The estimable Studiolum at Poemas del río Wang has a post about (to quote Wikipedia) “the only female Arabic-language Jewish poet attested from medieval Andalusia, and […] one of few known female Jewish poets throughout the Middle Ages.” He talks about the fragmentary remains of “the Andalusian Arab culture that flourished for eight hundred years” and of “the Jewish poetry in Judeo-Arabic that was born under Arabic influence in Cordoba in the 10th century,” then continues:

And if we know so little from Jewish poets, it is quite an exceptional coincidence that we are left with poems from a Jewish poetess as well. We know that women also wrote poems in Andalusia, and their contemporaries held these poems in high esteem, but we know only one medieval Jewish poetess, Qasmūna bint Ismāʿil – we know only her Arabic name, not the Jewish one – of whom only three poems survive. They were discovered by James Nichols in a 15th-century Arab poetic anthology by as-Suyūti from the Maghreb.

Qasmūna learned the craft from her father, Ismāʿil ibn Naghrilla, by his Jewish name Samuel ha-Nagid (993-1055), the grand vizier of the Zirid dynasty in Granada, and an acknowledged member of the Jewish poetry circle of Granada, which was presented by Ann Brener in her Judah Halevi and His Circle of Hebrew Poets in Granada.

I like the poems he quotes, especially the one about the gazelle, though I have little grasp of how Arabic poetry works. But I have a question about her name. The Wikipedia article says “sometimes called Xemone,” and Xemone looks like an odd equivalent for Qasmona. Anybody know what’s going on?


  1. This article, by María Ángeles Gallego, says,

    Qasmuna’s name is probably an Arabic diminutive of the Hebrew root qsm, which means to be seductive, charming, a sorceress. There could also be another possibility: it could be the feminine of the Arabic name Qasmun, which means somebody with a beautiful, pretty face. Qasmuna thus could either mean the little charming one or the one with a beautiful face.

    (I’m guessing the Arabic root is cognate to the Hebrew one.)

    The rest of the article is interesting too. Whether she was Shmuel Ha-Nagid’s daughter is uncertain, and in fact it’s not certain that she was Jewish.

  2. Great to discover another Andalusi poet – a contemporary of Ibn Hazm, no less, who as it happens I was just telling my son about. There is, however, something very odd about saying, without further explanation, that these were “discovered” by some obscure Western scholar in a work by al-Suyuti, a famous, prolific, and widely read author whose books remain in print to this day. Doubly so if al-Maqqari records them too, as the article Y links indicates.

    I’ve often talked about the problems with the term “Judeo-Arabic”, but this is a particularly good example. The language of these poems is perfect Classical Arabic, the script they were recorded in Arabic, and the scribe Muslim; if the (apparently uncertain!) identity of the writer is enough to make these Judeo-Arabic, then we might as well say George Steiner wrote in “Judeo-English”.

  3. The Arabic Wikipedia article has only English-language sources, for what that’s worth. But I agree with your main point.

  4. Gallego’s usage, “Qasmuna bat Isma‘il”, seems oddly macaronic (Hebrew bat for Arabic bint).

  5. Here is the start of the relevant section of al-Suyuti’s well-known anthology of women’s poetry, Nuzhat al-Julasā’ fī Ash`ār in-Nisā’ (The Delight of Sitters in the Poetry of Women); she gets a whole entry to herself. But, in fairness, this book was apparently first printed only in 1986; it’s not one of al-Suyuti’s best-known works, though with the rise of feminism it has gained new interest.

  6. And here is the relevant page of al-Maqqari’s Nafah at-Tib, which has been in print since the mid-1800s (but perhaps not all of it?)

  7. Thanks for those links, Lameen!

    There is, however, something very odd about saying, without further explanation, that these were “discovered” by some obscure Western scholar in a work by al-Suyuti

    I agree. Very odd, to say the least!

    (but perhaps not all of it?)

    The whole passage of al-Maqqarī dealing with our poet, along with her surviving verses, is there, in print, on p. 356 of Dozy’s edition, which was printed 1858–1861, according to the title page.

