Compendious Syriac Grammar/Part 1/Chapter 1

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PART FIRST.

ORTHOGRAPHY AND PHONOLOGY.

 

 

I. ORTHOGRAPHY.

LETTERS.

Form of the letters.§ 1. A. The character most in use in Syriac printing is that of the West-Syrians (Jacobites and Maronites), of which the proper name is Serṭā (Serṭō). It has been developed out of the older one, which is called Estrangelo, properly στρογγύλη. This character also is pretty often employed in printing, particularly in more recent times. The same thing may be said of the Nestorian character, which comes nearer the Estrangelo than the Serṭā does. We accordingly give, in the following Table not only the Serṭā letters of the alphabet but also the old or Estrangelo letters, as well as the Nestorian letters.

B. All Syriac styles of writing are Cursive; the most of the letters must be connected right and left within the word,—and thus several small modifications of shape arise. In the case of the Serṭā, we give all these forms; for the Estrangelo and the Nestorian character it may suffice to give the special final forms, in addition to the main forms.[1]

The form, which is given here in European character, of the names of the letters, aims at representing the older pronunciation: brackets enclose the diverging pronunciation of the later West-Syrians. Secondary forms, varying both in sound and character, are also met with.

 
Usual Syriac
Character.
Estrangelo. Nestorian. Names. Sound-Value and
Transcription.
Hebrew
Equivalents.
Numerical
Value.
1. 2. 3. 4.
Unconnected—
(Detached
finals.)
Connected
on right—
(United
finals.)
Connected
on left.
Connected
right and
left.
ܐ ‍ܐ ܐ ܐ ܐܠܦ Ālaf (Ōlaf) Spiritus lenis (ʾ) א   1
ܒ ‍ܒ ܒ‍ ‍ܒ‍ ܒ ܒ ܒܝܬ Bēth b; v (β) ב   2
ܓ ‍ܓ ܓ‍ ‍ܓ‍ ܓ ܓ ܓܡܠ Gāmal (Gōmal) g (hard); gh (γ) ג   3
ܕ ‍ܕ ܕ ܕ ܕܠܬ or ܕܠܕ Dālath or Dāladh
(Dōlath or Dōladh)
d; dh (δ) ד   4
ܗ ‍ܗ ܗ ܗ ܗܐ h ה   5
ܘ ‍ܘ ܘ ܘ ܘܘ or ܘܐܘ Wau w ו   6
ܙ ‍ܙ ܙ ܙ ܙܝܢ or ܙܝ, ܙܐܝ Zain, Zēn, or Zai soft s (z) ז   7
ܚ ‍ܚ ܚ‍ ‍ܚ‍ ܚ ܚ ܚܝܬ Ḥēth hard h (ḥ) ח   8
ܛ ‍ܛ ܛ‍ ‍ܛ‍ ܛ ܛ ܛܝܬ Ṭēth emphatic t (ṭ) ט   9
ܝ ‍ܝ ܝ‍ ‍ܝ‍ ܝ ܝ ܝܘܕ Yōdh (Yūdh) y י  10
ܟ ‍ܟ ܟ‍ ‍ܟ‍ ܟ‍ ܟ ܟ‍ ܟ ܟܦ Kāf (Kōf) k; kh כ  20
ܠ ‍ܠ ܠ‍ ‍ܠ‍ ܠ ܠ ܠܡܕ Lāmadh (Lōmadh) l ל  30
ܡ ‍ܡ ܡ‍ ‍ܡ‍ ܡ‍ ܡ ܡ‍ ܡ ܡܝܡ Mīm m ם  40
ܢ ‍ܢ ܢ‍ ‍ܢ‍ ܢ‍ ܢ ܢ‍ ܢ ܢܘܢ Nūn, Nōn n נ  50
ܣ ‍ܣ ܣ‍ ‍ܣ‍ ܣ ܣ ܣܡܟܬ Semkath s ס  60
ܥ ‍ܥ ܥ‍ ‍ܥ‍ ܥ ܥ ܥܐ ʿĒ peculiar
guttural (ʿ)
ע  70
ܦ ‍ܦ ܦ‍ ‍ܦ‍ ܦ ܦ ܦܐ p; f, ph פ  80
ܨ ‍ܨ ܨ ܨ ܨܕܐ Ṣādhē (Ṣōdhē) emphatic s (ṣ) צ  90
ܩ ‍ܩ ܩ‍ ‍ܩ‍ ܩ ܩ ܩܘܦ Qōf guttural k (q) ק 100
ܪ ‍ܪ ܪ ܪ ܪܝܫ, ܪܫ Rēsh (Rīsh) r ר 200
ܫ ‍ܫ ܫ‍ ‍ܫ‍ ܫ ܫ ܫܝܢ Shīn sh (š)[errata 1] שׁ 300
ܬ ‍ܬ ܬ ܬ ܬܘ, ܬܐܘ Tau t; th (θ) ת 400
 
