Nicht nur mit Engelszungen: Beitrage zur semitischen Dialektologie--Festschrift fur Werner Arnold zum 60. Geburtstag.

Author:Haberl, Charles G.
Position:Book review

Nicht nur mit Engelszungen: Beitrage zur semitischen Dialektologie--Festschrift fur Werner Arnold zum 60. Geburtstag. Edited by Renaud Kuty; Ulrich Seeger; and Shabo Talay. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013. Pp. xx + 412. 118 [euro].

The honorand of this Festschrift, Werner Arnold, is justly lauded as a pioneer in several fields. He is primarily known for his efforts to document living Semitic languages, and this is reflected in the contributions to the volume, some twenty-seven of which (out of a total of forty-one) concern spoken, nonstandard, and still-living languages, rather than the written, standardized, and often dead languages that are the customary stock in trade of the Semitist. He began his own fieldwork in the mid-1980s, initially in Bahrain and subsequently in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains of Syria, long before the current vogue of "language documentation" was stimulated by the impending extinction of most of the world's languages. There were certainly other scholars conducting fieldwork in Neo-Aramaic in the 1980s and even long before, but Werner Arnold can lay claim to having thoroughly documented an entire branch of the Neo-Aramaic language family, Western Neo-Aramaic, according to contemporary linguistic standards.

Though not the subject of the present volume, his contributions to the digital humanities are no less pioneering and foundational. Arnold established SemArch (, an online, open access repository of digital audio documents from a wide array of living Semitic languages, in 2001, at which time the term "digital humanities" had yet to be coined and the emerging discipline was still known as "humanistic computing." Scholars of the Semitic languages know SemArch to be a unique resource for the study of these languages, and fieldworkers know it to be the premier archive in which to deposit the results of our own fieldwork, so that they will be maintained and disseminated to the widest possible audience.

Despite the genuinely "cutting edge" nature of Arnold's own contributions, the contributions to his Festschrift are at first glance unabashedly traditional--they draw upon philology, epigraphy, dialectology, and other forms of historical and comparative linguistics, subjects that are by and large now completely absent from the departments of linguistics found in universities throughout North America, Australia, East Asia, and increasingly the rest of the world. This is evinced by the list of...

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