  8. I’m guessing the Arabic root is cognate to the Hebrew one.

    For an overview of the West Semitic root *qsm “divide, distribute, assign, ordain, practice divination”(?), see here. Since all the other languages have this root only in meanings directly related to divination, I am wondering if the prominence or centrality of the sense “divide, distribute” in Arabic is a development particular to that language (“back-formed”, so to speak), with the starting point being form 10 istiqsam, “to seek to know what was allotted through belomancy”. Or does Arabic preserve the original meaning “cut up, apportion”, with only the specialized senses remaining in all the other languages? The latter approach seems to be advocated by Victor Avigdor Hurowitz in this article, pages 417–418.

    The name Qasmūn looks as it is formed with the hypocoristic/diminutive suffix -ūn, which seems to have been especially beloved in al-Andalus, considering Badrūn from Badr, Ḥafṣūn from Ḥafṣ, Ḥamdūn from Aḥmad, etc., Ḫaldūn (as in Ibn Khaldun) from Ḫālid, Zaydūn from Zayd, ʿAbdūn from ʿAbdullah, etc., ʿAmrūn from ʿAmr, etc., all names found in the pages of Andalusi history. There is an interesting article on these forms here. The name Qasmūn is said to mean “one having a handsome face”. Is it most directly a diminutive of qasīm, “beautiful, handsome, elegant, fine”, then? The semantics of the derivation of qasīm from the root *qsm would be like English well-favored “good-looking, handsome” and Spanish agraciado, I suppose.

  9. Xemone looks like an odd equivalent for Qasmona.

    In his treatment here, number 228, p. 270, Steinschneider seems to dismiss any association of the name Qasmūna with the name “Ximena”. Is Xemona (which should have the Old Spanish value of the letter x as [ʃ]) then a variant of Ximena taken as a feminine of Šimʿôn שִׁמְעֹון by folk-etymology?

  10. Very plausible!

  11. J.W. Brewer says

    “Qasmūna bint Ismāʿil” somehow by free-association reminded me of the anti-monarchist rant in MP & the Holy Grail where the fellow tells Arthur ‘If I went round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!’ Shurely shome coinshidence, I thought to myself. But then the internet advised me that BrEng “bint,” as derogatory slang for a woman or girl, does in fact derive ‘from Arabic بِنْت‎ (bint, “girl, daughter”), from Proto-Semitic *bint-, used to denote a patronym’ with the story going ‘The term entered the British lexicon during the occupation of Egypt at the end of the 19th century, where it was adopted by British soldiers to mean “girlfriend” or “bit on the side”.’

  12. How little poetry can one write and still be considered a poet?

    If the English language examples are the entirety of her known output, how are scholars inferring lost poetry?

    Is the literary value of these pieces so remarkable (perhaps in the original Arabic), that even in scarcity their quality shines through?

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    There’s not a lot left of Sappho (though more than this, admittedly.)

  14. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I am fairly tolerant of ‘discovered’ to mean ‘made known to an audience where it was not known before’ in any case*, but having skimmed the Nichols paper he doesn’t seem to make any claim of the kind anyway – it’s more a general description of something which has always been there but might not have been noticed as much as it deserves.

    (*See also ‘normal’ meaning ‘a perfectly common thing to do’ rather than ‘if you don’t do this you’re an abnormal freak.)

  15. PlasticPaddy says

    أرى بستانًا
    حيث حان الوقت
    للحصاد ،
    لكني لا أرى
    بستاني يمد يده
    نحو ثماره
    يذهب الشباب ويتلاشى ؛ أنتظر وحدي
    بالنسبة لشخص ما لا أرغب في تسميته
    Ayā rawḍatan qad ḥāna min-ha qaṭāfu-ha
    wa-laisa yurâ ḥānin yamudda la-ha yadā;
    fa-wā asafī yamdī-shshabābu mudayyaʿan
    wa-yabqâ-lladhī mā lanʾusammī-hi mufradā.

