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Two Iranian loanwords in Syriac*

  • Nicholas Sims-Williams
Abstract

This article discusses two Syriac words which have been understood in many different ways by both ancient and modern scholars. The translations and etymologies previously proposed are evaluated and new explanations are offered, according to which both words, sāsgaunā “red” and syānqā “hemi-drachm”, are loanwords from Middle Persian, though unattested in that language.

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Ns5@soas.ac.uk
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I would like to thank Agnes Korn, who kindly allowed me to read her article “Arménien karmir, sogdien krmʾyr et hébreu karmīl «rouge»”, BSOAS 79/1, 2016, 1–22, in advance of publication and thus provided the impetus for the first of these notes, and who also provided valuable comments on its first draft. See also Agnes Korn and Georg Warning, “Armenian karmir, Sogdian karmīr ‘red’, Hebrew karmīl and the Armenian scale insect dye in antiquity”, in Marie Louise Nosch, Cécile Michel et al. (eds), Textile Terminologies – from the Orient to the Mediterranean 1000 BC–AD 1000 (forthcoming).

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1 Sokoloff, Michael, A Syriac Lexicon: A Translation from the Latin, Correction, Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann's Lexicon Syriacum (Winona Lake and Piscataway, 2009); Brock, Sebastian P. and Kiraz, George A., Gorgias Concise Syriac–English, English–Syriac Dictionary (Piscataway, 2015).

2 Smith, J. Payne, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary (Oxford, 1903).

3 Ciancaglini, Claudia A., Iranian Loanwords in Syriac (Wiesbaden, 2008), 224.

4 Duval, Rubens, Lexicon syriacum auctore Hassano bar Bahlule, II (Paris, 1901), col. 1365–6.

5 Shaked, Shaul, “Iranian loanwords in Middle Aramaic”, in Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.), Encyclopædia Iranica, II/3 (London, 1986), 259–61 (where the Aramaic form is misprinted šsgwnʾ with initial š-, p. 261a); “Items of dress and other objects in common use: Iranian loanwords in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic”, in Shaul Shaked and Amnon Netzer (eds), Irano-Judaica, III, Jerusalem, 1994, 106–17, esp. 112–4.

6 Thus Philippe Gignoux apud Ciancaglini, Iranian Loanwords, 224.

7 Shaked, “Items of dress”, 114, refers rather vaguely to the “assimilation and dissimilation of consonants involving sibilants” but it is hard to see the relevance of the words he cites in this connection: Aramaic ṭas “plate”, Arabic ṭass “cup” < Middle Persian tašt (or perhaps rather from its expected by-form *tast); Middle Persian tis “someone” beside Parthian čiš, both ultimately from Old Iranian *čisčit. Sogdian has several examples of s assimilating to š ( Gershevitch, Ilya, A Grammar of Manichean Sogdian (Oxford, 1954), §450), but not of the reverse.

8 Dalley, Stephanie, “Hebrew taḥaš, Akkadian duhšu, faience and beadwork”, Journal of Semitic Studies 45, 2000, 119 .

9 Feliks, Jehuda, “Taḥash”, in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed. (Farmington Hills and Detroit, 2007), XIX, 435. See also Dalley, “Hebrew taḥaš”, 2.

10 Sokoloff, Michael, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic of the Byzantine period, 2nd ed. (Ramat-Gan and Baltimore, 2002), 384.

11 Shaked, “Items of dress”, 112 n. 57.

12 On the former see Jehuda Feliks, “Tekhelet”, in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed., XIX, 586–7, and in particular I.I. Ziderman, “First identification of authentic Tĕkēlet”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 265, 1987, 25–33, though it should be noted that Ziderman's claims gave rise to considerable debate: see McGovern, P.E. et al. , “Has authentic Tĕkēlet been identified?”, BASOR, 269, 1988, 8190 .

13 See Korn, “Arménien karmir”.

14 Lorsbach, Georg Wilhelm, Archiv für die Biblische und Morgenländische Literatur, II (Marburg, 1794), 304–6, which is cited by Smith, R. Payne, Thesaurus Syriacus (Oxford, 1879–1901), col. 2682, with an incorrect page reference.

15 It is perhaps an open question what connections there may be between such superficially similar terms for “worm, grub, moth” as Akkadian sāsu, Aramaic sās, Arabic sūs, Greek σής, Armenian c̣ec̣, Basque sats, sits.

