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Introducing Xna (a.k.a. OCC)

From:Leo Caesius <leo_caesius@...>
Date:Monday, January 14, 2002, 10:09
Although object 1994.5.2 does exist, as does the Harvard Semitic Museum,
absolutely nothing that follows should be mistaken for the truth.

    Part of my responsibilities at the Semitic Museum include data entry for
the electronic catalogue of the Museum's inventory.  Recently, while
cataloguing our Judaica collection, I came upon a small book bound in
leather.  It was obvious that someone had once cared very much for this
book, because the leather binding had at some point come loose and had been
stitched back into place by hand (albeit crudely).
  The manuscript itself, a palimpsest, was filled with crabbed writing in
several hands (I was later to discover that the text was written in Hebrew,
using a variant of the Rashi script called "Yevanic").  After further
examination, it became clear that the underlying text could be discerned;
with the aid of ultraviolet photograph, even more text was made legible.

   Thanks to the miracles of modern museum science, a sizeable portion of
the underlying text could be rescued.  While the script in which this text
is written clearly owes much to Greek (note the presence in this text of all
the Greek vowels), a number of the characters are wholly unfamiliar.  Oddly,
Arabic occurs in two places on the text (the phrase Salaa LLahu 3alayhi
wa-salima, which follows the name of the prophet Muhammad in Islamic texts).
  If we can assume that the authors of this text followed Islamic practice,
then this phrase must follow the name of a prophet or someone of similarly
prestigious status.  Happily, the two names followed by the phrase are
written entirely in familiar characters: "Chirthana" and "Malchu."

    While it is obviously too early to discuss the language of the text, a
few conjectures may be advanced.  The Semitic character of the text is
almost certainly assured (the aforementioned "malchu" has reflexes in Syriac
malka, Arabic malikun, and Hebrew melekh, "king;" other words attested in
this text, such as lo: (ln. 1), me:mu- (ln.3), naphsi (ln. 4), chasphu (ln.
15), and lichulli (ln. 16) are of a decidedly Semitic character, consistent
with the provenience of the document (which was purchased on the antiquities
market in Damascus, in 1906).  Furthermore, the repetition of the elements
following the two names (following the pattern "CaCaCa CaCCa" and "CaCaCa
CaCCatha") strongly resembles the "cognate accusative" (Ar. maf3uul muTlaq),
a rather common construction among the Semitic languages.

     Comments would be appreciated.


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