At the end of a word we can only have a form from the 2nd column or the 1st, and from the one or the other according as the preceding letter has a form connecting to the left (Col. 3) or not. Forms from Col. 4 can only appear in the interior of a word; while initial forms must be taken from Col. 1 or 3.

Rem. The most judicious course for the beginner will be to impress upon his memory only Cols. 1 and 3.

C. ܠ‍ with ܐ‍ is generally written ܠܐ (‍ܠܐ‍), but initial ܐ with ܠ‍ thus, ܐܠ‍. For ‍ܠ ܐ one sometimes puts Syriac final-aleph initial-lamedh.png, and thus draws in this case two words together. In Nestorian script SyriacTawAlaph.png is given for final ܬܐ (ܬܐ).

For ܟ‍, ܢ‍ as single letters or as ciphers, one generally writes ܟܟ, ܢܢ.

In manuscripts ܟ‍ and ܒ‍ are often mistaken for each other from their resemblance; so is it with ܢ‍ and ܝ‍, and also with ܚ‍ on the one hand and ܢܝ‍, ܢܢ‍, ܝܢ‍, and ܝܝ‍ on the other. Farther it is frequently difficult to distinguish ܝܫ‍ from a simple ܫ‍, and occasionally even ܝܥ‍ from a simple ܥ‍. Even in many printed copies ܟ‍ and ܒ‍ are far too like one another:[2] farther, ܠ‍ and ܥ‍, and ܫ‍ and ܝ‍ are not sufficiently discriminated.

Pronunciation. § 2. The pronunciation of the letters can of course be determined only approximately. Notice the following: ܬ ܦ ܟ‍ ܕ ܓ ܒ have a twofold pronunciation, one hard, answering to our b g d k p t, one soft, aspirated or rather sibilated. Soft ܒ is nearly the German w, or the English and French v; soft ܓ = γ (gh) is nearly the Dutch g (like the Arabic غ); soft ܕ = δ (dh) is the English th in there, other; soft ܟ‍ = kh, or the German ch in ach (not that in ich); soft ܦ the German, English, and French f; soft ܬ = θ (th) is the English th in think, both.[3] On the changes of the hard and soft pronunciations v. §§ 15, 23 sqq.

ܘ is always the vowel-sounding English w, never the German w, and accordingly it quiesces easily and completely into a u. ܝ has also more of a vowel character than the German j, being nearly the English y.

ܙ = z is a soft s as in chosen, German s in Rose, French in choisir or French z in zéro.

ܚ = is quite a foreign sound to us, an h rattled in the throat (Arabic ح). The East-Syrians pronounce it as a very hard Swiss ch (Arabic خ).

ܛ = is an emphatic and completely unaspirated modification of ܬ t, in which the tip of the tongue is pressed firmly against the palate; ܩ is a similar modification of ܟ‍ k, produced in the back part of the mouth. ܛ and ܩ are employed by the Syrians as equivalents for the Greek sounds τ and κ, which at all events were quite unaspirated.

ܨ = is an emphatic articulation of the sound of ܣ s, by no means to be rendered as a German z (= ts).

ܥ = ʿ is a guttural breathing, again quite foreign to us, which is formed by a peculiar compression of the upper part of the windpipe. It is nearly related to ܚ, and even to the Spiritus lenis (ܐ). Those who render it by the latter sound will make the least considerable mistakes.

