Panini, Sanskrit and software development

BBC Radio 4 is currently exploring aspects of Indian history based on biographies of 50 important Indian historical figures: Incarnations: India in 50 Lives. Yesterday’s programme happened to be on the Indian grammarian Panini, whose grammar—according to this programme—played a pivotal role in making Sanskrit the lingua franca of South Asia for more than a millennium.

If you like Sheldon Pollock, you will enjoy the episode on Panini, as Pollock briefly speaks about Sanskrit and cosmopolitanism. Towards the end of the programme he suggests that Sanskrit’s role in developing literacy contributed to India’s success in software development, contrasting this with China as a hardware developing country. I am not entirely convinced by this, but it is interesting thought nonetheless.

You can catch up with the episode on BBC Radio 4.

Final -y

Juan Jose, Ferrer-Losilla. 2014. Final -y in Non-Manichaean Parthian and the Proto-Parthian ‘rhytmic law’  (Cahiers de Studia Iranica 52). Peeters Publishers.

This work traces the uses of the co-called “final -y” in Inscriptional Parthian, and provides the distributional rules that govern its presence or absence in certain words. Following the introduction, the bulk of this study consists of three main headings involving, firstly, the presentation of the Aramaeographic forms and the words outside the nominal inflexion, secondly, the classification of the nominal forms in connection with the final -y and, finally, a feasible history of the Parthian nominal inflection.

Iranische Personennamen

Hutter, Manfred. 2015. Iranische Personennamen in der Hebräischen Bibel (Iranisches Personennamenbuch Bd. 7 / Faszikel 2, Iranische Onomastik 14, Sitzungsberichte der Philosophisch-historischen Klasse 860). Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Der Band verbucht insgesamt 54 Namen der Hebräischen Bibel (einschließlich der Abschnitte in Aramäisch), für die eine iranische Deutung sicher oder plausibel ist; ferner werden 17 Namen kritisch diskutiert, für die in der Forschung unterschiedliche iranische Herleitungen vorgeschlagen wurden, die jedoch abzulehnen sind. Mit dem Band liegt somit ein verlässliches Referenzwerk vor, durch das die Einträge dieser Namen in Ferdinand Justis „Iranischem Namenbuch“ (1895) und die Analyse von Isidor Scheftelowitz („Arisches im Alten Testament I“, Königsberg 1901), auf die in Studien zur Bibel im letzten Jahrhundert regelmäßig verwiesen wurde, überholt sind. Für alle 71 Namen werden – soweit eine Entsprechung vorliegt – für spätere Studien die Namensform der Septuaginta sowie die Belege nachgewiesen. Nach in der Regel kurzen Angaben zur Prosopographie liegt der Schwerpunkt des Textes in der Diskussion der etymologischen Deutungsmöglichkeit(en), wobei auch Herleitungen der Namen aus semitischem Sprachgut evaluiert werden. Ausführliche Register erschließen das onomastische Vergleichsmaterial. Neben dem Ertrag für die Iranistik ist der Band von besonderem Interesse für die Bibelwissenschaften.

Vers une édition de la liturgie longue zoroastrienne

03_J2_YH35Cantera, Alberto. 2014. Vers une édition de la liturgie longue zoroastrienne: Pensées et travaux préliminaires (Cahiers de Studia Iranica 51). Peeters Publishers.

The long liturgy is the most important ceremony in Zoroastrian priestly tradition. Most extant Avestan texts have been composed for their performance within this liturgy. It is highly likely that it acquired its current form, in which it is still celebrated, during the Achaemenid period or even earlier. Like any living ceremony with a long history, it has several synchronic and diachronic variations. Nevertheless, current editions of the Avestan text recited in the liturgy do not take into account its ritual nature, synchronic variations or its evolution over time, or even the changes in the way the text itself is recited. The aim of this book is to report on the recent discoveries that raise doubts over the methodology used in current editions, and propose certain alternatives in order to further the debate.

A cultural history of Aramaic

Gzella, Holger. 2015. A cultural history of Aramaic: From the beginnings to the advent of Islam. Leiden/Boston: Brill.

Aramaic is a constant thread running through the various civilizations of the Near East, ancient and modern, from 1000 BCE to the present, and has been the language of small principalities, world empires, and a fair share of the Jewish-Christian tradition. Holger Gzella describes its cultural and linguistic history as a continuous evolution from its beginnings to the advent of Islam. For the first time the individual phases of the language, their socio-historical underpinnings, and the textual sources are discussed comprehensively in light of the latest linguistic and historical research and with ample attention to scribal traditions, multilingualism, and language as a marker of cultural self-awareness. Many new observations on Aramaic are thereby integrated into a coherent historical framework

Comparative Oriental manuscript studies

Bausi, Alessandro & Pier Giorgio Borbone, Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet, Paola Buzi, Jost Gippert, Caroline Macé, Marilena Maniaci, Zisis Melissakis, Laura Parodi, Witold Witakowski (eds.). 2015. Comparative Oriental manuscript studies: An introduction. COMSt.

The present introductory handbook on comparative oriental manuscript studies is the main achievement of the Research Networking Programme ‘Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies’ (COMSt), funded by the European Science Foundation from June 2009 to May 2014. Within the framework of the five-year programme, several hundred scholars from ‘central’ as well as ‘marginal’ fields related to manuscript study and research had the opportunity ofexchanging ideas and discussing diverse approaches, looking for common ground and a better understanding of the others’ reasons and methodology in manuscript studies: from codicology to palaeography, from textual criticism andscholarly editing to cataloguing as well as conservation and preservation issues, and always taking into account theincreasing importance of digital scholarship and the natural sciences.

Alberto Cantera and Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst discuss in this volume Zoroastrian manuscripts and the Turfan fragments.

Forgotten origins of modern humanities

From the book’s webpage: ‘The humanities today face a crisis of relevance, if not of meaning and purpose. Understanding their common origins—and what they still share—has never been more urgent’.

Turner, James. 2014. Philology: The forgotten origins of the modern humanities. Princeton University Press.

Many today do not recognize the word, but “philology” was for centuries nearly synonymous with humanistic intellectual life, encompassing not only the study of Greek and Roman literature and the Bible but also all other studies of language and literature, as well as religion, history, culture, art, archaeology, and more. In short, philology was the queen of the human sciences. How did it become little more than an archaic word? In Philology, the first history of Western humanistic learning as a connected whole ever published in English, James Turner tells the fascinating, forgotten story of how the study of languages and texts led to the modern humanities and the modern university.

For more information, see here.