The etymology of Aramaic (and Hebrew) [square root of (term)]prns 'to distribute, supply'.

Author:Butts, Aaron Michael
Position:Essay
 
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The Aramaic verbal root [square root of (term)]prns 'to distibute, supply' is first attested in the Middle Aramaic period (Palmyrene Aramaic and Targum Jonathan). It is then widely attested across all of the dialects of Late Aramaic. Outside of Aramaic, the root [square root of (term)]prns is also found in post-Biblical Hebrew. A number of proposals have been made for the etymology of this root, but there continues to be no consensus on this question. The present note argues that the verbal root [square root of (term)]prns 'to distribute, supply' derives from Greek [pi][rho]ovo[eta][sigma][alpha]i, the aorist infinitive of [pi][rho]ovo[epsilon][omega] 'to perceive, foresee; to provide, take care of. This etymology is compared with that of [square root of (term)]pys D/C 'to persuade', which is also first attested in Middle Aramaic, also became productive in a number of the Late Aramaic dialects, and also derives from a Greek aorist infinitive ([PI][epsilon]i[sigma][alpha]i).

The etymology of Aramaic (and Hebrew) [square root of (term)]prns 'to distribute, to supply, to support' remains disputed. (1) Some scholars propose an inner Semitic etymology, others see it as a loanword from either Greek [pi][rho]opvoo[zeta]; 'careful, prudent' or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; 'supervisor, administrator', and still others remain agnostic about its origin. It is proposed here that [square root of (term)]prns entered Aramaic as a loanword from Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the aorist infinitive of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'to perceive, foresee; to provide, take care of. This etymology of [square root of (term)]prns can be compared with that of Aramaic [square root of (term)]pys D/C 'to persuade', which has a similar distribution in Aramaic and which also derives from a Greek aorist infinitive [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

ATTESTATIONS OF [square root of (term)]PRNS IN ARAMAIC AND HEBREW

Before looking at the various etymologies of [square root of (term)]prns previously proposed in the scholarly literature, it is necessary to outline the distribution of this root in Aramaic and Hebrew. The verbal root [square root of (term)]prns 'to distribute, supply' is first attested in Middle Aramaic (ca. 200 B.c.E.-ca. 200 c.E.). (2)In Palmyrene Aramaic, the verbal root [square root of (term)]prns 'to provide' (DNWSI 940; Hillers and Cussini 1996: 401) occurs as well as the nomen agentis form mprsnyt' 'guardian, foster-mother' (DNWSI 674; Hillers and Cussini 1996: 385). (3) The Aramaic of Targum Jonathan also attests [square root of (term)]prns 'to provide' (see, e.g., Ez. 34.8 [2x]; Is. 57.8; see also Jastrow 1231) as well as the de-verbal nouns parnus 'maintenance' (see, e.g., 1 Kings 5:25; see also Jastrow 1231; Tal 1975: 115-16) and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'steward' (see, e.g., Is. 22:15; Ez. 34.8 [3x]; Zech. 11.7; see also Jastrow 1231). (4)

The verbal root [square root of (term)]prns and/or de-verbal nouns are attested in all of the dialects of Late Aramaic (post ca. 200 C.E.): Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (JPA) [square root of (term)]prns 'to provide, sustain, support' (DJPA 448, 842) as well as the de-verbal nouns prnws 'maintenance' (DJPA 448), prns 'community leader' (DJPA 448), and prnsh 'maintenance, charitable support, livelihood' (DJPA 448); Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA) [square root of (term)]pras 'administravit' (DCPA 341; LSP 163) as well as the de-verbal nouns prns 'curator' (DCPA 341; LSP 163) and *prnsnw 'administratio' (DCPA 341; LSP 163); Samaritan Aramaic (SA) [square root of (term)]prns 'to support' (DSA 704-05) as well as the de-verbal nouns prnws 'dominion, rule' (DSA 705), prns 'tiller, worker' (DSA 705), and prnsh 'work' (DSA 705); Mandaic p'rn'st' 'provision, sustenance' (MD 364); Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (JBA) yprns 'to support' (DJBA 935) as well as the de-verbal nouns parnoso 'communal leader' (DJBA 935) and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'support' (DJBA 935); Late Jewish Literary Aramaic (LJLA) [square root of (term)]prns 'to endow, provide, sustain, cultivate' (see, e.g., Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Gen. 30:30, Lev. 25:35; see also Jastrow 1231) as well as the de-verbal nouns prns 'manager, administrator, leader of a community' (see, e.g., Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 49.24; see also Jastrow 1231), prnsh 'management, administration' (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Gen. 15.2 [see n. 4 above]; see also Jastrow 123l), prnswt' 'provision, maintenance, outfit' (Targum Kohelet 11.1; see also Jastrow 1232); and Syriac [square root of (term)]prns 'to divide, distribute; supply, provide for' (TS 3269-72; LS2 599; SL 1243) as well as the deverbal nouns [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'nourishment; help, administration' (SL 1170-1171), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'steward, administrator' (SL 1243-44), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'benefactor; steward' (SL 810), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]'it 'by divine providence' (SL 810), and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'superintendence; administration' (SL 810).

Outside of Aramaic, post-Biblical Hebrew also attests the root [square root of (term)]prns 'to endow, provide, sustain, cultivate' (Jastrow 1231; LNVTH 293-94) as well as the de-verbal nouns prns 'manager, administrator, leader of a community' (Jastrow 1231; see also Fraade 2011), prnsh 'provision, maintenance, outfit' (Jastrow 1231-32), and prnswt 'administrative office' (Jastrow 1232). It should be noted that the noun prnsyn 'stewards', with an Aramaic ending, is attested already in a Hebrew letter from Murabba'at dated to 134/135 (ed. Benoit, Milik, and de Vaux 1961: 155-59 [no. 42]). Given the Aramaic morphology of the form in question, it seems likely that Hebrew [square root of (term)]prns and the related nominal forms derive from Aramaic.

PREVIOUS ETYMOLOGIES

A number of different etymologies have been proposed for [square root of (term)]prns and the related de-verbal nouns. (5) Bernstein (apud TS 3269) suggested that Syriac [square root of (term)]prns is a denominative verb from...

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