ܫ = š is the German sch, the English sh, or the French ch.

ܪ seems to have been a lingual-dental, not a guttural.

The remaining consonants have nearly the same sound as the corresponding German or English ones.

 

DISPOSITION OF WORDS.

Disposition of words.§ 3. Particles, which consist of only a single letter, i. e. of a consonant with a short vowel, are attached as prefixes to the following word, thus ܒܡܠܟܐ be̊malkā, "in rege", not ܒ ܡܠܟܐ, ܘܩܛܠ waqṭal, "and killed", not ܘ ܩܛܠ, &c.

Certain short words, and to some extent even longer ones, which together belong to the same idea, are also frequently written as one, though not invariably. Thus ܐܦܠܐ or ܐܦ ܠܐ āf lā "neither", "not even"; ܒܪܢܫ or ܒܪ ܐܢܫ bar·nāš, "son of man", i. e. "man"; ܟܠܝܘܡ or ܟܠ ܝܘܡ kul yōm "every day"; ܟܠܡܕܡ or ܟܠ ܡܕܡ kul meddem "quicquid"; ܪܘܚܩܘܕܫܐ, more commonly ܪܘܚ ܩܘܕܫܐ rūḥ quδšā "spirit of holiness", "the Holy Ghost"; even ܡܪܢܝܫܘܥܡܫܝܚܐ instead of ܡܪܢ ܝܫܘܥ ܡܫܝܚܐ māran Ješūʿ me̊šīḥā "our Lord Jesus Christ", appears. On the fusion together of two words, of which the one ends in ܠ, while the other begins with ܐ (Syriac final-aleph initial-lamedh.png), see above § 1 C.

 
Vowel expression: (a) By vowel letters. Actual use.

VOWEL EXPRESSION (A) BY VOWEL LETTERS.

§ 4. A. The letters ܘ ܝ ܐ are frequently made use of by the Syrians to express vowel sounds.

ܐ denotes every final ā and ē, and in certain cases ē within the word; that ā was pronounced ō by the later West-Syrians, and that ē in part ī. Thus ܡܐ (); ܡܠܟܐ malkā (malkō), ܡܡܣܐ mamsē; ܢܐ (); ܩܐܪܢ pēran (pīran).

ܝ denotes every ī in the middle and end of a word, also certain cases of ē in the middle: ܒܝܫ bīš; ܒܝ ; ܕܝܢ dēn; ܥܝܢ ʿēn (ʿīn). For ē there appears also ܐܝ: ܟܐܝܢ or ܟܝܢ kēn (§ 46). In an open syllable ē is frequently not expressed at all, e. g. ܡܣܟܢܐ meskēnā (meskīnā); in ancient MSS. it is sometimes unindicated even in a closed syllable, e. g. ܐܚܪܢ ḥe̊rēn.

ܘ in the middle and end of a word denotes any long or short u or o: ܩܘܡ qūm; ܦܘܪܘܢܐ purqānā; ܢܓܠܘܢ neγlōn (neγlūn); ܬܫܒܘܚܬܐ tešboḥtā (tešbuḥtō); ܡܠܟܘ malkū; ܐܘ ō. Only the very common words ܟܘܠ kol, kul "all", "every", and ܡܛܘܠ meṭṭol, meṭṭul "because of" are often in old times, and always in later times, written without ܘ, thus ܟܠ, ܡܛܘܠ. The Cod. Sin. frequently leaves out the ܘ even in other words, e. g. ܠܩܒܠ for ܠܘܩܒܠ luqval.

ܘ and ܝ farther express the diphthongs au and ai: ܠܘ lau; ܒܝܬܐ bait; the dipthongs īu and ēu are written ܝܘ: ܓܠܝܘ gallīu; ܢܓܠܝܘܗܝ neγlēu.

