Discover and read the best of Twitter Threads about #safaitic

Most recents (18)

<Thread> Did the name Abdallāh 'worshipper of Allāh' exist in the pre-Islamic period? I get this question a lot. Based on traditional sources, the answer is obviously yes. The epigraphic record shows it was in use many centuries before Islam in NW Arabia and the southern Levant.
The name is attested as ʿbdlhy and ʿbdlh in Nabataean and is found in Northwest Arabia, the Sinai, and the Edom-Moab plateau (Negev, names). These texts can date between the 2nd c. BCE and 3rd c. CE. The spelling ʿbdlhy reflects the preservation of the case vowel, so [ʕabdallāhi]
It is also attested in Greek transcription in a Hellenized form Αβδαλλας /Abdallas/. This text comes from Madaba dated to 148 CE (IGLS XXI-2 119a). The name remains in use till the 6th c. CE, where it is attested in the Nessana Papyri. Αβδαλλας is in P.Ness 37 (560-580 CE).
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Where did the authors of the #Safaitic inscriptions come from? I am reading through the fantastic edition of the correspondence of Sargon II and I suspect that we meet the ancestors (or contemporaries?) of Levantine nomads here. A quick stream of thought tread.
Addad-Hati writes the king of Assyria about a raid by an Arab chieftain named Ammiliʾti son of Amiri on a caravan of booty being transferred from Damascus to Assyria. The two groups fought...
Ammiliʾti set off into the rugged terrain and the Assyrians could not pursue him 'the terrain was too difficult and not fit either horses or for chariots' That's not too hard to imagine, esp. if the ancient Arabs went off into the basalt; photo: basalt desert, NE Jordan.
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Fossils in the vernacular (short thread): Years ago teaching #Safaitic, I asked a student of Lebanese heritage to translate the following inscription: hā baʿal salām wa magdat. The student translated <baʿal> as ‘rain’. I was surprised and asked why?
He said: we say ḫallī ʿalā baʿal ‘leave it to “baʿal”’ in Lebanon when talking about plants watered by the rain. He understood baʿal to be another word for ‘rain’. In fact, the phrase means ‘leave it to the rain god, Baʿal!
A similar meaning survives even in the classical Arabic lexicons but there too its historical background is not understood.
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"Death by Water" (raǵīm māya), by T.S. Eliot, translated into #Safaitic (on a snowy Sunday and using @LanguagePy and my dictionary of Safaitic)

hak-kanʕāneyy pholaybos
haṭ-ṭayr entasaya hatph-oh wa-hab-baḥr tehāmat-oh
faqīd-oh wa-ǵanīmat-oh
taḥta baḥr ḫaphrat-oh
be-qowaylat ʔaḫaḏa ʕeṯ̣ām-oh
be-maqāmāt ʕomr-oh marra wa-be-photūwat-oh
taḥallala ʔaphwāha han-nahr wa-dawr-oh
men ʔāl yahūd ʔaw ʕamm-oh
hayyā ḏū yoǵreb wa-yaṯ̣ṯ̣or śaʔm-oh
ḏekrat pholaybas ḏī kayena meṯla-ka nemʕ-oh wa-kobr-oh
Reconstructed words:
kanʕāneyy = ‘Canaanite’, indigenous term for ‘Phoenician’
ṭayr = ‘birds’, approx. of “gull”, based on Classical Arabic ṭayrun (no words for birds in Saf!)
tehāmat = ‘deep’, based on Hebrew תְּהוֹם, Ar. tihāmatun, approx. “deep sea swell”
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The Safaitic Dictionary is complete! @LanguagePy and I have just submitted it to @Brill for publication! With +1500 words (and that’s a lot for an epigraphic language), I wondered if we could translate the #Bible into this ancient form of Arabic. This is Judges 1:1-4 in #Safaitic
I chose the Book of Judges because it is thematically close to the Safaitic inscriptions. For this short translation, I only used attested words and grammatical constructions. The pronunciation is based on transcriptions of the language in Greek and comparative Semitics.
Judges 1
1) wa-baʕda mawt yehusūʕ, saʔalat banū yeśraʔel haʔ-ʔelāha qāyelīna: man yeʕlay beʕadnā ʕal-hak-kanʕāneyy pha-yoḥārebahom

2)wa-qawola haʔ-ʔelāh phal-yeʕla yahūdat ʔinnī wahabt haʔ-ʔarṣ́a bayna yadayh
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Before Imru’ Al-Qays said Qifā Nabki ‘Stop! Let us weep’, Māsek ben ʾAsad carved in #Safaitic: qaʿada wa qaṣafa ‘he halted and grieved’. Inscription AMSI 1 records a man stopping to remember the dead and wail, before invoking Allāt to protect him. Listen to it read here.
Texts such as these foreshadow the theme of stopping to grieve at the ruins of lost loved ones (wuqūf ʿalā l-ʾaṭlāl), so common in late pre-Islamic poetry. I read this text with my History of Arabic students; this thread will summarize the lesson.

