The Personal Pronoun in Christian Palestinian Aramaic.

AuthorLi, Tarsee

    Christian Palestinian Aramaic (hereafter, CPA) (1) belongs to the western group of the late ancient Aramaic languages that flourished from the 3rd century of the Christian era to the rise of Islam, along with Samaritan Aramaic and Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. CPA was used by Aramaic-speaking Christians in Syria-Palestine and Egypt during the Roman, Byzantine, and Arab periods, as a living language until the beginning of the 8th century CE and as a written language until the 13th century CE. Although extant texts in CPA have been known for a long time, and many were published over a century ago, Aramaic scholars are indebted to the works of Muller-Kessler and Sokoloff for more accurate editions of CPA texts based on manuscripts of the early and middle periods, which in turn allow for more accurate descriptions of CPA grammar. The present study consists of a description of the functions of the personal pronoun attested in the CPA Gospels. Inferences will be drawn both by considering how the pronoun is employed in the translation of various Greek grammatical expressions and by comparing the instances of some Aramaic expressions that are attested both with and without the pronoun.

    It is relevant for this study to briefly mention the paths of grammaticalization that involve 3rd person pronouns, which also involve demonstratives, copulas, and focus markers. It is common for demonstratives to grammaticalize into 3rd person pronouns. (2) Diessel outlines the following path of development from pronominal demonstratives to 3rd person pronouns, and beyond: (3)

    DEM PRO > 3rd person PRO > clitic PRO > verb agreement

    That is, demonstrative pronouns grammaticalize into 3rd person pronouns, and then into pronominal clitics, and finally become morphemes of verb agreement. On the other hand, although 3rd person pronouns are "the most common source" for verbal agreement markers, there is another path of development leading from 3rd person pronouns to copulas. (4) In addition, identificational demonstratives may also grammaticalize into copulas. (5) As Heine and Kuteva remarked, although the paths of development from demonstrative to copula and from 3rd person pronoun to copula are different, since demonstratives may also grammaticalize into 3rd person pronouns, "it is not always easy to determine which of the two developments was involved in a given case." (6) Furthermore, demonstratives can also grammaticalize into focus markers, with or without the intermediate stages of personal pronoun and copula. (7)

    The CPA text that served as the basis of this study is that of Muller-Kessler and Sokoloff. (8) I have also followed their sigla for the manuscript designations. The Greek text used is the latest edition of Novum Testamentum Graece (hereafter, [NA.sup.28]). (9) For the Greek textual variants, I consulted the apparatus in [NA.sup.28], the text of Pierpont and Robinson, and the text and apparatus of Holmes. (10)


    In verbal clauses, the basic function of the CPA independent personal pronoun is that of a clause subject. However, its function in the expression pronoun + Participle deserves a more detailed discussion. Hence, the function of the pronoun in verbal clauses is discussed in two separate sections below.

    2.1. As Subject

    In a verbal clause, the simplest and basic function of the independent personal pronoun is that of a clause subject. This is its normal expected function, and not much needs to be said about it. Other than in instances of the CPA expression pronoun + Participle (see below), the personal pronoun usually occurs in the translation of the Greek pronoun. For example:

    Mt 21:24 CCR1

    [phrase omitted]

    I too will ask you one thing.

    [phrase omitted]

    In the above example, the Greek personal pronoun is translated in CPA by the corresponding Aramaic pronoun. The pronoun functions as the clause subject.

    2.2. Pronoun + Participle

    My earlier monograph, which dealt with the verbal system of CPA, included a discussion of the function of the expression pronoun + Participle. (11) My discussion here focuses on the function of the pronoun, and updates some of the details of my previous description.

    As already mentioned, a typical path of grammaticalization for the pronoun is to develop into a marker of subject agreement. This is the case in late ancient Eastern Aramaic, where the Participle, whose morphology only inflects for gender and number but not person, is accompanied by an enclitic pronoun when expressing actions in the present time. The combination Participle + enclitic pronoun eventually developed into the new inflected present tense in Eastern Neo-Aramaic languages. (12) This section will explore the question of whether the CPA personal pronoun also developed the function of being a marker of subject agreement in connection with the Participle.

    Before discussing the CPA expression pronoun + Participle, it should be mentioned that the personal pronoun is not only added to the Participle but can occasionally be added to verb forms that already have personal inflections, even when the Greek original does not have a pronoun. In these instances, the pronoun functions as the clause subject rather than as a marker of agreement. For example, a pronoun is added to a CPA Perfect in Mk 2:3 CCR1; 11:27 [CSRPe]; 15:17 CCR8, even though there is no pronoun in the Greek original.