    English (wikipedia)
    I see an orchard
    Where the time has come
    For harvesting,
    But I do not see
    A gardener reaching out a hand
    Towards its fruits.
    Youth goes, vanishing; I wait alone
    For somebody I do not wish to name.

    I believe the I of the poem is what one might term a “horny teenager” in America.
    Song of songs, Canto IV.
    [12] A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
    [13] Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard

  16. David Marjanović says

    Shurely shome coinshidence, I thought to myself.

    I have long wondered about binette de banlieue; but of the meanings mentioned on Wiktionary and even Le Dico des Ados for binette, “face” comes closest, and I’m pretty sure that’s not how I’ve heard it used. Looks like some reinterpretation happened in the banlieue.

  17. PlasticPaddy, the Arabic and the translation correspond, but the transliteration is of something else.

  18. PlasticPaddy says

    Oops. I checked that way but had no easy way to check the transliteration, which i took from Wikipedia. I will try to make a transliteration from the Arabic script using an online tool.

  19. I’m reminded of a question I’ve meant to research myself, but still haven’t, What’s the rules/governing factors for fronting of i in Arabic? Ar. ibn vs. bint vs. Heb. ben. Ar. ishma’el vs. Heb. sh(e)mu’el: From the Rio Wang post: Lat. Hispalis > Ar. Ishbilia vs. Cast. Sevilla (by hypercorrection?).

  20. PlasticPaddy says

    This does not really look like poetry to me:
    ari bstānnā
    ḥīṯ ḥān al-ūqt
    llḥṣād ,
    lknī lā ari
    bstānī īmd īdh
    nḥū ṯmārh
    īḏhb al-šbāb wytlāši ; antẓr ūḥdī
    bālnsbẗ lšẖṣ mā
    lā arġb fī tsmīth
    Maybe someone who has a better tool (or can read the script😊) will provide something better…

  21. Both the Arabic and the transliteration are provided in the post I linked to.

  22. David Eddyshaw says


    Classical Arabic doesn’t have /e/ or /o/ as phonemes at all: it preserves the three-way Proto-Semitic a/i/u short-and-long system. (Biblical) Hebrew bēn “son”, ʔēl “god” have lowered the original short /i/ vowel (and then secondarily lengthened it, except in construct forms.) [Arabic versions of Bible names are often based on Hebrew or Aramaic versions, rather than corresponding exactly etymologically: they may in consequence reflect the Hebrew or Aramaic lengthening of Proto-Semitic short vowels.]

    However, even in Classical Arabic, there is a phenomenon of fronting of long /a:/, called

    This is especially a characteristic of Western colloquials (and Maltese); it accounts for the name “Seville”, and (probably) for the archetypal Spanish exclamation ¡Olé!

  23. David Eddyshaw says

    To be more accurate, I should perhaps explain that the Aramaic versions of such Bible names are themselves modelled on Biblical Hebrew wrt vowel length; Aramaic itself just turned short vowels in unstressed open syllables to schwa everywhere*, and didn’t do the Hebrew thing of lengthening short vowels in stressed syllables, either, except in pausal forms.

    There’s a fair bit of Aramaic-origin vocabulary in Classical Arabic.

    * Probably quite late: the Tiberian pointing doesn’t directly reflect how Imperial Aramaic was pronounced. That language probably still had the original short vowels there, except word-finally.

  24. Trond Engen says

    Thanks, but I see I asked the wrong question. I meant the orfward emtathesis.

  25. “أرى بستانًا
    حيث حان الوقت

    This appears to be a rather literal back-translation from the English version of the poem, which is kind of hilarious. Where did you find it? The transliteration is of the original though.

  26. I actually have come across her name before and included it in the Hangul transcription guide for literary Arabic names that I prepared last year. According to my recommendation, it would be written 카스무나 빈트이스마일 Kaseumuna binteu-Iseumail in Korean, where eu [ɯ] represents the usual epenthetic vowel.