B. A final and originally short a in Greek words is expressed by ܐ: in pronunciation it was doubtless always lengthened. Greek α in the middle of a word is also often written ܐ, e. g. ܕܘܓܡܛܐ or ܕܘܓܡܐܛܐ δόγματα &c. Even the Syriac a is sometimes thus expressed, e. g. ܛܐܠܐ all for the usual ܛܠܐ. In the very same way ܝ appears pretty often for ĭ in the middle of a word, e. g. ܐܦܝܣܩܘܦܐ (or ܐܦܣܩܘܦܐ) episkopā, ἐπίσκοπος; ܟܪܝܣܝܣ (ܟܪܝܣܣ) χρῆσις. In quite isolated examples this happens even in Syriac words, as ܓܝܫܪܐ (ܓܫܪܐ) gišrā; ܫܝܓܪ̈ܐ (ܫܓܪ̈ܐ) šiγrē.

Greek ε and αι are in some writings expressed by ܗ, e. g. ܠܗܩܣܝܣ λέξις. The desire to render Greek vowels with accuracy gave rise to various strange forms of transcription among learned Syrians.

Greek ο on the other hand is frequently left entirely unexpressed, e. g. ܒܣܝܠܝܣ Βασίλειος, alongside of ܒܣܝܠܝܘܣ; ܐܦܝܣܩܦܐ, ܐܦܣܩܦܐ alongside of ܐܦܝܣܩܘܦܐ, ܐܦܣܩܘܦܐ ἐπίσκοπος. Thus the placing of the vowel letters in Greek words is far more fluctuating than in native ones.

Apparent use of ܐ.§ 5. A distinction is to be made between the employment of ܐ as a vowel sign and those cases in which it has its place from etymological considerations,—especially from having been formerly an audible spiritus lenis: e. g. ܡܠܐܩܐ malakhā "angel", from מַלְאֲכָא; ܒܐܪܐ bērā (bīrō) "a well" from בִּאְרָא (Hebrew בְּאֵר); ܥܐܠܝܢ ʿāllīn "enter" (pl. part.), because of the sing. ܥܐܠ ʿāʾēl "enters" (sing. part.) &c.

 
Vowel expression: (b) By other signs. Simple points.

VOWEL EXPRESSION (B) BY OTHER SIGNS.

§ 6. This insufficient representation of vowel sounds was gradually made up for by new signs. At first, in some words which might be pronounced in various ways, a point over the letter concerned was employed to signify the fuller, stronger pronunciation, and a point under it to denote the finer, weaker vocalisation, or even the absence of vowel sound. Thus there was written (and is written) ܥܒ̇ܕܐ ʿe̊vāδā "a work", set over against ܥܒ̣ܕܐ ʿavdā "a servant"; ܡ̇ܢ mān "what?" and man "who?", ܡ̣ܢ men "from"; ܩ̇ܛܠ qāṭel "he kills" (part.) and qaṭṭel "he murdered" (Paël), ܩ̣ܛܠ qe̊ṭal "he killed" (Peal); ܫ̇ܢܬܐ ša(n)tā "a year", ܫ̣ܢܬܐ šenthā "sleep"; ܡ̇ܬܟܐ malkā "king", ܡ̣ܠܟܐ melkā "counsel"; ܛ̇ܒܐ ṭāvā "good"; ܛ̣ܒܐ ṭebbā "fame"; ܗ̇ܘ hau "that" (masc.), ܗ̣ܘ "he"; ܗ̇ܝ hāi "that" (fem.), ܗ̣ܝ "she"; ܗ̇ܢܘܢ hānōn "those", ܗ̣ܢܘܢ hennōn "they" &c. Frequently it is held to be sufficient to indicate by the upper point the vowels ā, a,—e. g. in ܫܝ̇ܡܐ se̊yāmā "setting", ܐ̇ܝܕܐ aidā "what?" (fem.), ܕ̇ܚܝܠ daḥḥīl "timorous", without giving also to words written with the same consonants the under point proper to them, viz.:—ܣܝ̣ܡܐ sīmā "set", ܐ̣ܝܕܐ īδā "a hand", ܕܚ̣ܝܠ de̊ḥīl "terrible". Here too we must note the employment of ܗ̇ almost without exception to signify the suffix of the 3rd pers. fem. sing., e. g. ܒܗ̇ bāh "in her" as set over against ܒܗ bēh "in him"; ܩܛܠܬܗ̇ qe̊ṭaltāh "thou hast killed her"; and so also ܩܕܡܝܗ̇ qe̊δāmēh "before her"; ܢܩܛܠܝܗ̇ neqṭe̊līh "he is slaying her" (Impf.), &c.

