Since the Middle Ages, lexographies of Talmudic and other rabbinic literature have combined in one entry Babylonian, Palestinian, and Targumic words from various periods. Because morphologically identical words in even closely related dialects can frequently differ in both meaning and nuance, their consolidation into one dictionary entry is often misleading. Scholars now realize the need to treat each dialect separately, and in A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, Michael Sokoloff provides a complete lexicon of the dialect spoken and written by Jews in Palestine during the Byzantine period, from the third century C.E. to the tenth century.
Sokoloff draws on a wide range of sources, from inscriptions discovered in the remains of synagogues and on amulets, fragments of letters and other documents, poems, and marginal notations to local Targumim, the Palestinian Midrashim and Talmud, texts addressing religious law (halacha), and Palestinian marriage documents (ketubbot) from the Arabic period. Many of these sources were unavailable to previous lexographers, who based their dictionaries on corrupt nineteenth-century editions of the rabbinic literature. The discovery of new manuscripts in both European libraries and the Cairo Geniza over the course of the twentieth century has revolutionized the textual basis of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic.
Each entry in A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic is divided into six parts: lemma or root, part of speech, English gloss, etymology, semantic features, and bibliographic references. Sokoloff also includes an index of all cited passages. This major reference work, updated to reflect the publication of new texts over the last decade, will both provide students and scholars with a tool for an accurate understanding of the Aramaic dialect of Jewish Palestinian literature of the Byzantine period and help Aramaist and Semitic linguists to see the relationship between this dialect and others, especially the contemporary dialects of Palestine.
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Michael Sokoloff is a professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages in the Faculty of Jewish Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is the author of A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic and co-author (with Stephen A. Kaufman) of A Key-Word-In-Context Concordance to Targum Neofiti, both available from Johns Hopkins.
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