Compendious Syriac Grammar/Preface to the Second Edition

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Although I did not reckon upon the necessity arising during my lifetime for a new edition of the Syriac Grammar, I still have continued to note down in my own copy—following my general practice—many additions and improvements. A good deal of this material, accordingly, I was able to devote to the new edition. Amongst other things, I have compared the citations already given from the Life of Simeon Stylites, with a transcript of the London Codex lent me by Prof. Kleyn of Utrecht, now deceased. It would appear however, that the Vatican text is upon the whole nearer the original, than the one in the British Museum.

I have endeavoured to introduce a considerable number of improvements in points of detail, but I have abstained from radical alterations except in a very few cases. In the Syntax I have added to the number of the examples. The Syriac Bible has been more largely drawn upon than in the former edition, particularly as regards the Gospels, and especially the Synoptic Gospels. These last exhibit almost invariably an exceedingly flowing, idiomatic style of Syriac, which upon the whole reads better than the Semitic Greek of the original. This feature comes into still stronger relief in the more ancient form of the text—as contained in C. (Curetonianus) and S. (Sinaiticus)—than in our usual text P. (Peshitā). The Syriac Old Testament frequently approximates the original Hebrew text too closely; and, precisely because of the intimate relationship of the languages, we sometimes find ourselves at a loss as to whether the verbal reproduction is still in conformity with the true Syriac idiom, or is really a Hebraism. It should farther be noticed, that the genuine Syriac Canon is of much less compass than that of the Western Churches, and lacks, for instance, the Book of Esther and the Chronicles. The punctuation, therefore, of these last books in the Urmia edition, is of more slender authority than that of the others, which reproduces an ancient and established tradition, although it is not free from mistakes.

Many Syriac words, of which the form is not in keeping with the rules of Aramaic, have been proved now to be loan-words from the Assyrian. I have frequently drawn attention to such strangers. In this matter I follow Jensen's data in Brockelmann's Syriac Lexicon, and partly, direct communications from Jensen himself, as well as Delitzsch's Assyrian Dictionary. In the case of some words however, which are now indeed looked upon as being borrowed from the Assyrian, it is perhaps a matter of doubt whether the supposed borrower may not be the lender, or whether the words concerned may not be part of a common stock.

I have increased the number of references from one paragraph to another, but the order of these paragraphs remains the same. As the figures indicating that order have not been altered, quotations made in accordance with the paragraphs of the old edition are suitable also for the new. The few additional paragraphs which have been introduced, bear severally the number of the one which immediately precedes, a b being attached thereto.

The new edition has received much benefit from the discussion of the first by Prof. G. Hoffmann in the "Lit. Centralblatt" of 4th March, 1882,—as well as from other printed and written notices from his hand.

The late Prof. Bensley, as well as Dr. J. O. Knudson and Dr. H. Schulthess farther earned my gratitude by pointing out various inaccuracies, particularly errors of the press. And after all, in preparing the second edition, I came upon a few more blunders, some of them rather serious. If, as I venture to hope, the new form of the book should turn out to be tolerably free from annoying mistakes of the press, this is due very especially—seconded by the dexterity of the compositor—to the careful first correction of proofs, undertaken by Dr. Chamizer, the director of the printing house of W. Drugulin.

The abbreviations which I have adopted are for the most part clear enough in themselves. Besides those which have already been mentioned as indicating the three Texts of the Gospels, viz. P. C. and S. the following perhaps should be noticed:—

Addai = The Doctrine of Addai, The Apostle (ed. by G. Phillips).

Aphr. = The Homilies of Aphraates (ed. by W. Wright).

Anc. Doc. = Ancient Syriac Documents (collected and edited by W. Cureton, with a preface by W. Wright).

Apost. Apocr. = Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. Vol. I (ed. by W. Wright).

Barh. = Barhebraeus.

Ephr. = S. Ephraem Syri Opera (Roman edition).

Ephr. Nis. = S. Ephraemi Syri Carmina Nisibena (ed. by G. Bickell).

Isaac = Isaaci Antiocheni Opera (ed. by G. Bickell).

Jac. Ed. = Jacob of Edessa.

Jac. Sar. = Jacob of Sarūg.

John Eph. = The Third Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John, Bishop of Ephesus (ed. by W. Cureton).

Joseph = Histoire complète de Joseph, par St. Ephraem[?] ed. by Paul Bedjan, 2. ed. Paris 1891).

Jos. Styl. = The Chronicle of Joshua, The Stylite (ed. by W. Wright), [wrongly attributed to Joshua.]

Jul. = Julianos der Abtrünnige (ed. by J. G. E. Hoffmann).

Land = Anecdota Syriaca (ed. by J. P. N. Land).

Mart. = Acta Martyrum Orientalium et Occidentalium (ed by Steph. Ev. Assemanus).

Moes. = Monumenta Syriaca ex Rom. codd. Collecta (ed. by G. Moesinger).

Ov. = S. Ephraemi Syri, Rabulae Episcopi Edesseni, Balaei Aliorumque Opera Selecta (ed. by J. Jos. Overbeck).

Sim. = Life of St. Simeon Stylites,—in the 2nd Volume of the Acta Martyrum (ed. by Steph. Ev. Assemanus).

Spic. = Spicilegium Syriacum (ed. by W. Cureton).

Of Syriac abbreviations note ܘܫ׳ = ܘܫܱܪܟܳܐ "and the rest" = &c.


Strassburg i. E. August 1898.

Th. Nöldeke.


  1. [This edition in the original is dedicated to Prof. Guidi].