16 Haïm, S., The One-Volume Persian–English Dictionary (Tehran, 1961), 431.

17 MacKenzie, D.N., A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary (London, 1971), 74; Williams, A.V., The Pahlavi Rivāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg (Copenhagen, 1990), I, 114–5, 333; II, 46 (where sʾs, 21a17, is an emendation for sʾš).

18 Cited in R. Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, col. 2682.

19 This form is cited by Gesenius, Guilielmus (Wilhelm), De Bar Alio et Bar Bahlulo, lexicographis syro-arabicis ineditis commentatio, II (Leipzig, 1839), 23, but with an erroneous explanation (“lily-coloured”, from Persian sūsan “lily” and -čarda “coloured”). On Arabic sūsanjird for Persian sōzankard “needle-work”, Niya Kharoṣṭhī su ȷ́ inakirta, see Lüders, Heinrich, Textilien im alten Turkistan (Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Klasse, 1936, Nr. 3), 31–2.

20 Bedjan, Paulus, Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, II (Paris, 1891), 299, line 20.

21 E27 (formerly C2), f. 69v, line 14, ed. Sims-Williams, Nicholas, The Christian Sogdian Manuscript C 2 (Berliner Turfantexte, XII, Berlin, 1985), 146.

22 Luke 10.35, ed. Müller, F.W.K., Soghdische Texte I (Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Klasse, 1912, Nr. 2), 36.

23 de Lagarde, P., Praetermissorum Libri Duo (Göttingen, 1879), 58.

24 Duval, Lexicon syriacum auctore Hassano bar Bahlule, II, col. 1344.

25 Gottheil, R.J.H., The Syriac–Arabic Glosses of Īshōʿ Bar ʿAlī, Part II (Rome, 1908), 163.

26 Sokoloff, Michael, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic periods (Ramat-Gan and Baltimore, 2002), 802.

27 Drower, E.S. and Macuch, R., A Mandaic Dictionary (Oxford, 1963), 324.

28 In Arnoldi, Albrecht Jacob et al. , Museum für biblische und orientalische Litteratur, I/1 (Marburg, 1807), 26–7.

29 Spiegel, Fr., Grammatik der Huzvâresch-Sprache (Vienna, 1856), 77–8; de Lagarde, Paul, Gesammelte Abhandlungen (Leipzig, 1866), 71; Hübschmann, Heinrich, Armenische Grammatik, I (Leipzig, 1897), 237.

30 Brockelmann, Carl, Lexicon Syriacum, 2nd ed. (Halle, 1928), 472; Ciancaglini, Iranian Loanwords, 221–2.

31 Telegdi, S., “Essai sur la phonétique des emprunts iraniens en araméen talmudique”, Journal Asiatique, 226, 1935, 177256 , esp. p. 197; Bernhard Geiger in Krauss, Samuel et al. , Additamenta ad librum Aruch Completum (Vienna, 1937), 171 [non vidi].

32 Göbl, Robert, Sasanian Numismatics (Braunschweig, 1971), 27; Schindel, Nikolaus, Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum Paris – Berlin – Wien, III/1 (Vienna, 2004), 103. Göbl's statement (op. cit., 29) that “the name of the half-drachm piece was … unknown” can now be revised.

33 Hinz, Walther, Islamische Masse und Gewichte (Handbuch der Orientalistik, Ergänzungsband 1, Heft 1, Leiden, 1955), 11.

34 See Yoshida, Yutaka, “Sogdian miscellany”, Studia Iranica, 13, 1984, 145–9, esp. 146 n. 2; Sims-Williams, Nicholas, Biblical and other Christian Sogdian Texts from the Turfan Collection (Berliner Turfantexte, XXXII, Turnhout, 2014), 103.

35 Rather than “double” with Drower and Macuch, Mandaic Dictionary, 100.

* I would like to thank Agnes Korn, who kindly allowed me to read her article “Arménien karmir, sogdien krmʾyr et hébreu karmīl «rouge»”, BSOAS 79/1, 2016, 1–22, in advance of publication and thus provided the impetus for the first of these notes, and who also provided valuable comments on its first draft. See also Agnes Korn and Georg Warning, “Armenian karmir, Sogdian karmīr ‘red’, Hebrew karmīl and the Armenian scale insect dye in antiquity”, in Marie Louise Nosch, Cécile Michel et al. (eds), Textile Terminologies – from the Orient to the Mediterranean 1000 BC–AD 1000 (forthcoming).

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Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
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