le-māsek ben ʾasad ben sālem wa-qaʿada pha-ḏakara ham-mawtay
pha-qaṣapha pha-hā-llāt ʿammerī ṣadīq-ek wa-gannenī wa-men mawt laysa phaṣay

لماسك بن أسد بن سالم وقعد فذكر همَّوتى فقصف فها اللات عمِّري صديقِك وجنني ومِن موت ليس فصى
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Vehicles and riding animals often play a symbolic role in ancient funerary rituals, e.g. #Viking boat burials. How did the ancient Arabians navigate the afterlife? The video below, shot by @qifanabki, documents the discovery of a #Safaitic /baleyy/, a special ‘camel’ burial.
The baleyy (Classical Arabic baliyyah بلية) is a grave/cairn to which the deceased’s camel is bound. It is left at the side of its dead master to die and rise as a reliable mount in the afterlife.
Islamic tradition states that some pre-Islamic Arabs believed that men buried with a baliyyah would rise on the day of judgement riding their beasts and those who were not were thus obliged to walk to meet their lord.
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A #Safaitic #NewYear blessing: wa-mallāḥa fa-hā-llāt sallemī wa-faṣeyyat meb- boʾs ʾas-sanat 'Aquarius has risen so, O Allāt, grant security and deliverance from misfortune this year'. Happy #2019 to everyone and may all your dreams come true! (commentary below)
Inscr. SIJ 37
Based on the order of the seasons, the Safaitic new year began with the arrival of the rains after winter, the season called daṯāʾ. These rains appear in mid-February, in the period/month of Aquarius according to the star calendar of the nomads of the Ḥarrah.
[SIJ] = Winnett, F.V. Safaitic Inscriptions from Jordan. (Near and Middle East Series, 2). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957.
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#Safaitic dictionary edit updates. At the N's, and this text it worth tweeting: Author of MAHB 2 states: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-naganna 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)'. #Safaitic naganna <ngn> is the equivalent of #Levantine inžann...
The sense is of course to be Jinn possessed. There is no direct evidence for a belief in #Jinn among the pre-Islamic nomads, but this word could suggests that insanity was associated with being possessed by the supernatural creatures. There's more: related to this lemma is ...
the word <ʾtgnn> =ʾatgannana, is attested in an identical context: BS 880: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-ʾatgannana 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)', this one similar to Classical Arabic taǧannana, same meaning.
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Hikma History asks whether there is historical evidence for #Mecca in the 6th CE or earlier. A fantastic question. Outside historical sources don't seem to mention the town. @iandavidmorris examines this material masterfully in this blog:…
But what about pre-Islamic Arabian sources? Do they give evidence for Mecca as a pilgrimage center? Most pre-Islamic texts from central Arabia are short, undated inscriptions containing personal names and enigmatic phrases. No toponyms are attested in these and therefore,..
They are not very useful for answering our question. The long and detailed texts from Ancient Yemen, however, do not mention any place called Mecca. Although numerous pilgrimage sites are attested, they all seem to be located in South Arabia.
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<The language of ancient #Tayma (mod. Saudi Arabia)> 1) mannū samiʿ li-ṣalm lā tawaya ‘whosoever heeds Ṣalm shall not perish’. This prayer is carved a number of times on stone around the oasis of Taymāʾ, in N. Saudi Arabia, in a long lost script and language called Taymanitic.
2) Its alphabet consists of 26 glyphs, and is related to, but not a descendant of, the Musnad script of Ancient Yemen. The language remains poorly understood. It nevertheless shares some interesting similarities with #Hebrew and other Northwest Semitic languages. Pic: WTay 20
3) Before we get to the language, let’s talk about what these texts say. Most appear to be graffiti, some left by soldiers during their military service. The inscriptions express devotion to a single god, named Ṣalm, literally ‘image’, 'effigy', = Arabic ṣanam. Pic: Esk 288
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The general sense of kitāb meaning 'writing' is well established in the epigraphic record, attested often in Nabataean and in the Safaitic and Dadanitic inscriptions. Below are a few examples:
#Safaitic C 4803 ends with this prayer: ʿawār le-ḏī yoʿawwer has-sefra wa-ḥayāy le-ḏī yeqraʾ hak-ketāba 'may he who effaces this writing go blind but long life to him who reads this writing (ketāb)'. (note, ketāba is the accusative of ketāb (ktb) and not kitābatun)
#Safaitic RSIS 126 contains a similar expression: ḥallāl le-ḏī yeqraʾ hak-ketāba wa-ʿawār le-maʿ-ʿawwara 'health to him who reads this writing but blindness to whosoever effaces (it)'
