Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tel Dan and Garbini (i)

As a follow-up to my previous post, I want to begin discussing some of the linguistic data cited by Giovanni Garbini as anomalies in the Tel Dan inscription. I'm not convinced by what he says, and I hope to show why in this and a few future posts. I'm not going to do this in any systematic way or according to a timetable, but just as I have the time and inclination.

(i) The first point is Garbini's discussion of the preposition qdm. The Inscription contains the short sentence wyhk hdd qdmy, "and Hadad went before me." Garbini does not believe that qdm can be used in this way:
On a semantic level qdm, as with the corresponding Phoenico-Hebrew expression lpny, specifically means "in the presence of" (exactly as [J.] Naveh translates it). Imagine two beings one in front of the other. All the Aramaic literature of the first millenium so far existent, as far as I know, confirms such a meaning of qdm, but the idea of "in front of" for two beings not facing each other but one behind the other (as with two men walking in the same direction) did not appear until mediaeval Jewish Aramaic.
Well, where else in Old Aramaic do we have a description of two beings proceeding one behind the other? I haven't been able to find any. If we don't have any other examples, then how, we might ask Garbini, might such a scene be described in Aramaic? What words would he expect to see there in place of qdm? The fact is, that once you grant that someone might want to say "Hadad went before (in front of) me," then qdm is the only preposition that could properly be used. The best gloss for qdm is "before"; only the words used with it determine whether it is best translated "in the presence of" somebody, or "preceding" somebody. In this case the context is clear enough.

And it is not quite true that "mediaeval Jewish Aramaic" is the first attested use of qdm used in this way. There are lots of examples in the targumim, e.g. Ex. 32:1 "make us false gods to go before us," dyhkn qdmn' (Targum Onkelos). In other dialects of Aramaic, there is (e.g.) npq krwz' qwdmwy "the herald went forth before him" (Leviticus Rabbah) and kwkb' 'zl hw' qdmyhwn "the star was going before them" (Matt. 2:9, Old Syriac Gospels). These examples are not by any stretch "mediaeval." With verbs of going, leaving, walking, qdm is used of spatial orientation of two beings, and it's hard to think of a lexeme that might do instead.

(ii) Garbini says
The Tel Dan fragment lacks two of the most typical morphological elements found in Aramaic, the emphatic state and the relative zy. Since these occur, systematically and not merely casually, in the Deir Alla inscription (in which, as in Tel Dan text, the use of the waw consecutive is normal), it doesn't seem strange to suspect that the secondary purpose of the Tel Dan piece is to aid the process in progress of fitting the language (Aramaic or Aramaicizing) of Deir Alla into the ambit of "Israelite" dialects.
I just don't know what Garbini is getting at here, since the Deir Alla inscription does not contain the relative zy or any examples of the emphatic state. (I don't have the Italian at hand to see if there might be an error in translating Garbini.) That whole sentence is a non sequitur, since Garbini's point is lost unless Tel Dan and Deir Alla are alike at this point. And further: Does Garbini really feel that someone forged the Tel Dan inscription in order to make a point about the dialectal affinity of the Deir Alla inscription? As "Yu-Gi-Oh" said in response to my earlier post, there are lots of reasons to forge things; but that one seems really extraordinary to me.

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