    Dissatisfied with the proposal for transcribing Arabic into the Korean alphabet that had been put forward by the National Institute of the Korean Language as well as with the modified version endorsed by the Korean Association of Arabic Language and Literature, I prepared my own recommended rules for transcribing literary Arabic and a list of examples to illustrate this, mostly consisting of names of people from the pre-Modern period. This was due to my belief that for names of modern people and places, we are better off transcribing into Hangul on the basis of the contemporary vernacular Arabic forms.

    So I tried to assemble a pretty broad list of names up to the early 19th century from all over the Arabic-speaking world, and ended up coming across Qasmuna in the course of this search. When I read about “the only female Arabic-language Jewish poet attested from medieval Andalusia”, I immediately recognized that I had encountered her name before, so that was pretty cool.

  27. David Eddyshaw says


    Ah. I should have realised that you would already know about the vowel quality … how could I have doubted it?

    Dunno. I don’t think there are all that many examples of that in Classical Arabic nouns, at any rate.

    Technically, they don’t have an initial vowel at all in Classical Arabic: the initial i- is epenthetic, and drops after a preceding word-final vowel. The phenomenon is called waṣlah in Arabic grammar; the nouns that do it are -bnu(n) “son”, -bnatu(n) “daughter”, -smu(n) “name”, -stu(n) “buttocks”, -mru’u(n) “man” and -mra’atu(n) “woman.” It’s also seen in -thnāni “two”; however, the process is regular in quite a lot of verbal forms, and (above all) with the article (a)l-. In the verbal forms the epenthetic vowel is often a copy of the stem vowel; it’s not always /i/.

    “Two” is peculiar in Biblical Hebrew too: the feminine š(ə)tayim has the stop allophone of /t/, despite the preceding schwa; if there is a preceding schwa …

    So in some cases, there may not have been a vowel phoneme between the first two consonants in the first place. The same might well go for qtul- type imperative forms and the like. (This wouldn’t explain the behaviour of the Arabic article though.)

    There are those among us who will know more …

  28. PlasticPaddy says

    I think emirates wikipedia, because I was searching via the poet’s name in Arabic to find the poem in Arabic, thinking this was a sensible approach, even though hat had already provided a link with the text of this poem. I withdraw everything and apologise. Hat should really delete all my posts on this thread for clarity.

  29. David Eddyshaw says

    Now I think of it, Classical Arabic -mru’u(n) “man” actually manages the impressive feat of having no specific vowels of its own at all, despite (unlike -bnu(n) etc) having a properly triliteral root and everything, just like a good and well-behaved Semitic noun ought to do: nominative -mru’u(n), accusative -mra’a(n), genitive -mri’i(n). I admire this degree of commitment. Simplicity is for creoles.

  30. @PlasticPaddy: No need to apologise – easy mistake to make. This site seems to be devoted entirely to automatic translations of English Wikipedia. Why would such a site exist, I wonder? Purely for search engine gaming, or does someone find it useful?

    @David: Not sure what the current consensus is, but one argument for this being old is the Aramaic correspondences, where you get r instead of n in Cn- forms (bar, trē).

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    Good point. I hadn’t thought of that.

  32. Incidentally, I quite like her father’s line:

    أنت والعشر كلمات أشعر مني.

    “By the Ten Commandments, you are more of a poet than I.”

    for the word aš`ar “more of a poet”, a regularly formed comparative from the noun šā`ir “poet”. In some languages, such as English, comparative morphology is diagnostic of adjectives; not so in Arabic…

  33. Trond Engen says

    David E.: Ah. I should have realised that you would already know about the vowel quality … how could I have doubted it?

    I know more now than I did before. Also, I forget things I know on a regular basis, so no reason not to doubt anything. But it wasn’t what I meant to ask about.

    I gather that the i- of all the high number forms of Arabic verbs has essentially the same origin, as a prothetic vowel added when a prefix added to the triliteral root makes it phonotactically necessary. I was also thinking about nominal forms of the type ‘islam, ‘Iqbal, etc. — if that’s a different origin, or if it maight be contrastive emphasis on an originally prothetic vowel in the nominal forms. But I think I’ve figured out that the glottal stop is part of the prefix, and that the vowel -i- is essentially epenthetic in the zero-grade form the prefix takes in the verbal noun.

