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Ibn Janāḥ, Jonah


IBN JANĀḤ, JONAH (Abu al-Walid Marwan; first half of 11thcentury), Spanish Hebrew grammarian and Hebrew lexicographer. In his writings Ibn Janāḥ refers to himself in various ways: by his full name (Lumaʿ, 19), by Abu al-Walid (ibid., 169, 284), by Marwan (Derenbourg (1880), lixff.), and by Ibn Janāh (Lumaʿ, 21). Similarly, contemporary Arabic-writing authors (e.g., *Samuel ha-Nagid, *Baḥya ibn Paquda, Moses *Ibn Ezra) referred to him by these several names. In Hebrew works he is called R. Jonah or R. Marinus, these names, given to him by Abraham *Ibn Ezra (Devir, 2 (1920), 277; see M. Wilensky, Le nom d'Abou-l-Walîd (1932), 55–58), being the Hebrew forms of his surname (Ibn Janāḥ = "the winged," and hence Jonah = "a dove") and personal name (Marwan = Marinus).

His Life

Information about his life is extremely scant. Even his birthplace, his birth and death dates, and his father's name, are not known with certainty. He may have been born in Cordoba or in neighboring Lucena (Wilensky, in Tarbiz, 4 (1932/33), 97–99). However, it is known that he was educated at Lucena and studied, according to his own statement, under R. Isaac b. Levi *ibn Mar Saul and R. Isaac ibn *Gikatilla. The former was, in his pupil's words, "one of the greatest philologists" (Derenbourg (1880), 333), whose poems Ibn Janāḥ read aloud to him, discussing their language with him as well as the meaning of various biblical words. Isaac ibn Gikatilla encouraged him to devote himself to the study of Arabic language and literature. Among other scholars of Lucena mentioned by Ibn Janāh are Abu al-Walid ibn Ḥasdai (Lumaʿ, 152; Derenbourg (1880), 317) and Abu Omar ibn Yaqūy (Uṣūl, s.v. א-ש-ד) who were likewise interested in grammar. Thus already in his youth Ibn Janāḥ devoted himself to philology, biblical exegesis, the language of the Mishnah, the Aramaic of the Targumim and the Talmud, as well as Arabic language and literature. He even tried his hand at writing poetry, but this he later abandoned (Lumaʿ, 305). In his youth he settled in (or returned to) Cordoba, where he lived until the persecutions of 1012. There he made a study of the grammatical works of Judah b. David *Ḥayyuj, with whom apparently he was not personally acquainted, either because Ibn Janāh was still a child at the time of, or came to Cordoba after, Ḥayyuj's death. Nor did he know Samuel ha-Nagid, with whom he later became involved in a written controversy on philological subjects. In Cordoba he studied medicine, which provided him with a livelihood throughout his life. The Arab historian Ibn Abi Uṣaybiʿa, in his biography of physicians (ed. August Mueller, 2 (1884), 50), mentions that Ibn Janāḥ was interested in logic and had an extensive knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew philology, and ascribes to him a no longer extant book on medicine, Kitāb al-Talkhīṣ ("The Book of Commentary"). Ibn Janāḥ left Cordoba when it was besieged by the Berbers (1012), and settled, after much wandering (Derenbourg (1880), 3), in Saragossa where he lived until his death. There, forming a circle of young scholars interested in linguistic questions, he wrote his philological works which, like his activities, aroused the opposition of some local talmudic scholars (Sefer ha-Rikmah, ed. M. Wilensky, 1 (19642), 11).

His Works

(1) Kitāb al-Mustalḥaq (Heb., Sefer ha-Hassagah, "The Book of Criticism"), based entirely on Ḥayyuj's system of the triliteral root, criticizes his grammatical writings, dealing first with the weak, the geminative, and finally the quadriliteral verbs. Assessing and supplementing Ḥayyuj's statements under almost every root, Ibn Janāḥ, according to his own evidence (Derenbourg (1880), 245) deals with more than 50 roots not mentioned by Ḥayyuj, with some 50 meanings of roots which he overlooked, and with more than 100 verbal forms (conjugations, tenses), in addition to including about 50 interpretations and some 40 theoretical philological topics. He began writing the book in Cordoba, but because of the necessity to flee and his subsequent wanderings, completed it only after settling in Saragossa.

