further, Kaufman argues that features of greater frequency in normal speech ought to be given more weight. While the absolute chronologies of the glottochronological method may be rightly criticized, the assumption of lexicostatistics that the basic vocabulary of a language has more resistance to change  seems fundamentally sound. The same can be said of common morphological and grammatical features. This approach seems consistent with the criterion of mutual intelligibility. While it is probably impossible to measure the mutual intelligibility of ancient languages, it stands to reason that two such languages must coincide in their basic vocabularies and fundamental grammatical structures.

Thus Kaufman begins by summarizing the features of Deir Alla in comparison to “Canaanite” and “Aramaic”.  He finds seven features that are either common to NW Semitic or inconclusive including the imperfect consecutive, the use of the infinitive absolute with cognate finite verb, and the apparent lack of a definite article. There are seven features in common with Canaanite like the Nifal and the 3fp form tqtln. Lastly there are seven features in common with Aramaic such as the masculine plural ending -n and the distinction in the third weak verb between jussive -y and indicative –h. The scales appear to be balanced, but after removing the features which come from doubtful readings or really cannot be clearly classified as Canaanite or Aramaic, only one feature remains in the Canaanite column while four remain in the Aramaic column. Here Kaufman introduces a lexical analysis, finding that the vocabulary of Deir Alla contains 75-80 words from common NW Semitic, 5-8 Canaanite, and 21-24 Aramaic. Further, in contrast to Canaanite, the Aramaic list is full of basic vocabulary items like ‘son’, ‘wine’, give’, ‘enter’, etc. This seems to tip the scale drastically toward Aramaic.

Interestingly, this conclusion fits nicely with Dion’s analysis of Samalian. Every feature which Samalian shares with Old Aramaic against Canaanite is also shared by Deir Alla with only one exception, but none of the so-called Canaanite features of Samalian are found at Deir Alla. This suggests that Old Aramaic, Samalian, and Deir Alla shared a period of joint development after the split into the Canaanite and Aramaic branches. Both Deir Alla and Samalian seem to have then split from the main Aramaic branch at the same time. 

Now for the implications. Not only was Syria-Palestine a region of linguistic continuum, but also a literary continuum. The Deir Alla text has obvious parallels to the Bible, not only the character of Balaam but language, style, and phraseology. For instance, the “Last words of David” in 2 Sam 23:1-7 is an oracle introduced by the same phrase as the Deir Alla text, n’m PN n’m hgbr… 

More interesting though is the way Aramaic and Canaanite features are “mixed” in the Deir Alla text. Much of the Aramaic-like vocabulary was dismissed by those arguing for a Canaanite affiliation since it also occurs in the Hebrew Bible. But where does it occur? Usually in passages like Job or the wisdom of Lemuel (Prov 30) that are regarded as “Aramaizing” (and declared therefore to be post-exilic). However, Deir Alla suggests a different solution – the text may simply be written in a Trans-Jordanian pre-Exilic dialect which has a mix of Aramaic and Canaanite features. In fact, most such passages are not only connected to Trans-Jordanian characters, but are representing their direct speech. Thus what we may have are Hebrew authors in Hebrew texts attempting to represent Trans-Jordanian speech.

Kaufman, Stephen A, “An Emphatic Plea for Please,” Maarav 7 (1991), 195-198.

January 25, 2008

In this short article, Dr Kaufman argues for the traditional rendering of the particle נָא as ‘please’, against the study of T.O. Lambdin who suggested that the particle marks the command as being a logical consequence of the previous statement or the general situation. Waltke-O’Connor also quotes Lambdin, apparently approvingly, in their short section on the particle.Dr Kaufman sees three compelling arguments for the interpretation ‘please’: First, there is no significant way left in Biblical Hebrew to say ‘please’ if not with נָא. Second, נָא never appears when the focus of the command is a third party suggesting that it has to do with the relationship between speaker/addressee rather than the logical nature of the command. The third argument is the most interesting and relates to the nature of the so-called nun energicum.The particle נָא can be used after interrogative and presentative particles such as אִם, אַיֵּה, and הִנֵּה, but most of the time it appears after imperatives and the other phrase-initial verbal forms which belong to the “imperative modal set” such as cohortatives, jussives, and rarely even the perfect consecutive. Although it is now an independent particle, many scholars have suggested that it may have originally been a part of the earlier “energic” modal preformative verb form, *taqtulanna. At some point scribes began to separate the n(n) from the verb by a word divider as was the case at Ugarit (see H Gottlieb, “The Hebrew Particle nâ,Acta Orientalia 33 (1971): 47-54).Based on the so-called subjunctive modes reflected in Amarna Akkadian and the “energic” mode of Arabic, Lambin, and others such as Gottlieb, Moran, and Rainey, have argued that the earlier “energic” forms of the preformative were subjunctives and marked grammatical subordination. Thus it can be seen why the idea of logical succession would be a more appealing explanation of נָא then entreaty. However, Dr Kaufman argues that this understanding of the “energic” ending is mistaken.

Preformative (and imperative) verbal forms in Arabic and Northwest Semitic ending in -(an)na are not ‘energic,’ ie they are not emphatic. They do, rather, express petition, doubt, or question – a softening rather than a strengthening!”