    Mk 11:27 [CSRPe]

    [phrase omitted]

    And they came again to Jerusalem.

    [phrase omitted]

    In the above example, a Greek historical present is translated by a CPA Perfect. There is no pronoun in the Greek clause, but a pronoun is added before the CPA Perfect. It is also interesting to see the instance in Mk 15:17, because it involves a textual variant.

    Mk 15:17

    [phrase omitted] [CCR8]

    [phrase omitted] [[CSROe]]

    And they dressed him with a scarlet coat.

    [phrase omitted]

    In the above example, there is a Greek textual variant, where some manuscripts have [phrase omitted] and others [phrase omitted]. However, since both verbs mean "to dress, clothe, put on," and both are Present Indicatives functioning as historical presents, the Greek textual variant does not affect the CPA translation. What is significant, though, is the CPA textual variant between the presence (CCR8) and absence ([CSROe]) of a pronoun in front of the Perfect verb. Thus, the addition of a pronoun in CPA is not restricted to the Participle, and this is evident not only from instances where the pronoun is added before a Perfect, but also by at least one CPA textual variant involving the presence or absence of the pronoun before a Perfect.

    Turning to the combination pronoun + Participle, it is useful to note that the CPA Participle occurs in the majority of instances in combination with another word. More often than not, the Participle occurs either with [phrase omitted] (mostly in past time imperfective contexts) or with a personal pronoun (mostly in present and future time contexts). Compare the following examples:

    Mt 22:46 CCR1

    [phrase omitted]

    And no one could answer him a word.

    [phrase omitted]

    Mt 26:63 [CSRG/Od]

    I adjure you by the living God.

    [phrase omitted]

    The above examples show the CPA Participle in the translation of past time and present time expressions. In Mt 22:46 the Greek Imperfect Indicative [phrase omitted], from [phrase omitted] "to be able," is translated in CPA with the construction [phrase omitted] + Participle, [phrase omitted]. (13) In Mt 26:63 the Greek Present Indicative [phrase omitted] "I adjure" is translated in CPA with the construction pronoun + Participle, [phrase omitted].

    Nevertheless, one must note some important differences between Eastern and Western Aramaic. In Eastern Aramaic the pronoun as a personal marker on the Participle occurs only as an enclitic and is limited to the 1st and 2nd person pronouns. (14) On the other hand, in CPA, which is Western Aramaic, the Participle occurs regularly with all pronouns, including the 3rd person pronoun. The form and placement of the pronoun is also more varied. The CPA pronoun usually precedes the Participle, but occasionally occurs after it (for example, Matt 21:26 CCR1 [phrase omitted]). Also, the enclitic pronoun can occasionally occur instead of the independent forms, but it is rare. Notice the following textual variant in the CPA translation:

    Mt 24:47

    [phrase omitted] [CCR1]

    [phrase omitted] [[CSRPd]]

    [phrase omitted]

    In the above example, the CPA translation of the Greek verb has an independent pronoun in one manuscript (CCR1), but an enclitic in another ([CSRPd]). No distinction in meaning could be detected. Thus, these various expressions involving a personal pronoun and a Participle can be subsumed under the label "pronoun + Participle," since no distinctions in nuance could be detected among the ways the pronoun accompanies the Participle that are relevant to this study. In passing, it should also be noted that the CPA pronoun may occur in combination with two or more Participles.

    Lk 11:26 [CSRPc]

    [phrase omitted]

    Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more evil than itself.

    [phrase omitted]

    In the above example, the CPA pronoun [phrase omitted] is followed by two Participles. The fact that the pronoun can occur in combination with two or more Participles is common in Aramaic in general. Finally, it is also important to mention that some of the differences between Eastern and Western ancient Aramaic are reflected in differences between Eastern and Western Neo-Aramaic. Thus, although the Participle becomes the base of the new Present tense in all forms of Neo-Aramaic, in Eastern Neo-Aramaic the former enclitic pronouns become the suffixed morphemes of the Present tense, whereas in Western Neo-Aramaic, such as in the dialect of Ma'lula, the Present tense is formed "by prefixing the imperfect prefixes" on the former Participle. (15)

    Furthermore, the evidence for the CPA pronoun functioning as a marker of subject agreement in...

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