Glossarium Græco-Arabicum

The database Glossarium Græco-Arabicum makes available the files of a lexical project, intended to open up the lexicon of the mediæval Arabic translations from the Greek. It contains images of the filecards (ca. 80,000) which have not yet been published in the analytical reference dictionary A Greek and Arabic Lexicon (Leiden: Brill, 1992ff.), and comprises Arabic roots from the letter jîm to the end of the Arabic alphabet.

From the eighth to the tenth century A. D., Greek scientific and philosophical works were translated wholesale into Arabic. This activity resulted in the incorporation and reorganization of the classical heritage in the new civilization which, using Arabic, spread with Islam.

The object of project Glossarium Graeco-Arabicum is to make readily available to scholars the direct information which the Graeco-Arabic translations contain for several areas of research. These include:

– the vocabulary and syntax of Classical and Middle Arabic;
– the development of a scientific and technical vocabulary in Arabic;
– the vocabulary of Classical and Middle Greek;
– the chronology and nature of the translation movement into Arabic; and
– the establishment of the texts of Greek works and their Arabic translations.

Since 1980, the materials available in earlier glossaries, included in editions of the texts both published and unpublished, were compiled in a systematic layout on index cards, and were considerably enlarged in the course of the continuing work on the project from the original source texts, available in manuscript and in critical editions.

On this basis, a group organized by Gerhard Endress (Ruhr University of Bochum) and working in cooperation with Dimitri Gutas (Yale University, New Haven, Conn.) started to prepare the Greek and Arabic Lexicon, being the first attempt to present in a rationalized and systematic way the lexical results of Graeco-Arabic studies during the past hundred years, and a workbook containing methods and materials toward the compilation of a comprehensive Graeco-Arabic thesaurus in the future.

In this workgroup, scholars competent in both Greek and Arabic collaborated to compile materials from printed glossaries, to parse Greek texts and their Arabic translations from printed editions and manuscript sources, to enter the references in card files, to verify these against the sources, and to add the context in both languages, and finally, to elaborate the final dictionary articles for publication in the Greek and Arabic Lexicon. Supported by the Deutsche Forschungs¬gemeinschaft, which between 1992 and 2006 granted funds for one research assistant and a number of student helpers, this basic work was advanced most notably by Professor Hans Hinrich Biesterfeldt (co-founder of the project),Dr. Rüdiger Arnzen (co-author of vol. I of the Lexicon), Klaus Alshut, M. A., Dr. Cleophea Ferrari, Dr. Christel Hein, Dr. Stephan Pohl, Dr. Oliver Overwien, Dr. Jörn Thielmann, and several others who spent shorter periods with the project.

In compiling and analyzing the Sources which form the basis of the Glossarium Graeco-Arabicum, an endeavour has been made to include adequate testimonies of all the major disciplines of philosophy and the sciences. Not all of these were equally well represented in extant glossaries and in critical editions to serve as a ready-made basis for this purpose. Thus, medicine was well represented from the outset because the editors of translations of Hippocratic and Galenic texts saw fit also to prepare glossaries, Aristotelian logic only through Pollak’s glossary in his edition of the Arabic De Interpretatione, and mathematics basically only through Kutsch’s glossary in his edition of Nicomachus’s Arabic Introductio arithmetica. Partially to offset the imbalance in the coverage of technical terminology created by this state of affairs, a two-pronged approach was eventually adopted. First, word by word glossaries for some works from the neglected areas were prepared on cards. These include Aristotle’s Categories, Analytica posteriora, Physics, and De anima, Porphyry’s Eisagoge, and Euclid’s Elements. Second, individual works from the neglected areas were selected for occasional mining, especially of their technical terminology. These include primarily the remaining treatises of Aristotle’s Organon, his Historia animalium, the very influential Neoplatonic texts based on Plotinus’s Enneads (the Theologia Aristotelis) and Proclus’s Elements of Theology (the source of the Liber de causis), the equally widespread Hippocratic Aphorisms and Prognosticon, and — our only sample of the literature on theoretical astronomy — Ptolemy’s Hypotheses planetarum. Lately, a valuable contribution has become available through Manfred Ullmann’s Wörterbuch zu den griechisch-arabischen Übersetzungen des 9. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden 2002, Supplement, 2006–8), providing copious materials from the pharmacognostic and other, mainly medical literature.

The Glossarium Graeco-Arabicum thus contains a sufficiently representative sample of the entire range of Greek vocabulary and syntax, despite the limitations described. In particular, it registers every word encountered in our core source texts and not only the scientific vocabulary; it is not just a dictionary of technical terminology. Specifically, it should be noted that through the incorporation of the service words of both languages, the Glossarium also covers all the Arabic prepositions and particles (in which the letter alif is particularly rich) and will contribute, it is hoped, to a better understanding of this relatively neglected aspect of Arabic lexicography and syntax. Moreover, the materials are not restricted to philosophical and scientific discourse. Artemidorus’s Onirocriticon covers every-day language in all its aspects, Aelianus’s Tactica provide an illustration of practical instruction, while Aristotle’s Rhetoric offers a significant sample, if mainly through the authors quoted, of the literary language. Nevertheless, the limitations imposed by the nature and number of the source-glossaries could not be totally overcome, and completeness of coverage could not be envisaged. For this reason, readers ought to keep in mind that the absence of a term or correspondence from the Glossarium does not mean its absolute absence from our sources, let alone from the translation literature, and that its presence may not exhaust the significant range of its appearance even in our sources.

After sixteen years of work, only a part of the materials has been presented in the final shape of an analytical reference dictionary, the Greek and Arabic Lexicon (Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section I: The Near and Middle East, vol. XI, Leiden, Boston: E. J. Brill, 2002ff.).

The first complete volume (fasc. 1-7) comprises the Arabic lexemes of letter alif; the latest fascicle which at present is going to press leads the alphabet up to the root bzr. It was therefore decided to make the material compiled in filecards accessible in the form of a reference database, to be consulted through the Internet, and permitting to search for the Arabic and Greek lexemes, the authors and titles of the source texts. Each data set is linked to an image scanned from the card file which continues to be the point of departure for the elaboration of GALex.

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