(2) Risālat al-Tanbīh (translated by Judah ibn Tibbon as Sefer (instead of Iggeret, "The Epistle") ha-He'arah, "The Book of Admonition") is a reply to a work which, written in Saragossa under the title of Kitāb al-Istīfāʾ ("The Book of Detailed Occupation," and known as Sefer ha-Hashlamah, "The Book of Supplement"), criticized Ibn Janāḥ's Sefer ha-Hassagah and his failure to include yet further criticism of Ḥayyuj's writings. He refuted its arguments by replying to them in the form of a letter to a friend in Saragossa.

(3) In Kitāb (sometimes: Risālat) al-taqrīb wa al-Tashīl (Iggeret ha-Keruv ve-ha-Yishur, "The Epistle of Bringing Near and Making Easy"), a work intended for beginners, Ibn Janāḥ sets out to explain some difficult passages in the introductions to Ḥayyuj's writings. But he ranges beyond this framework and deals with fundamental grammatical subjects from his own point of view.

(4) Kitāb al-Taswiya ("The Book of Rebuke"; called Sefer ha-Tokhaḥat or Sefer ha-Hashva'ah by Judah ibn Tibbon) is Ibn Janāḥ's reply to the criticism which Samuel ha-Nagid and his friends leveled against his Sefer ha-Hassagah. He learned of these criticisms from one of Samuel's friends who was on a visit to Saragossa. After first enumerating the criticisms conveyed at that meeting, Ibn Janāh sets forth his refutation.

(5) Kitāb al-Tashwīr (Sefer ha-Hakhlamah, "The Book of Shaming") which Ibn Janāḥ often mentioned with pride is an answer to Samuel ha-Naggid's criticism contained in the latter's Rasāʾil al-Rifāq ("The Epistles of the Companions").

(6) Of paramount importance is Ibn Janāḥ's last work, Kitāb al-Tanqīḥ ("The Book of Minute Research") which Judah ibn Tibbon translated as Sefer ha-Dikduk. It is the first complete book on Hebrew philology to be preserved in its entirety. In range and theoretical basis no other work of Hebrew grammar can be compared to it. The work consists of two parts: the first, a grammar, entitled Kitāb al-Lumaʿ ("The Book of Variegated Flower-Beds"); and the second, a complete dictionary of biblical Hebrew, called Kitāb al-Uṣūl (translated by Judah ibn Tibbon as Sefer ha-Rikmah and Sefer ha-Shorashim respectively). The work as a whole is prefaced by an introduction, and an additional introduction prefaces Kitābal-Uṣūl. Sefer ha-Rikmah consists of 45 (46) chapters. The first chapter is a general survey of the parts of speech. Chapters 2–6 (7) treat the consonants, their accentuation, their function in a word as radicals or affixes, and their metathesis. Chapter 7 (8) deals with the transposition of vowels; 8 (9) apposition; 9 (10)–13 (14) etymology, and the formation and inflection of words; chapter 14 (15) vowel changes due to the gutturals; 15 (16) the function of the verb; 16 (17) pronouns; 17 (18) the copulative "vav"; 18 (19) the construct state; 19 (20) conjunctive and disjunctive forms; 20 (21) relative forms; 21 (22) elision; 22 (23) prevention of elision; 23 (24) the plural and the dual; 24 (25)–33 (34) linguistic irregularities: ellipsis, pleonasm, repetition, hapax legomena, inverted order, etc.; 34 (35)–35 (36) interrogation and vocalization of the interrogative he; 36 (37) the definite and indefinite articles; 37 (38)–42 (43) gender; and finally 43 (44)–45 (46) number. Sefer ha-Shorashim, a complete dictionary of biblical Hebrew, includes not only the words derived from roots but the pronouns and particles, as well as the names of weights and measures, birds and stones, but not, as a rule, personal or place names. The operative unit of the dictionary is the root, whose letters Ibn Janāḥ designates by their Arabic names, as for example, al-alif, al-bāʾ, al-lām (= א-ב-ל). The entire work, which also contains exegetical excursuses on difficult biblical passages, is divided into 22 sections arranged alphabetically according to the first root letter, while within each section the roots are arranged according to the alphabetical order of the second and third root letters, the exception being those with a duplicated letter which come at the beginning, e.g., בב before באל ,בדד before בדא, and so on. Each article has the different forms derived from the same root as also their Arabic translation, the affinity between which and the Hebrew word Ibn Janāḥ sometimes discusses. For an elucidation of grammatical questions he refers the reader to Sefer ha-Rikmah, to his other works, and to those of ḥayyuj.