  34. David Marjanović says

    the word aš`ar “more of a poet”, a regularly formed comparative from the noun šā`ir “poet”.

    As a wise man said, I admire this degree of commitment.

    In German, as it happens, “poet” already looks like a comparative:

    Dichter “poet” (m.)
    dichter “denser”

    (Unfortunately unrelated; dichten “to compose poems” is from dictāre, evidently borrowed in the narrow time window between the HG consonant shift and the common but not Proto-West-Germanic syncope that made /kt/ clusters possible.)

  35. See Stu in 2015:

    Checking with Duden, I see that there is no “it” as in my scare quotes, no “the word dichten”. Instead there are two etymologically unrelated words: dichten[1] and dichten[2]. The one meant in this context is

    dichten [mhd. tihten, ahd. dihton, tihton = schriftlich abfassen, ersinnen < lat. dictare, diktieren]

    So it goes back to “dictare”.

    The other dichten is a transitive verb formed from “dicht” = “impermeable” or “dense”:

    dicht [mniederd. dicht(e); dafür frühnhd. deicht, mhd. dihte, eigtl. wohl = fest; undurchlässig, verw. mit gedeihen]

    The relationship between “dicht” and “gedeihen” = “flourish” is intriguing. Plants that grow well when they are firm and don’t leak.

  36. But I think I’ve figured out that the glottal stop is part of the prefix

    Yes; it seems to derive from the older causative prefix h- (still marginally attested in early Classical Arabic in the synchronically anomalous verb harāqa yuharīqu “pour” for later ’arāqa yurīqu), and thence ultimately from proto-Semitic *š- and proto-Afroasiatic **s-.

    On another note, her father is most famous for a poem in Hebrew beginning “Libbī bammizrāḥ wǝ’anōkhī bsōf ma`arāv” – “My heart is in the East (mizrāḥ), and I am in the furthest West”. Now East in Aramaic is madnḥā. D to z would be regular for proto-Semitic dh, but what is going on with this seeming n-r correspondence, in the opposite direction from “son” or “two”? Does anyone know a theory for this?

  37. How little poetry can one write and still be considered a poet?

    There is that poet none of whose works could ever be found, because it turned out that he was a horse and the poetry was when he moved. Which is rather Arabian, come to think of it.

  38. Now East in Aramaic is madnḥā. D to z would be regular for proto-Semitic dh, but what is going on with this seeming n-r correspondence, in the opposite direction from “son” or “two”?

    Kogan 2015, p. 429:

    [Official Aramaic] dnḥ ‘to rise (sun)’ (Beyer 1984:556, DNWSI 256, 597, DJPA 153, LSyr. 159).
    # Usually treated as a variant root to Hbr. zrḥ with the same meaning (HALOT 281), presumably < *ḏrḥ in view of Arb. ḏarāḥ- ‘milk mixed with a larger quantity of water,’ ˀaḥmaru ḏarīḥiyyun ‘intensively red’ (Lane 960). For its coexistence with *wŝˀ̣ in Official Aramaic v. Folmer 1995:633.

    I don’t understand the semantics of the Arabic examples.

    Some speculations on bar/ben are here. It’s interesting that the r form also appears in MSA.

    Neither of these up-to-date summaries explain the matter definitively.

  39. David Eddyshaw says

    “it is interesting to note that the greatest of Semitists, Nöldeke, offered no explanation, confessing that he simply did not understand the origin of the resh in the Aramaic form.”

    When you’re a great Semitist, you can come right out and say that you just don’t know. (I’ve an uneasy feeling that there may be a Moral lurking here …)

    The early bar/bir/bur variation is interesting. I didn’t know about that at all.
    It’s eerily reminiscent of the Arabic -mru’u(n) “man” word. If the Proto-Semitic form of “son” really did have no vowel phoneme between the b and r (or n), maybe an epenthetic vowel was introduced in Proto-Aramaic which (originally) reflected the quality of the case-ending vowel, and the variants got stranded with the collapse of the case system.