In the latter case this system has already in part given up the exact, and relatively phonetic significance of the 'points'. That significance, however, came to be abandoned in many other cases besides, as when, for instance, one began to write ܣ̣ܡ sām "he placed", because it is a Perfect like ܩܛܠ qe̊ṭal. Other considerations too mixed themselves up with the matter; thus it became the practice to write the 1st pers. sing. perf. with ◌̇ over the first consonant, e. g. ܩ̇ܛܠܬ qeṭleth "I killed" (interfeci). The points, upper and under,—particularly the former,—are often wrongly placed; thus ܥܟ̇ܕ is found for ܥ̇ܟܕ ʿāveδ "does", and ܣܠܩ̇ for ܣ̇ܠܩ sāleq "ascends".

Combination of points.§ 7. Farther, a second or third point was often added to distinguish more exactly between verbal forms in particular; for example, there was written ܥ̇ܒ̣ܕܬ ʿevdeth, ܥܒ̣ܕܬ̇ or (East-Syrian) ܥܒ̣ܕܬ̤ ʿevdath "she did"; ܡ̇ܢܘ̣ manū "who is?" compared with ܡ̇ܢܘ mānau "what is?"; ܒ̇ܪ̤ܐ be̊rē "creatus" as distinguished from ܒ̣ܪܐ be̊rā "creavit" and ܒ̇ܪܐ bārē "creat", &c. This complicated system, often fluctuating according to districts and schools, and seldom faithfully attended to by copyists, still maintained a footing in many forms, even alongside of the employment of a more exact indication of the vowels.

System of vowel-marking by points.§ 8. Out of this punctuation then, there was formed, with the Nestorians first of all, a complete system of Vowel-Signs. To be sure it never attained to perfect consistency and universal acceptance: even the appellations of the vowels fluctuate a good deal. The system is used in Nestorian impressions, on the authority of good manuscripts, after the following scheme:—

◌ܲ ă Pe̊thāḥā, e. g. ܒܲ .
◌ܵ ā Ze̊qāfā (or according to Nestorian pronunciation, Ze̊qāpā): ܒܵ .
◌ܸ ĕ, ĭ Re̊vāṣā arrīkhā or Ze̊lāmā pe̊šīqā: ܒܸ .
◌ܹ ē Re̊vāṣā karyā or Ze̊lāmā qašyā: ܒܹ .
ܝܼ ī Ḥe̊vāṣā: ܒܝܼ .
ܘܼ u, ū ʿE̊ṣāṣā allīṣā: ܒܘܼ bu.

ܘܿ o, ō ʿE̊ṣāṣā re̊wīḥā: ܒܘܿ bo.
Rem. This orthography,—which otherwise is tolerably consistent,—substitutes in certain cases ◌ܸ for ◌ܹ, for no reason that can be discovered, e. g. in Passive Participles like ܒܝܸܐ "built". In old manuscripts ◌ܸ is largely interchangeable with ◌ܹ or (Syriac characters). ܝܸ is also found in isolated cases for ܝܼ, particularly for an initial ī. (Syriac characters) is also written for ◌ܵ. For other variations, v. §§ 42. 46. 48.—On the representation of ai and au v. § 49 A.

System of vowel-marking by Greek letters. § 9. Much clearer is the system of vowel designation by small Greek letters set above or below the line,—a system which grew up among the Jacobites about A. D. 700. Unfortunately, however, this system represents in many parts a later pronunciation of the vowels, which had become prevalent at that time, so that we cannot in the Grammar altogether dispense with the other system,—the Nestorian. The method practised is as follows:

◌ܰ a Pe̊thōḥō.
◌ܳ ō (older ā) Ze̊qōfō.
◌ܶ e Re̊vōṣō.
◌ܺ ī (partly for old ē) Ḥe̊vōṣō.
◌ܽ - (Syriac characters) u (partly for old o) ʿE̊ṣōṣō.

