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Abu Al-Faraj Harun Ibn Al-Faraj


ABU AL-FARAJ HARUN IBN AL-FARAJ (Heb. Aaron b. Jeshu ʿa ; Jerusalem, first half of 11th century), Karaite grammarian, lexicographer and exegete. Abu al-Faraj accepted the Greek theory (which reached him through Arabic channels) that language is an artificial product of human convention and is governed by the laws of logic. His method and terminology draw heavily on Arab linguists. He held that all forms of the Hebrew verb are based on the infinitive, and made a detailed study of the particle. He also pioneered the investigation of biblical Aramaic grammar in its relationship to Hebrew, as well as comparative treatment of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. He followed strictly the principle of bi-literal roots. The works of Abu al-Faraj became well known among Rabbanite scholars of Spain, who refer to him at times simply as "the Jerusalemite Grammarian." All his writings are in Judeo-Arabic. They include Al-Kitāb al-Mushtamil, on the roots and formations of the Hebrew language (mss. in St. Petersburg; among them the copy made in 1112 for the gaon Elijah b. Abiathar) of which chapter 8 treats Aramaic grammar; Al-Kitāb al-Kāfī, a digest of the former, published by G. Khan, M. Angeles Gallego, and J. Olszowy-Schlanger as The Karaite tradition of Hebrew Grammatical Thought in Its Classical Form: A Critical Edition and English Translation of al-Kitāb al-kāfī fī al-luga al-'Ibrāniyya by Abu al-Faraj Hārūn ibn al-Faraj, Leiden 2003; Sharḥ al-Alfāẓ, an Arabic translation of selected verses or clauses in the Bible, with explanatory notes, arranged in the order of the Bible; and a commentary on the Pentateuch in Arabic, said to be an abridgement (talkhīş) of that of *Joseph b. Noah, who was his teacher. Even though an abridgement, it is quite extensive; most of it survived in several fragmentary mss. in St. Petersburg. Another important contribution was his work on the phonetics of biblical Hebrew according to the Tiberian tradition and the rules of cantillation of the biblical text, entitled Hidāyat al-Qāri ("The Guide of the Reader"). Until quite recently it was ascribed to various other authors. The importance of the work lies in its uniqueness as a source for the living tradition in 11th-century Ereẓ Israel. The work was written in a long and short version. Of the former only short fragments have survived, while most of the latter was published in a critical annotated edition by I. Eldar (Jerusalem 1994). Various Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic adaptations had been circulating in the Middle Ages in Europe and the Near East, one of them a paraphrase by the Byzantine Karaite Joseph ha-Qustandini (11th century?), entitled Adat Devorim.


Steinschneider, Arab Lit, no. 48; W. Bacher, Die Anfaenge der hebraeischen Grammatik (1895), 155 ff.; H. Hirschfeld, Literary History of Hebrew Grammarians and Lexicographers (1926), 50 ff.; Bacher, in: rej, 30 (1895), 232–56; Poznański, ibid., 33 (1896), 24–39, 197–218; 46 (1908), 42–69; idem, in: jqr, 18 (1927/28), 11; S.L. Skoss, Arabic Commentary of Ali ben Suleiman on Genesis (1928), 11–27. add. bibliography: G. Khan, in: M. Polliack (ed.), Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History and Literary Sources (2003), 291–318; A. Maman, Comparative Semitic Philology in the Middle Ages: From Sa'adiah Gaon to Ibn Barun (10th–12th c.) (2004), 375–80 and passim.

[Samuel Miklos Stern /

Haggai Ben-Shammai (2nd ed.)]

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