Page:An Essay on the Age and Antiquity of the Book of Nabathaean Agriculture.djvu/99

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83
BABYLONIAN LITERATURE.

on particulars with respect to foreign nations which have adopted the Arabic alphabet. I allude to the indecisive form of certain letters; the absence of any diacritic points in proper names, or the inaccurate way in which the points are placed. All Shemitic alphabets are bad channels of transcription, owing to the absence of vowels. How then is this difficulty to be overcome, when to this source of inaccuracy, we have to add another, even more serious, that of the uncertainty as to the letters themselves; the same character, for example, being, perchance, either b, n, t, y.[1]

  1. The name of ىىىوساد, for instance, which previously was read: Yanbúshádh, at the time when “The Book of Nabathæan Agriculture” came to the knowledge of the Jews in the 12th century (v. ante, p. 7), and which would give the key to the problem, if it could be clearly ascertained—this Yanbúshádh, in fact, should be a personage whom we know under some other name,—is susceptible of such a variety of renderings, that we may say that the forms or letters of which it consists are of no value. The first three forms may be taken each for four different letters; the و which follows them is easily confounded with the ر; the three forms of the may be like the strokes at the beginning, three different letters, each reading in four ways; the ا is often confounded with the ل and the د with the ر‎.