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Animacy

(1,263 words)

Author(s): Gzella, Holger
Many languages treat nominals that refer to ­animate beings differently from those that speakers construe as inanimate. Yet animacy as such does not constitute a sharply defined notion, but refers to a graded phenomenon (often understood as the cline human > other animate > inanimate) which interacts with other hierarchies, like personhood, empathy, and definiteness or individuation (Dahl and Fraurud 1996). It frequently governs all kinds of grammatical categories linked to reference, e.g., case, number opposition, gender assignment, subj…

Convergence

(1,046 words)

Author(s): Gzella, Holger
Convergence in the sense used here refers to the replication of grammatical patterns or constructions in different languages or dialects, as opposed to the borrowing of overt word forms (Heine and Kuteva 2005:9–11). Groups of languages affected by such processes are frequently labeled ‘linguistic areas’, but the explanatory value of this concept, as opposed to one-to-one contact, is debatable. Convergence occurs when contact between languages levels certain structural features, thereby maximizin…

Presentatives

(3,157 words)

Author(s): Gzella, Holger
1. General The term ‘presentative’ denotes a grammatical, syntactic, or lexical means which draws the attention of the hearer or reader either to a referent and its emergence into the speech situation or to a proposition in the speech situation or the wider discourse. By and large, Semitic languages have a variety of particles specifically employed for this purpose (Lipiński 2001:482–484). Since the phenomenon of presentation overlaps to some extent with that of deixis, such particles generally co…

Abecedaries

(2,513 words)

Author(s): Gzella, Holger
In the history of writing systems, the term ‘abecedary’ (from Latin abecedarium; see Sittig 1952) denotes a text, usually a tablet or an ostracon, listing a sequence of letters of a script in a specific order. Examples with West Semitic, Greek, Etruscan, and Latin writing are known from antiquity (Demsky 1977:16). Presumably, many served as teaching aids, exercises, or models for artisans, as lists of letter signs constitute essential tools for learning a script. Some are repetitive, others incomplete, lik…

Mimation

(1,151 words)

Author(s): Gzella, Holger
Generally speaking, mimation refers to the consonantal element - m which follows the vocalic case markers in unbound forms in various Semitic languages (Moscati 1964:96–99; Diem 1975; Lipiński 2001:279–280). It is usually assumed that this reflects the situation in Proto-Semitic, hence the respective endings are reconstructed as *- um (nominative), *- im (genitive), and *- am (accusative) in the singular, whereas the dual and plural markers originally contained an - n- (Nunation) followed by another short vowel. Since it has no clearly identifiable function of its…

Northwest Semitic Languages and Hebrew

(8,357 words)

Author(s): Gzella, Holger
1. The Emergence of Hebrew Brockelmann’s ‘Northwest Semitic’ (NWS) language group originally consisted of Canaanite and Aramaic, in contradistinction to Arabic and Ethiopic in the Southwest (1908:6), but is now often subsumed together with Arabic under ‘Central Semitic’ (Huehnergard 2005; contra Blau 1978; Lipiński 2001:§4.1–4.6). Inscriptions in diverse Syro-Palestinian languages have improved our diachronic view of the biblical text transmitted in its traditional garb by scribes, and the background against which Hebrew had acquired …

Deir ʿAllā

(1,349 words)

Author(s): Gzella, Holger
Deir ʿAllā, in present-day Jordan, is commonly identified with biblical סֻכּוֹת sukkōṯ Succoth which formed part of Gilead on the Eastern side of the Jordan River (Lipiński 2006:288–293). It belonged to the Kingdom of Israel, but was conquered in ca. 837 B.C.E. by Damascus and eventually fell to Assyria in 732 B.C.E. The site served as an important sanctuary during the Late Bronze Age, but not necessarily so in later periods (van der Kooij 1993). Excavations were initiated by Henk Franken in 1960. In March 1…