Rem. Sometimes ϊ or ι is found for ◌ܺ i. e. Η, η, following later Greek pronunciation; for ◌ܽ or (Syriac characters) there appears Ȣ, and ω too for ο. This ω has been in use with the interjection ܐܘّ "O!" from very ancient times: a later and disfigured form is ܐܘ̄. The diphthongs au and ai are written ◌ܰܘ, ◌ܰܝ; (Syriac characters) is an earlier form for ◌ܰܘ; and similar forms occur for other diphthongs.

Mixed system. § 10. A combination of a modified point-system with the Greek system is in favour among the later West-Syrians and in our own impressions. In this usage

◌ܲ = ◌ܰ.
◌ܵ = ◌ܳ.
◌ܸ and ◌ܹ without distinction = ◌ܶ.
ܝܼ, ◌ܹܝ or merely = ◌ܺܝ, ◌ܺ.
ܘܿ or ܘܼ without any certain distinction = ◌ܽܘ.

Marking length of vowels.§ 11. Rem. No one of these systems carries out a distinction between long and short vowels. The designation of vowels by the Syrian Grammarians as "long" or "short" rests upon a misunderstanding of Greek terms and has nothing to do with the natural quantity. Thus the first and certainly short e in neγlē is directly designated as "long Re̊vōṣō", and the second and long e as "short". The original o is for the Jacobites a "short ʿE̊ṣōṣō"; for the Nestorians on the other hand it is "broad", while u is for the former "long", for the latter "compressed"; and in neither case is the quantity of the vowel considered, but merely the quality.

Marking absence of vowel.§ 12. No established sign has been formed to denote the want of any vowel (Sheva quiescens), nor yet the absence of a full vowel (Sheva mobile). Here and there the sign ◌ܼ (§ 6) or ◌̄ (§ 17) serves this purpose.

Examples: use of vowel signs.§ 13. A. Examples: Nestorian: ܨܘܼܬ ܠܡܸ̈ܠܹܐ ܕܡܲܠܟܵܐ ܕܝܼܠܗܘܿܢ ṣūth le̊millē δe̊malkā δīlhōn. Greek: ܨܽܘܬ ܠܡܷ̈ܠܷܐ ܕܡܱܠܟܳܐ ܕܺܝܠܗܘܽܢ ṣūth le̊melē δe̊malkō δīlhūn. Mixed: ܨܘܼܬ ܠܡܹ̈ܠܷܐ ܕܡܱܠܟܳܐ ܕܝܼܠܗܽܘܢ. The blending might be contrived in many other ways besides, for instance, ܨܽܘܬ ܠܡܷ̈ܠܸܐ &c.

B. From practical considerations, we employ in this work the Greek vowel-signs almost always, using however,—in conformity with the practice of the East-Syrians, and in general of the West-Syrians also,—the sign ◌ܹ for that vowel which is pronounced ē by the East-Syrians, and ī by the West-Syrians, and in most cases discriminating ܘܿ (original o, West-Syrian u) from ◌ܽܘ = ܘܼ (original u).

C. Syriac manuscripts are commonly content with the indication of the vowels given in § 6: only occasionally do they give exact vowel signs. But Nestorian manuscripts, in particular, are often fully vocalised. Many Nestorian manuscripts of the Scriptures produce quite a bewildering impression by the large number of points of various kinds employed in them (cf. § 14 sqq.).

 

OTHER READING-SIGNS.

Diacritic point in ܪ and ܕ.§ 14. Very ancient is the point which never fails in genuine Syriac manuscripts,—that which distinguishes ܪ and ܕ.

Rukkākhā and Quššāyā.§ 15. The soft pronunciation (Rukkākhā) of the letters ܟ‍ ܕ ܓ ܒ ܬ (§ 2) can be expressed by a point placed under them, the hard pronunciation (Quššāyā) by one placed over them, e. g. ܢܣܱܒ݂ܬ݁ ne̊savt "thou didst take", ܢܷܣܒܷ݁ܬ݂ nesbeth "I took" &c. (For farther examples v. in particular § 23 et sqq.). In the case of ܦ the hard sound is commonly indicated by a point set within the letter, something like ܦ·; and by ܦ݁ is represented the sound of the Greek π (§ 25), which diverges from this, being completely unaspirated[4] and peculiarly foreign to a Semite. Others set down ܦ݂ = f, ܦ݁ = p, and ܦ̈ = π. We shall however denote the Syriac hard p also by ܦ݁.

