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Official Aramaic

(393 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] OA (Egyptian Aramaic, standard literary Aramaic) was the language of administration and correspondence ( lingua franca) of the Achaemenid Empire from the time of Cyrus [2] II (6th-3rd cent. BC). OA does not represent a homogeneous Aramaic dialect but shows dialect characteristics that are  in parts highly divergent. OA was widespread throughout the whole of the Near East and Egypt and was used for a variety of textual genres. In a cursive writing (square script), OA is encountered on papyri and …

Ethiopian

(170 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] Geez, the classical language of Ethiopia, actually belongs to the southern branch of Semitic languages. It was spoken by the tribes Agazjan and Ḥabas̆āt, which had migrated into Abyssinia from South Arabia, founded the kingdom of  Axum and in the middle of the 4th cent. AD were converted to Christianity by missionaries. The earliest evidence is stone inscriptions (Axum inscriptions, Maṭara obelisk 4th cent. AD). From the 9th cent. until the present Geez has been used only as a literary and church language. Related Semitic languages are Tigri…

Am­mon­ite

(76 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] Canaanite dialect very similar to  Phoenician and used by the Ammonites in the region around Rabbath Ammon. There is very little written evidence c. 9th-7th cents. BC): citadel inscriptions from Amman, writing on a receptacle (Tell Siran bottle) and approximately 150 stamping seals. Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen) Bibliography W. R. Garr, Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestina, 1000-586 B.C.E., 1985 L. Herr, The Scripts of Ancient Northwest Semitic Seals, 1978 K. P. Jackson, The Ammonite Language of the Iron Age, 1983.

Afro-Asiatic

(140 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] Afro-Asian is a new linguistic term identical to the traditional term Hamito-Semitic. It covers all the major languages related to such language families as  (Ancient) Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic,  Semitic, Chadic (various subfamilies with more than 125 separate languages) and - often debated - Omotic. Overall, it includes more than 200 separate languages, many of them without writing, that can be traced over a period of almost 5,000 years. Reconstructing the proto-Afro-Asiatic lan…

Moabite

(80 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] Language of the inhabitants of Moab, a country to the south of the Dead Sea; it is very similar to Hebrew. Moabite is recorded on seal inscriptions and on a 34-line inscription of King Meša of Moab ( c. 850 BC), which was found in the vicinity of Diban (KAI 181). Canaanite; Semitic languages Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen) Bibliography A. Dearman (ed.), Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab, 1989  W.R. Garr, Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine, 1000-586 BCE, 1985.

Phoenician

(204 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] was the language of the Phoenicians, and together with its later divergent form, Punic, it formed a unity within the Canaanite languages. Phoenician diversified into individual dialects which can only partly be classified according to their geographical areas (Byblus, Zincirli, Cyprus). The alphabet of 22 characters developed from proto-Canaanite. Initially, only consonants were written in its script, which deviated slightly from Aramaic. Written Phoenician sources (from the 13th/…

Semitic languages

(679 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] In 1781, A.L. Schloezer introduced this term for the languages which were associated with the sons of Sem/Shem (Gn 10:21-31; Semites) and which had a common origin with the so-called Hamitic languages of Africa. The term Hamito-Semitic is used interchangeably with Afro-Asiatic. Within the Hamito-Semitic languages, Akkadian, or rather Eblaite (mid-3rd millennium BC), is attested earliest in writing; Aramaic has the longest continuous written tradition; and modern Arabic is most widely spoken. In the literature, the division of the Semitic languages rem…

Aramaic

(340 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] Derives from the collective ethnic term for the  Arameans and belongs with  Canaanite to the north-western branch of the Semitic languages. For its system of writing, Aramaic adopted the Phoenician 22-character  alphabet. The most ancient form of the language is Old Aramaic (10th-8th cents. BC) found in inscriptions in North Mesopotamia and Syria (Tell Feḫerije [1], Arslantaš, with Aramaic-Assyrian bilingual inscriptions and Aramaic-Assyrian-Luwian hieroglyph trilingual inscriptio…

Arabic

(361 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] In contrast to  Ancient Southern Arabian, this is in fact Northern Arabic; it belongs …

Syriac

(358 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen)
[German version] Aramaic dialect from the geographical surroundings of Edessa [2], modern Urfa, which gave rise to the later Syriac literary language. Lexically, Syriac belongs to Central Aramaic just as the Aramaic of the Babylonian Targumim (Targum Onqelos and Jonathan), but already has Northeastern Aramaic features in its phonetics, morphology and syntax. The Early Syriac inscriptions (AD 6 - 3rd cent. AD), written in Estrangelā script, still have a strongly standardised Central Aramaic charact…
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