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This is an effaced #Safaitic inscription I discovered in 2017 with @QifaNabki. Elaborate curses exist to protect texts from vandalism, but this hooligan was apparently not deterred by superstition. You can, however, notice that s/he left part of the text intact. Why?
Many traditions venerate the written form of a god's name. Our vandal erased the name of the author and his prayer, perhaps rendering any power the written word had void, but s/he did not hammer over the name of the invoked deity, Roḍay.
Can we still read the damaged part? Yes, it is a short prayer: hā roḍay ʕeqāb men-nabaṭo 'O Roḍay, [grant] retribution against the Nabataeans'. Perhaps our vandal was a Nabataean or a member of an allied tribe, who decided to erase the offensive prayer.
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#Crucifixion in #Safaitic and #Jesus: Crucifixion was a common method of capital punishment in the Roman Empire; the ancient Jewish historian Josephus mentions the crucifixion of thousands. Yet this terrible punishment is so far mentioned only twice in Safaitic.
Both of these texts are enigmatic and have lead to creative, yet ultimately unsupported, theories about the historical event to which they refer. HaNS 660 was written by a man named Marṭ ben Yaśkor, who states: wa-ṣoleba ḥabīb-oh ‘and his beloved was crucified’.
In the 2nd (AbJ), a man called śāhem dates his return from the desert to the year ṣlb h-yh[]dy ʾbkr. I haven’t vocalized this text because that depends entirely on our interpretation. A Jordanian scholar named Sabri Abbadi suggested that it refers to the crucifixion of Christ.
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<Thread> Allāh is the word for ‘God’ in Arabic. But where did this word come from? Muslim scholars have several views. Some regard it as a basic noun, others the definite form of the word “lāh”, ‘lofty’ or ‘hidden’, but most see it as a contracted form of al-ʾilāh, = ‘the deity’
Islamic tradition holds that the pre-Islamic pagans worshiped Allāh beside other gods = shirk ‘association’. Are there examples of this in the epigraphic record? Yes, but before we get to those, the corpus of 6th. CE Christian Arabic inscriptions continues to grow...
New texts suggest that Allāh, in this exact form, was not the common Arabic name of the monotheistic god in the century before Islam. In the Zebed inscription, the Christian god is called al-ʾilāh 'the God'.
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Last week, we looked at ancient Arabian pilgrimages and sacrifice in the #Safaitic inscriptions. If you missed that, see this thread: . Now, let's have a glance at pilgrimages in the ancient Ḥigāz, represented by the Dadānitic inscriptions.
Dadān was the ancient name of the oasis of al-Ula, in NW Ḥigāz. It is mentioned in cuneiform sources and the Bible, and was a center for the kings of Liḥyān, before it was eventually annexed by the Nabataeans. Pic:…
The oasis had its own script and language, Dadānitic. Its primary deity was called ḏġbt. The etymology of the name is uncertain. ḏ = ḏū 'master'. Some say ġbt = Arabic ġābat- 'oasis'; others have taken it as ġēbat 'unseen', = 'master of the unseen'. Insc: Al-Ḫuraybah 12.
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What is the earliest mention of #Damascus in Arabic? In 1995, Alulu discovered a fascinating #Safaitic inscription from southern Syria containing the name of the city. The enigmatic text is known only from a crude hand copy. Photo:…
The inscription is dated as to ‘the year lʾk qṣr ʾn myt ʿm rm w f t w qd dms²q; the original editor did not provide a convincing interpretation of its difficult language. The text is filled with hapax legomena (words attested only once) and Safaitic has no word dividers.
But let’s have a try anyway. There are multiple ways to understand this text; here is option 1: ‘the year (word) was sent to Caesar that the people of Rome died and Damascus burned = loʾeka qaysara ʾan mayeta ʿamm rūm wa-fa tawaqqada demaśq.
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Lunch on the hunt for new words in #Safaitic country. Nothing tastes as good as a can of tuna after hiking for hours through the basalt. @karojawo and I are wrapping up the 1st comprehensive dictionary of Safaitic. We've reached over 1500 entries -to appear with @BrillPublishing
But there are still significant gaps, as there always are with dead languages. I filled out the #swadesh 200 as best I could -- check it out and compare it to the Semitic languages you know.…
@PhDniX and @lameensouag are using this in a fascinating study on the lexical distances between the Semitic languages. I don't know the results yet, but they promise to be interesting! Stay tuned.
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