This system, of which certain variations appear (such as ܬܸ, with two points, instead of ܬ݂) is only carried out in very careful writing. In Nestorian manuscripts, however, particularly those of later origin, and in Nestorian printed matter, the system is largely employed. At the same time these points are usually left out, when they would interfere with the vowel points, e. g. ܒܲܝܬܵܐ, not ܒܲܝܬ݁ܵܐ; ܡܝܼ̈ܬܹܐ, not ܡܝܼ̈ܬ݂ܹܐ.

Plural points.§ 16. A. From the oldest times, and regularly, plural forms, of substantives in the first place, have been distinguished by two superscribed points ◌̈, called Se̊yāmē[5]: thus ܡ̈ܠܟܐ, ܡܠܟ̈ܬܐ malkē, malkāthā "kings, queens" are distinguished from the singulars:—ܡܠܟܐ, ܡܠܟܬܐ malkā, malkethā. And so also ܡܠܟ̈ܘܗܝ malkau "his kings" &c, although in such a case there was no possibility of mistaking the word for a singular.

B. Substantive plurals in ܝܢ commonly receive the sign ◌̈, but not those of the predicative adjective, thus, ܐܡܝ̈ܢ ammīn "cubits", but ܫܪܝܪܝܢ šarrīrīn "(are) true".

True collective nouns, which have no special plural, must take ◌̈, e. g. ܥܢ̈ܐ ʿānā "a flock", but we have ܒܩܪܐ baqrā "herd (of cattle)", because a plural ܒܩܪ̈ܐ baqrē "herds" appears.

The feminine plural-forms of the finite verb and of the predicative adjective take ◌̈, e. g. ܟܬܱܒ̈ܝ "they (fem.) wrote", ܢܷܟܬ̈ܒܳܢ "they (fem.) write" (Impf.), ܛܳܒ̈ܳܢ "are good (f.)". Only, these points are generally wanting, when the 3rd pl. fem. in the perfect is written like the 3rd sing. masc. (§ 50 B).

With the numerals there is a good deal of fluctuation. The rule that only feminine numbers of the second decade,—because they end in the plural in ē,—are to be supplied with ◌̈, is seldom strictly followed. Numerals with ܪ generally take ◌̈; farther, all which end in ܢܢ,—in particular ܬܪ̈ܢܢ, ܬܱܪ̈ܬܷܢܢ "two". The plural sign is the rule in numerals which have a possessive suffix (§ 149).

C. Generally speaking, a tolerable uniformity is found,—and that in old manuscripts,—only in cases under A; in cases under B, these manuscripts often omit the sign ◌̈, where it should stand, and employ it instead in other cases, but without consistency, e. g. in the masc. of the finite verb, as ܐܫܟ̈ܚܘ "they (masc.) found"; ܕܢܬܩ̈ܕܫܘܢ "that they (masc.) may be sanctified".[6]

D. The position of the points ◌̈ was not thoroughly determined: most frequently they were permitted to rest upon the third or fourth letter from the end of the word. Much depends here on the fancy of the writer; the position most favoured is over those letters which do not rise high above the line. With the point of the letter ܪ the plural sign generally blends into ܪ̈, e. g. ܡܳܪ̈ܘܳܬܴܐ "lords" ; ܫܱܪܻܝܪ̈ܐ "true" ; still there are found also ܝܱ̈ܩܺܝܪܱܝ "revered", ܥܷ̈ܣܪܻܝܢ "twenty", ܩܾ̈ܘܪܝܴܐ "villages", and many others.

