A Note on Determination and Countability in Targumic Aramaic

in Aramaic Studies
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Abstract

The unexpected occurrence of the determined state (the noun with article in postposition) in the singular in the Aramaic of the classical Targums of Onqelos and Jonathan, as well as the ending -ē to m. pl. nouns, used to be explained from supposed linguistic influence of Eastern Aramaic. It can be observed, however, that in all or nearly all of these cases these endings indicate the non-countedness of the nouns, uniqueness or amorphousness in the singular or collectives in the plural. The picture is especially clear when the noun is found with cardinal numbers. It is proposed that the noun in Targumic Aramaic had, beside absolute, construct, and determined states, a fourth state which can be designated as the uncounted state. This characteristic linguistic trait of the Targumic dialect probably sets it apart from most other Aramaic dialects, also has a number of consequences in the exegetical field, and may explain the origin of certain grammatical characteristics of Eastern Aramaic.

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