Manuscripts, Printed Editions, and Hebrew Versions

Ibn Janāḥ's works, with the exception of Kitāb al-Tashwīr (5), are extant in their original form in their entirety or almost so. Of Kitāb al-Tashwīr only a small fragment, comprising the end of the introduction and the beginning of the work itself, has been discovered. At present contained in the Firkovich collection in Leningrad, it was published by Derenbourg (1880, xlix–liii). Works 1–4 have been preserved together with those of Ḥayyuj in a manuscript completed in Cairo in 1316 by the copyist Joseph b. Solomon and now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Neubauer, 1453). This manuscript, which has the works in the order of 3, 1, 2, 4, was published by Derenbourg (1880) in the sequence given by Ibn Janāḥ in the introduction to his grammatical work (Lumaʿ, 16 = Rikmah, 27) and adopted in this article. In publishing Kitāb al-Taswiya (4) Derenbourg also used a manuscript from the Firkovich collection. According to Kokowzoff (1911, 1228), the second Firkovich collection has numerous fragments of these works belonging to eight or nine independent manuscripts, some of which are extremely early, one dating from 1119, another from 1126, and still another from 1144. Kitāb al-Mustalhaq (1), as published by Derenbourg, is deficient in the two articles ר-ו-ח and ס-ב-ב which are, however, contained in some of the Leningrad manuscripts (idem, 1229–132). Four of the five works have been translated into Hebrew. Kitāb al-Mustalḥaq (1) was translated by Obadiah (12th century?) under the title of Sefer ha-Hassagah, published by D. Tenné (2005) on the basis of two extant manuscripts: one, known as the Epstein manuscript and which Isaac b. Yosht completed copying in 1225, was in the Library of the Vienna Community (Schwarz, 1931, 68) until the Holocaust and is now in the Yehuda collection of the National and University Library, Jerusalem. The second manuscript is in Rome, Casanatensa library (Kokowzoff, 3132 = Sacerdote, 209) and a copy of it is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Neubauer, 2509). Risālat al-Tanbīh (2) and Kitāb al-Tashwīr (5) were translated in 1254 at Béziers by Joseph b. Job, and Kitāb al-Taqrīb wa al-Tashīl (3) by Jacob b. Isaac *Roman (first half of the 17th century), but neither translation is extant. Kitāb al-Tanqīḥ (6) has been preserved in its entirety in both its Arabic original and Hebrew translation. Two manuscripts of Kitāb al-Lumaʿ, which together compose four-fifths of the work, are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Neubauer, 1459, 1462), and on their basis Derenbourg (1886), with the active participation of Bacher, published the work. An incomplete third manuscript in the British Museum (Ms. Or. 2595) was used by Derenbourg (1886) to supply the missing part of the two manuscripts, but not to determine the passages common to all three. Derenbourg also used a fragmentary manuscript of 1161/62 from the second Firkovich collection. In any case, the bulk of Derenbourg's edition (pp. 72–204, 292–349) is based on only one manuscript. The existence of four or five manuscripts of Kitāb al-Lumaʿ, some complete and very early, is mentioned by Kokowzoff (1911, 1235). Neubauer (1875) published Kitāb al-Uṣūl on the basis of a unique, complete manuscript (Neubauer, 1461) dated 1421 and two incomplete manuscripts, the Rouen manuscript and the Oxford manuscript (idem, 1462). W. *Bacher (1894) found an additional fragment in the Rainer collection, Vienna, while the existence of six or seven additional manuscripts, some complete, in the second Firkovich collection in Leningrad was reported by Kokowzoff (1911, 1235). In the meantime yet another manuscript was found in the British Museum, Ms. Or. 4837 (= Margoliouth, 953). The printed versions of Ibn Janāh's works are far from satisfactory, and hence the need for a scholarly edition of his complete writings based on all the known manuscripts. The two parts of Kitāb al-Tanqīḥ (6) were translated into Hebrew by Judah ibn Tibbon who finished the translation of Kitāb al-Uṣūl in 1171. (On other attempts at translation, see Bacher, 1894, xxxv–xxxvi.) The first of Ibn Janāḥ's works to appear in print, Sefer ha-Rikmah, has been published twice; first by Goldberg-Kirchheim in 1856. This edition, which is faulty and not to be recommended, is based on two Paris manuscripts (Zotenberg, 1216, of the 13thand 1217 of the 14th centuries respectively). It was published a second time by Wilensky (1929–1931) on the basis of the same two manuscripts as well as two additional ones, the Escorial manuscript (complete) and the Oxford manuscript (Neubauer, 2510), and issued in a second edition by Tenné (1964). Sefer ha-Shorashim was published by Bacher (1894, 19682) on the basis of a complete manuscript in the Vatican (Cod. Urbin. 54) and a fragmentary one in the Escorial.