Upper and under line. § 17. Here and there a line over the letter is found as a sign of the want of a vowel, e. g. ܦ̄ܠܸܓܘ pe̊leγ "were divided", as contrasted with ܦܱܠܷܓܘ "distributed"; ܠܲܚ̄ܡܝ laḥm "my bread". Oftener this ◌̄ stands as a sign that a consonant is to be omitted in the pronunciation, e. g. ܡܕܝܼܢ̄ܬܵܐ me̊δītā "town", ܒܲܪ̄ܬ݂ bath "daughter", ܗ̄ܘܵܐ "was". The WestSyrians employ in this case partly ◌̄, partly ◌̱ especially in more recent times; and this use of the linea occultans is followed in the most of our impressions. But commonly in MSS. such a sign is altogether wanting.[7]

In contrast with the use of the upper line ◌̄, the under line ◌̱ is made use of, especially with the Nestorians, to denote a fuller vocalisation, that is to say when a vowel is inserted in order to avoid harshness, e. g. ܚܸܟ̱ܡܬ݂ܵܐ = ܚܶܟ̱ܡܬ݂ܳܐ for ܚܶܟܡܬ݂ܰܐ "wisdom" (§ 52 C) &c. So also ܢܸܫܐ̱ܠܘܼܢ = ܢܷܫܐܷܠܘܽܢ for נֶשְׁאֱלוּן they ask (§ 34).

 

INTERPUNCTUATION AND ACCENTS.

Interpunctuation. § 18. The oldest interpunctuation, which is frequently retained even in later times, consists of a single strongly marked point ܁ after larger or smaller divisions of the sentence, for which, in the case of large paragraphs, a stronger sign ܀, or the like, appears. But even in very ancient manuscripts a system of interpunctuation is found, of a more or less formed character. Later, alongside of the chief point ܦܴܣܘܿܩܳܐ (ܡܠܟܐ܁), the main distinction made is between "the under point" ܬܱܚܬܴܝܴܐ (ܡܠܟ̣ܐ܁), "the upper point" ܥܷܠܴܝܳܐ (ܡܠܟ̇ܐ܁), and "the equal points" ܫ̈ܘܱܝܴܐ (ܡܠܟܐ܃),—to indicate different clauses of the sentence of greater or less importance. To some extent other signs also are used for this purpose. The tests of the usage are not clear, and the practice is very fluctuating, at least on the part of copyists.

Accents. § 19. In order to signify with accuracy, whether,—in the recitation of the sacred text in worship,—the individual words of a sentence should be associated with more or with less connection,—and also what relative tone befits each word,—a complicated system of "Accents" was employed in Syriac as well as in Hebrew. This system however appears only in manuscripts of the Bible, and in a grammatical point of view it is of very slender importance. In isolated cases, signs taken from this system are found also in other uses: thus, for instance, we may meet with an upper point lending emphasis to the word in a summons, a command, an interrogation. Such a point is not distinguishable in all cases, so far as appearance goes, from the points treated of in § 6 sq.

 

 
  1. Cf. besides, the Plate of Alphabetical Characters by Euting, appended to this work.
  2. Translator's Note: The same may be said for ܟ‍ and ܩ‍.
  3. Translator's Note: In the transcription followed in this Edition, soft ܒ will be represented by v, soft ܩ by kh, soft ܦ by f or ph, and soft ܬ by th; while soft ܓ and ܕ will be rendered by γ and δ respectively.
  4. Answering to the representation of τ by ܛ (not by ܬ) and of κ by ܩ (not by ܟ‍).
  5. The Hebrew appellation in vogue,—Ribbūi is naturally unknown to the Syrians. It was borrowed by a European scholar from the Hebrew Grammarians, and means "plural".
  6. The sign ◌̈ is even set improperly over words, which are singular, but look like plural, e. g. over ܠܱܝ̈ܠܷܐ "night" (sing. abs. st.) and over Greek words in ◌ܹܐ η like ܗܘ̈ܠܐ ὕλη.
  7. Sometimes the under line is found in still wider employment as a sign of the want of a vowel, in Western MSS., e. g. ܚ̱ܢܺܝܢܳܐ ḥe̊nīnō "who has obtained favour", as contrasted with ܚܰܢܺܝܢܳܐ "rancid".
 

Errata:

  1. Original: was amended to  (š): detail