Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Online Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon

 [First posted in AWOL 8 February 2010, updated 27 February 2019]

The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon
A new dictionary of the Aramaic language, entitled The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, is currently in preparation by an international team of scholars, with headquarters at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio USA. This major scholarly reference work covers all dialects and periods of ancient Aramaic, one of the principal languages of antiquity, with a literature of central importance for history and civilization, and especially for the Jewish and Christian religions.

Why a New Lexicon?

Many dictionaries of some part of Aramaic exist, but individually and as a whole they are inadequate in important ways. Lexical treatment of Aramaic has been fragmented. Existing dictionaries treat one dialect, or one body of literature, but not the whole language. It is as though we had a dictionary of Shakespeare, and one of Hemingway, without having a dictionary of English! An additional hurdle in the path of users is that Aramaic dictionaries are written in an imposing variety of living and dead languages: not only English but also German, French, Russian, and Latin! Many of the existing dictionaries do not come up to modern standards of accuracy, and practically all are seriously incomplete and out-of-date. Practically every area of Aramaic studies has been enriched by recent discoveries: new inscriptions, new papyri, new scrolls, and new fragments from the Cairo Genizah, a synagogue store-room where a trove of manuscripts was discovered in the 19th century. These recently discovered materials demand inclusion in a lexicon.

A Comprehensive Lexicon

The new lexicon is comprehensive in the following ways: 1) it includes all of ancient Aramaic, not just selected portions; 2) it is based on a new and thorough compilation of all Aramaic literature, not just on existing dictionaries; 3) it takes into account modern scholarly discussion of the Aramaic language.

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  1. The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, if published, really will be a huge boost for Aramaic studies. It is available electronically at the CAL web site and has been partially incorporated into some Aramaic/Biblical software such as BibleWorks, but so far it has not been published. This is good news for Aramaic fans.

  2. Can I assume from your comment that by "published" you mean on paper? Do you think that would make them more useful that the form they're in now?