Something borrowed, something new? Semitic loanwords and transcriptions in the Greek epigraphy of Palestine and Arabia

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Abstract

This article considers Semitic loanwords and transcriptions in the Greek epigraphy of the southern Levant, roughly corresponding to the Roman provinces of Judaea–Palaestina and Arabia, through three case studies entailing Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic as source languages. The texts are a bilingual Hebrew–Greek ossuary inscription from a burial cave in Jerusalem; a Greek mosaic inscription from the cathedral church of Madaba; and a bilingual Greek–Old Arabic rock-cut graffito from Wadi Salma in north-west Arabia. This consideration complements a similar survey for Syria and Phoenicia by J.-B. Yon and reinforces his conclusion of a connection between loanwords and epichoric religious traditions. It also provides a counterpoint to the more recent study of J. Price and S. Naeh, who associate transcription with ‘marginality’ and ‘liminality’; the cases assembled here show that, at least for the inscribers, the practice was instead centrally integrated with religion and culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
JournalPalestine Exploration Quarterly
Volume154
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Arabic
  • Aramaic
  • Epigraphy
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • loanwords

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