Thus נָא is descendent of the split of the -anna ending into  (the origin of the cohortative) and nnā. This implies that the primary use of the Hebrew cohortative by itself is to express a wish or request for permission even without the accompanying נָא. The long form of the imperative, with the  ending, can also be seen as equivalent to the imperative + נָא, a more polite form. Lastly, this explains why the -n forms of the pronominal suffixes (usually explained as preserving the so-called long imperfect in contrast to the short jussive or preterite forms) can also occur with the imperative marking the long imperative:

 ‏שִׁלְחָ֣ה וְקָחֶ֔נּוּ‎ 1 Sam 16:11

“go and fetch him, please”

Kaufman, Stephen A, “Paragogic nun in Biblical Hebrew: Hypercorrection as a clue to a Lost Scribal Practice,” in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield. ed. Ziony Zevit, Seymour Gitin, and Michael Sokoloff (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 95-99.

January 9, 2008

In Biblical Hebrew prose the imperfect forms that end with a long vowel (2fs, 2mp, and 3mp) sometimes occur with an extra nun on the end – the so-called paragogic nun. However, an explanation of why these forms appear has eluded Hebrew grammarians. The forms appear most frequently in older texts where they occur most frequently in pause. The appearance of a final nun also corresponds to the Aramaic/Arabic forms of the imperfect indicative יִכְתְּבוּן (yiktebūn) which contrast with the shorter jussive/preterite form יִכְתְּבוּ (yiktebū).

In Semitic languages it is common for a nun to be assimilated to the following consonant in the prosody of speech. Thus in the majority of cases, except where the verb occurred in a clause final position (as in pause) or before a consonant which cannot be doubled, the final nun would be lost to assimilation. Over time the imperfect form was reanalyzed as יִכְתְּבוּ and therefore, as occurred in later colloquial Arabic, the two forms would have fallen together in normal Biblical Hebrew prose so that the contrast between יִכְתְּבוּן and יִכְתְּבוּ no longer marked the difference between the imperfect (also called the long form) and the jussive/preterite (the short form).

This explains why a majority of the forms with paragogic nun are preserved in pause, however this is not the case with all of the forms. Further, in a few cases the paragogic nun occurs on a form other than an imperfect indicative such as the imperfect consecutive (which should be a preservation of the short preterite form) and even the perfect. Dr Kaufman suggests that the variation can be explained by hypercorrection and is evidence of a scribal tradition rather than a living linguistic phenomenon.

Hypercorrection is often the result of tension between a higher formal dialect and a lower colloquial dialect where a speaker applies a feature in the higher dialect by analogy to a situation where it should not occur, betraying the author’s lack of experience in the higher dialect. For instance, in English we have lost the use of a “case system” except for some personal pronouns. The 1cs nominative pronoun is “I” while the oblique case is “me.” Children often mistakenly use “me” as a nominative, “Me and Jack are going to the store.” Adults, however, weary of being corrected as children for using phrases such as “Me and Jack”, often misunderstand the rule as applying to compounds and tend to hypercorrect the pronouns in oblique cases where “me” is indeed the proper use, “Bob came with Jack and I.”

In Biblical Hebrew the situation arose where the higher formal dialect pronounced the final nun on 2fs, 2mp, and 3mp imperfect indicatives in situations where the nun could not assimilate such as contextual positions (such as pause). However,  over time the lower dialect no longer pronounced the final nun at all. Scribes copying older texts in whose literary dialect final nuns were still included in the orthography would have to learn a set of rules for their use and non-use. By examining the scribal errors we can deduce the rules.

Dr Kaufman notes first that all of the “errors” are found in the books of Deuteronomy and Judges, perhaps reflecting a shared scribal history. In Deuteronomy 1:22, 4:11, 5:23, and Judges 8:1 and 11:18 the paragogic nun occurs on an imperfect consecutive. In Deuteronomy 8:3 and 8:16 the nun occurs on a perfect form (though both cases are the פ’’י verb ידע whose consonantal form may have been misinterpreted as an imperfect). What is significant is that in five of these seven cases the paragogic nun is followed by a word beginning with aleph. Thus it seems that the scribe was concentrating so hard to remember to use a paragogic nun when it cannot be assimilated to the following word that he forgot that it should only be applied to imperfect indicatives.

Kaufman, S. A., “The Pitfalls of Typology: On the Early History of the Alphabet,” HUCA 57 (1986) 1-14.

August 15, 2007

This article was prompted by the discovery of the Aramaic-Akkadian bi-lingual inscription from Tell Fakhariyeh. While the inscription has importance for many areas of study, the orthography of the Aramaic portion is especially significant for the standard typological approach of the Cross school. Typologically, the script dates to the eleventh century BCE, but other aspects of the inscription suggest a date from the mid-ninth century. Obviously one of these dates has to give, Dr Kaufman suggests that it is the typological. In the history of the alphabet and script development the spatial dimension must be taken into consideration as well as the chronological. The existence of typologically older Phoenician forms may be explained by the geographical distance from Phoenicia. Thus Dr Kaufman suggests that the stammbaum model of script change should be augmented by the wave theory of linguistic change. Further, he questions the supposed independence of the Greek alphabet from the influence of the Semitic scripts after the period of borrowing.