Saturday, June 16, 2018

Hebrew acronyms

PHILOLOGOS: Where Do Hebrew Acronyms Come From? Medieval and modern Hebrew are unusually rich in abbreviations, but in a manner that is the reverse of English (Mosaic Magazine).
Clearly, then, acronyms were first developed by ancient Greek and Latin stenographers and, though known to the rabbis of the Talmud, adopted by Hebrew only in a subsequent age. The fact that they are found in abundance in ancient midrashic texts like Genesis Rabbah, whose composition is contemporaneous with the Talmud’s, does not prove otherwise. ...
Acronyms are one of the banes of working with medieval Hebrew manuscripts. And it scarcely helps when the text of the manuscript is also full of copyist errors. It can be hard to tell whether you're dealing with a corrupt and meaningless word, an obscure technical term, or an acronym.

Incidentally, the best source I have found for deciphering Hebrew acronyms is Dalman's old German dictionary of Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic. The full reference is Gustav H. Dalman, Aramäisch-Neuhebräisches Handwörterbuch zu Targum, Talmud und Midrasch. The original publication was in Göttingen in 1938. The reprint edition I have on my bookshelf is by Olms in 1987. At the end it has a 120-page lexicon of abbreviations. You will find pretty much everything there.

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