  40. If I had to guess (based on no data) I’d say that ben and bar come from unrelated roots. Maybe *ḏrḥ / ḏnḥ is a case of the phenomenon (still not adequately explained) of precocious root consonant alternation, as in the Hebrew ‘cut’ verbs (which we discussed here once).

  41. David Eddyshaw says

    I’d say that ben and bar come from unrelated roots

    It would seem odd for so basic a word as “son” to vary in such a closeknit group as (ancient) Semitic. But then again, Akkadian has mārum and Ethiopic uses wald instead.

    Come to that, Bantu has ditched the “child” stem bi used by pretty much everybody else in Volta-Congo, and my own forebears borrowed a Latin word to express the exotic concept. Perhaps “basic” is not the word I’m looking for …

    (Not only are the various words for “brother” and “sister” of different origin in Kusaal and its very close relative Mampruli [97 ticks on the Swadesh-100 list], but not even their semantic ranges match.)

    On the other hand, it looks as if it might be significant that Aramaic has the r-for-n thing in “two” as well as “son”, and as Lameen points out, these words also have another problematic feature in common. It’s tempting to link the problems …

  42. January First-of-May says

    and my own forebears borrowed a Latin word to express the exotic concept

    Meanwhile, Russian had apparently replaced the singular form of the word for “child” by a word that probably originally meant something like “small slave”, but the inherited term survives in archaic registers and in the suppletive plural.

    Of course I suspect that “son” might be a more basic word than “child” (cf. the rather infamous case of “sibling”, a term so generic that it ended up borrowed into a lot of languages from English – which in turn had to borrow it from Old English).

  43. If they did not borrow a Latin word to express an exotic concept a million of languages including Russian (but starting from Gaelic) would not have the word “clan”.

  44. On the other hand, it looks as if it might be significant that Aramaic has the r-for-n thing in “two” as well as “son”

    And MSA as well. OK, I’m more convinced now.

  45. And the MSA root for ‘sunrise’ is śrḳ (in Johnston’s orthography).

  46. BTW Russian:
    vostok “east”, literally “up-flow”,
    [rassvet “sunrise” (the sight of it), literally “out-light”]
    vosxod “[sun]rise” usually with “…of-Sun”, literally “up-walk”.

    zapad “west”, literally “down-fall” (more literally “behind” rather than “down”)
    zakat “sunset” (the sight of it, also poetically about empires etc.), literally “down-roll”
    zaxod “[sun]set”, usually with “…of-Sun”, literally “down-walk”.

    French est-ouest, orient-occident, levant-couchant and ponant in all their meanings.
    And so on.

  47. flow, fall, roll, walk. Up and down, around.

  48. David Eddyshaw says

    Kusaal has Nya’aŋ “East” (“behind”) and Tuon “West” (“in front”), along with Barʋg “North” (“Bisa country”) and Zueya “South” (“hills.”)

  49. In all other cases ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ have, respectively, the forms (ɛ)brɛ́ (def. ɛbrɛ́; pl. mín, īn) and brit (def. ɛbrít; pl. bóntə, ōntə)
    Mega linguistics pack/Afro-Asiatic/Semitic/Shehri; The Jibbali (Shaḥri) Language of Oman (Rubin).pdf

  50. my own forebears borrowed a Latin word to express the exotic concept.

    Some Turkic languages have both a native word бала and a Persian borrowing فرزند/farzand—perhaps for a product made in a different way.

  51. perhaps for a product made in a different way.

    That reminds me of the joke about the “pore honest sailor” at the end of Canto XII:

    “You called me your father and I ain’t.
    “I ain’t your dad, no,
    “I am not your fader but your moder,” quod he,
    “Your fader was a rich merchant in Stambouli.”

  52. Thanks Y – I should have thought to check Kogan. I guess the semantic link is supposed to be that the sunset looks reddish – though I can’t imagine that milk mixed with water would…

    David: wld has pretty well taken over for “son” in North Africa too, as it happens (bn is pretty much just for personal names and frozen compounds now in many dialects.)

