Saturday, August 26, 2006


The ever fascinating languagehat has a post up about an Israeli standup comic Gila Hakimi, who has the distinction of being the only comic known to perform her routine in Neo-Aramaic. Go check it out!
To honor languagehat, I decided to chip in and in line with today's theme (Aramaic), I bring to you the following links on Mandaic:

The great Charles Häberl has set up a site devoted solely to the Mandaic language and culture. Unfortunately, most of the links do not seem to be working properly, including the text of his PhD thesis on The Neo-Mandaic dialect of Khorramshar and accompanying audio files. Until such time as they are restored, enjoy the links to the Mandaean World, the Mandean official site, the audiofiles at Semarch and Charles' article on Mandaean studies since the millenium.

Speaking of the history of Mandean studies: one of the pioneers of Mandaean studies was our very own Rudolf Macúch, the author of Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Charles Häberl naturally included him in his overview of western scholars writing on Mandaic in section 1 of his PhD thesis (p. 28-33). Though giving praise and acknowledgement where they are due, Charles makes a few respectfully critical remarks concerning Macúch, which show the legend that Macúch is in a different, shall we say, more human light. I admit my rather perverse passion for gossip, especially when it comes to great minds. With the hope you will enjoy it too, I quote now from Charles' thesis (p. 29-31):

The Handbook was released in 1965 to a mixed reception, which was somewhat mitigated by the fact that the data contained within it was available nowhere else and addressed an egregious lacuna in our understanding of Late and Neo-Aramaic. Nonetheless, it suffered from some serious flaws

Among the many scholars who tempered their praise for Macuch’s contribution with a few sober notes of criticism was Joseph L. Malone, who composed a review of the Handbook targeted towards the general linguist. Shortly after the publication of this review, Macuch contacted Malone directly, and provoked him into publishing an apology in a subsequent issue of the same journal. Several years later, Macuch savaged Malone (along with several of his other critics) in his Zur Sprache und Literature der Mandäer, protesting that he did not write his grammar for linguists, labeling him as “a complete beginner,” and attributing to him an ignorance of “the elementary concepts of Mandaic verbal morphology.”* It is perhaps not surprising, under the circumstances, that few other scholars took an interest in Neo-Mandaic during this time. To his credit, Malone continued to contribute to the study of Classical and Neo-Mandaic over the following decades, working primarily from Macuch’s data.

*Footnote 92: ... It should be noted that the subject of Malone’s doctoral dissertation, completed two years before his review of the Handbook, was “A Morphological Grammar of the Classical Mandaic Verb.”


Leo Caesius said...

Actually, there are some new recordings up, and the 207 word Swadesh list, but the web page is still pretty sparse.

Let's hope that NSF grant comes through.

bulbul said...

Thanks for the info, Leo.
May I ask what NSF grant?

Leo Caesius said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leo Caesius said...

The Documenting Endangered Languages grant - it's mentioned on the website. It would provide the funds for continued fieldwork, and to allow more Mandaic material to be published on the web.

bulbul said...

Ah, I must have missed it (it's waaay past my bedtime :o).
Let's indeed hope it does. Mandaic is in dire need of comprehensive dictionary and Charles seems to be the right person for the job.

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