Semitic Comparative Philology -- By: Leonard Tafel

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 019:75 (Jul 1862)
Article: Semitic Comparative Philology
Author: Leonard Tafel


Semitic Comparative Philology

Dr. L. Tafel And Prof. R. L. Tafel

The labors of the comparative school of philology have thus far been limited to the Indo-European family of languages. Besides the work of J. E. Renan (Histoire et Sys-teme comparé des langues Sémitique), of which the first volume, treating of the history and genius of the Semitic languages, appeared several years ago, no systematic application of this new discipline has been made to these languages. And yet a comparison of the various Semitic idioms sheds as much light upon their respective grammars, as a comparison of the Indo-European or Arian languages elucidates theirs. In the present Article we propose to make a first contribution to Semitic comparative philology, discussing the Semitic Verb and Noun, as developed in the Hebrew grammar of Gesenius and the more recent school-grammar of Ewald, the Chaldee grammars of Fürst and Winer, the Syriac of Uhlemann, the Arabic of Caspari, and the Ethiopic of Dillmann. The form in which we treat our subject will be a review of the above-mentioned Hebrew grammars of Gesenius and Ewald, in the light of Semitic comparative philology.

Gesenius and Ewald have been considered, for a long time, as the leading oriental scholars of Europe, and their Hebrew grammars are more extensively used than any other. The former scholar has long been familiar to our orientalists by the translations of his Hebrew grammar and dictionary; and of his life and other works, Prof. Robinson has given a detailed account in an early number of the Bibliotheca Sacra. Prof. Ewald is not so well known; and for this reason, before entering upon a discussion of his grammar, we propose to draw a short comparison between the gram-

mars of Gesenius and Ewald, and give our opinion of the latter, both as a man and a scholar.

In the preface to his Hebrew grammar for beginners, which he published upon his return to Göttingen, after a protracted stay in Tübingen in southern Germany, on pages v and vi he exclaims: “How much labor and toil, perfectly useless, has been expended during the last three hundred years, by thousands of students, in either acquiring no knowledge of Hebrew at all, or a mere smattering for the sake of showing off! Is it not time that in this respect, likewise, we in Germany should begin to think about true use? “From this extract we are to infer that before the time of Ewald there were no able text-books for the study of the Hebrew language in Germany; while yet the grammar of Gesenius, which since his death, by the care of the learned Rödiger is kept on a level with the science, fulfils all just claims to a good grammar, and by means of other grammars, too, able Hebrew scholars h...

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