  53. Since JC’s site seems out of kelter/kilter, I think I’ll post New Year congratulations here:

    Head uut aastat

    And in searching for this I came across Elizabeth Paavel:

  54. David Marjanović says

    the r-for-n thing

    In the interest of obscurum per obscurius I’ll bring up the IE heteroclites. No, I don’t understand those either. 🙂

    I guess the semantic link is supposed to be that the sunset looks reddish – though I can’t imagine that milk mixed with water would…

    It does if you shine a light at a sufficient length of it on one side and look at the light from the other side – and for the exact same reason as a sunset or sunrise: Rayleigh scattering.

    Looking at it at anything around 90° to the light makes it look blue, again for the same reason.

    Some Turkic languages have both a native word бала and a Persian borrowing فرزند/farzand—perhaps for a product made in a different way.

    Gothic had sunus and magus, the latter possibly meaning “son from the mother’s point of view” at some point and probably cognate with the Celtic *makkʷ- mystery in some way.

  55. In the OT, zrḥ mostly appears in the sense of the shining/glowing of the sun, occasionally in the figurative sense of glowing (Is. 59:10, 60:1; Ps. 112:4), and in one case referring to a rash (2 Chr. 26:19).

    I’m guessing ‘glowing’ is the primary sense, ‘sunrise’ is secondary. Maybe the Arabic color term means ‘bright red’ rather than ‘sunrisee red’? Could the MSA roots glossed as ‘sunrise’ be later loanwords from some other Semitic language?

  56. @David Marjanović: One of the custom-built physics demos at MIT had a yellow incandescent light shining through a tank of (I think) sugar solution. Adding a bit of sulfuric acid increased the number if scatterers, and we could watch the transmitted light turn red as the reaction proceeded.

  57. Nöldeke” – I guess it is this text by Nöldeke (from this page and above, in German). Carlo Landberg in Glossaire daṯînois (part I) has this intriguing line: “Nöldeke n’admet pas la permutation des sonores en sémitique. J’en donne 1759 et ss. une longue liste de l ≶ n et de l ≶ r. ” I wonder what is “1759” (there is part II, I tried page 1759 and I do not see une longue liste:()

  58. Ah, stipud me. It is here

  59. Soqotri (bin: SED) surprised me.

    I do not know much about South Arabian (not in the sense of “being able to keep a learned conversation about etymologies”, neither in the sense of “being able to keep a conversation with speakers”:)), and if Mehri/Jibbali looks strange in terms of forms, Soqotri is semantically crazy. African?

    They have a verb “to give birth” and a lot of derivatives. The Corpus of Soqotry Oral Literature groups with those names for mother, father and “children”:

    bíre (du. biríti, pl. birhétən) ‘woman in labor’ sg. 8:19, pl. 8:19
    bɛ́rhe indi-bɛ́rhe ‘father’ 10:2
    ⁋ In 6:35 di-bɛ́rhe appears with the meaning ‘daughter,’ presumably abbreviated from
    bórhe indi-bórhe ‘mother’ 10:3
    mə́brəhe m.(du. mə́broy, pl. əmbórye) ‘child’ sg. 9:5+, pl. 2:51+
    əmbórye ‘children’ can be used about one’s child and his/her marital partner: 22:50 (“the sultan’s daughter and her husband” are “the sultan’s children”).

    And this word for children is particularly frequent. Meanwhile bɛr according to dictionaries means anything. Girls, boys, lambs, even:
    à indiquer une qualité d’un homme : ber di śiraḥ « l’homme au grand nombril »

    Without alteration sg. b-r pl b-n as in Mehri. It is still less frequent than mə́brəhe.

  60. but what is going on with this seeming n-r correspondence

    I was thinking sporadic *r > n after spirantized in Aramaic. It would have been in such a position in מדנחא maḏnḥā “east”, and in the pe’al imperfect, the aphal, etc., of the root. It would also cover… Nebuchadnezzar (Nabû-kudurri-uṣur), as here and here, if we consider the form with n to be an Aramaism in Hebrew.

    Just kidding, just kidding. Happy New Year, y’all.

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