Ibn Janāh complained that in his day there were no reliable texts in Spain (Lumaʿ, 238, 323 = Rikmah, 253, 338), and hence he based his readings on codices of the Bible, having, according to his own testimony, used the Jerusalem (Ereẓ Israel) and the Babylonian codices (Lumaʿ, 238 = Rikmah, 253; Derenbourg, 1880, 106), as well as a Damascus codex (Lumaʿ, 242 = Rikmah, 257). In some passages he also mentions unspecified codices of the Bible. He had a particularly high regard for a Jerusalem codex (Lumaʿ, 238, 323 = Rikmah, 253, 338) brought to Spain by Mar Jacob, a pilgrim from Leon. Ibn Janāḥ adhered strictly to the masoretic text, which he frequently mentions. He used the variant readings of the ketiv and the keri, the terms מלעיל and מלרע as employed in the masoretic literature, and the differences between *Ben-Asher and *Ben-Naphtali. The masoretic works he refers to are Okhlah ve-Okhlah, Sefer ha-Kolot (Kitāb al-Muṣawwitāt), and Dikdukei ha-Te'amim. Ibn Janāḥ made extensive use not only of the Targumim on the Bible, Targum Onkelos on the Pentateuch and the Targum on the Prophets, but also of the language of the Talmud. In Sefer ha-Shorashim he compares the mishnaic and the biblical language 257 times and frequently mentions the Tosefta. In Sefer ha-Rikmah he refers 67 times to the Babylonian Talmud and twice to the Jerusalem Talmud. While not mentioning the halakhic Midrashim by name, he quotes numerous statements from the Sifra, two from the Sifrei, and one from the Mekhilta. Under the name of Bereshit de R. *Hoshaiah, Ibn Janāḥ quotes from Genesis Rabbah, refers once to Sefer Yeẓirah, and mentions prayers, piyyutim, and a Palestinian paytan, *Yose b. Yose. In quoting geonic literature he refers to *Yehudai, *Saadiah, *Ḥefez b. Yaẓli'ah Resh Kallah, *Sherira, *Samuel b. Hophni, and *Hai. In particular he used Saadiah's Tafsīr and Sharh without however mentioning them explicitly. Of contemporaneous poets he refers to *Menahem b. Jacob ibn Saruq, *Dunash b. Labrat, Isaac ibn Mar Saul, Judah b. Ḥaniga (?), and Isaac *ibn Khalfun. Ibn Janāḥ makes but scant mention of the grammarians before Ḥayyuj. Although he refers to Saadiah's Kutub al-Lugha, he states that he did not use it (Rikmah, 39, 193), the work having apparently not reached Spain. He also mentions Saadiah's Pitron Shivim Millot as well as philological topics from the latter's commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah. Of the other grammarians who preceded him, Ibn Janāḥ mentions incidentally Judah *ibn Quraysh, Menahem b. Saruq, and Dunash b. Labrat. By contrast he cites hundreds of times Ḥayyuj and his works, to which his indebtedness was so considerable that he refers the reader to them, even advising the latter to study them before turning to his own great work.

