Fales, M. and Grassi, G., L'aramaico Antico: Storia, Grammatica, Testi Commentati: [Review]

Translated title of the contribution: Ancient Aramaic: History, grammar, commented texts

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L'aramaico antico: Storia, grammatica, testi commentati. By Frederick Mario Fales and Giulia Francesca Grassi. Udine: Forum, 2016. Pp. 315, illus. €35 (paper).

Despite the constant trickle of Old Aramaic inscriptions that have been discovered and subsequently published since the 1970s, the grammars by R. Degen from 1969 (Altaramäische Grammatik, Wiesbaden) and S. Segert from 1975 (Altaramäische Grammatik, Leipzig) are still the most recent descriptions of the language of the Old Aramaic corpus. Obviously, they do not cover all of the known texts. The book under review was surely written with this (somewhat miserable) status quaestionis in mind, even though it was not intended to fill the gap, for M. Fales and G. F Grassi have provided us with a primer for Old Aramaic, not a full grammar.

Part one of the book comprises a historical overview of Old Aramaic (by Fales, pp. 13-40), a treatment of the essentials of orthography, phonology, and morphology (by Fales, pp. 41-52), and remarks on morphosyntax and syntax (by Grassi, pp. 53-61). As have others before them, notably Degen, Fales and Grassi distinguish the Old Aramaic of the (mainly) representational inscriptions from the ninth to seventh centuries BCE from the language of the later (administrative) texts from the Neo-Assyrian empire, which are not the subject of the present book.

Old Aramaic was mainly in use in greater Syria, but the standard idiom apparently became a prestige language that was used outside its natural habitat (Bukan). Distinct dialects are attested on the eastern and western fringes (Tell Fekheriyye and Deir Alla, respectively) as well as in Sam?l, in the northwest. A short characterization of the textual corpus, according to areas (mainly the city states of Syria and northern Mesopotamia, the find spots of the major inscriptions) and chronology, is provided by Fales (pp. 20-40). This is a valuable overview, which places many of the recently discovered texts in context.
Translated title of the contributionAncient Aramaic: History, grammar, commented texts
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)268-270
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of the American Oriental Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


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