Ernest Renan (1823-92) was a Semiticist
remembered today chiefly for his work on Hebrew literature, for the separate peace he made with the Catholicism of his nation and his own youth, and for his penetrating essay on national sentiment, "What is a Nation?
In particular, he blames the "hegemonic weight of the Aksumite and Orientalist Semiticist
paradigms" for creating an Ethiopian history that is largely dynastic, clerical, and elitist.
This consensus was challenged early in the century by the semiticist
The investigation required not only the skills of a Semiticist
, but also familiarity with Byzantine Greek sources and that growing body of scholarship by modern Byzantinists and specialists on other aspects of Late Antiquity.
None of these questions is taken up by Holes, who continues the Semiticist
tradition of analyzing verb forms in Arabic as being non-temporal, despite the existence of data which contradict it.
Even though the author specifically mentions readers versed in Akkadian as well as linguistic typologists (Cohen refers to Xrakovskij 2005) as the audience of the study, comparative Semiticists
will also profit from the work.
More generally, while it is fun for the modern linguist to "tease" traditional Semiticists
with the insight that written language is "merely" a representation of spoken language, it is equally fun to tease modern linguists with the suggestion that the Semitic alphabets, with their focus on consonants, do represent true insights about the importance of consonants in these languages, and perhaps language in general.
One of the greatest Semiticists
of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Noldeke was elected to become the first German professor in the chair of Semitics at the University of Strasbourg in 1872, after Alsace-Lorraine was retaken from France.
Overall, this volume is an excellent contribution to the field of Arabic dialectology, and will be of particular interest to Arabists, Semiticists
, dialectologists, and sociolinguists.
1) The origin of this morpheme has been widely discussed among Semiticists
in particular, and more recently among Arabicists (Holes 2011).
The volume caters not only to Semiticists
but also to general linguists, in that all examples are provided with interlinear transcription.
All specialists in Modern Aramaic, as well as Semiticists
, religions and cultural historians, and scholars of the modern Middle East, are indebted to Talay and Mutzafi for these outstanding works, and I look forward with great anticipation to their future publications in this small but fascinating subfield of Semitic linguistics.