His Influence

In the shaping of Hebrew philology, ibn Janāḥ's influence has no parallel in extent, depth, and persistence. In the 11th century he was already mentioned and/or quoted by Isaac *ibn Yashush, Moses b. Samuel Ha-Kohen *Gikatilla, Judah *ibn Bal'am, and Bahya ibn Paquda, in addition to Samuel ha-Nagid with whom he became involved in a controversy. The 12th-century authors who mention and/or quote him are very numerous, among them being Abu Ibrahim Isaac *ibn Barun, Moses ibn Ezra, the Karaite *Jacob b. Reuben, Abraham *ibn Ezra, Abraham ha-Levi *ibn Daud, Samuel ibn *Jama, Joseph ha-Konstantini, Nathanel, the Karaite Judah (Ha-Avel) b. Elijah *Hadassi, Solomon b. Abraham *Parḥon, Joseph *Kimḥi, *Zerahiah b. Isaac ha-Levi Gerondi, Judah ibn Tibbon, *Maimonides, Menahem b. Simeon of Posquières, and Moses b. Sheshet. Ibn Janāḥ was likewise mentioned or quoted by authors of the 13th century onward, some of whom knew his writings in the original, others in the Hebrew translation. Thus from the 12th century all or some of his works were known not only to philologists, and those writers who had recourse to philology, but also to exegetes, both Rabbanite and Karaite, whether they wrote in Arabic or Hebrew. The exception to this dependency were commentators of the school of *Rashi who were unacquainted with the works of both Ḥayyuj and Ibn Janāḥ. The works of the Samaritan grammarian Abu Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Faraj b. Mārūth contain statements which are identical to those of Ibn Janāḥ, whom he does not, however, mention by name (see Ben-Ḥayyim (1957), 640, S.V. Jonah ibn Janāh). The philological works written in the 12th and 13th centuries, such as those of Abraham Ibn Ezra and David *Kimḥi, may with every justification be said to be popular editions or popularizations of Ibn Janāh's philology, particularly its practical aspect.

His Personality

From Ibn Janāḥ's writings there emerges the image of a scholar who made the quest for truth the sacred duty of his life. According to his own testimony, he read the Bible eight times when preparing his great work, and expended on oil for light what others did on wine. His devotion to truth can be epitomized in the dictum which he quoted: "Truth and Plato strove. Both of them are friends of ours, but truth is closer to us."


M. Wilensky (ed.), Ibn Janāḥ, Sefer ha-Rikmah, 2 vols. (1969); idem, Le nom d'Aboû-l-Walid (1932); D. Tenne, in: Sefer ha-Rikmah, 2 (1969), 691–710; J. and H. Derenbourg, Opuscules et traités d'Abou-l-Walid ibn Merwan ibn Djanah de Cordoue (1880); J. Derenbourg (ed.), Ibn Jannah, Le Livre des parterres fleuris,… (1886); W. Bacher, Leben und Werke des Abulwalid Merwan ibn Ganach (R. Judah) und die Quellen seiner Schrifterklaerung (1885); A. Neubauer (ed.), The Book of the Hebrew Roots (1875, repr. 1968). add. bibliography: I. Eldar, "Le-Toledot ha-Mahloket ha-Dikdukit bein Ibn Janah li-Shemuel ha-Nagid, be-Ikvot Gilluyo shel Keta Genizah mi-Sefer ha-Hakhlamah le-Ibn Janah," in: Mehkarim ba-Lashon ha-Ivrit u-vi-Leshonot ha-Yehudim Muggashim li-Shelomo Morag (1996), 41–61; D. Becker, Mekorot Arviyyim le-Dikduko shel Rabbi Yonah ibn Janah (1998); A. Maman, Comparative Semitic Philology in the Middle Ages from Sa'adiah Gaon to Ibn Barun (10th-12thcent.) (2004).

[David Tenne]

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