This is a note to advise readers of a relatively new 250-page survey of Aramaic studies that they might have missed: one that might well be so entitled. In his weighty volume Semitic Linguistics in Historical Perspective, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 230 (Peeters, 2014), Edward Lipiński devotes the lion’s share to the various Aramaic dialects, reviewing both the history of scholarship on the major works in each dialect as well as linguistic studies. Basically a collection of course notes assembled over 40 and more years of teaching, it not surprisingly omits some of the more detailed recent scholarship in the individual fields and often tends to over-emphasize publications that may not quite merit the value he ascribes to them, but it surely can serve as an introduction to the field to non-specialists and as useful reading material for classes taught by specialists.
As always, we invite specialists’ comments on the publication.
I invite reviews of the new book by Holger Gzella: A Cultural History of Aramaic From the Beginnings to the Advent of Islam (Brill, 2015), available, like most recent Brill publications in our fields, in ebook format (even online in violation of copyright for those who know how to find it–email me)!
Those who have not yet seen the book should be warned that the title is completely misleading and must have been developed by the advertising department at Brill. I would not blame Prof. Gzella for it. It intends to be a history of the language, not a cultural history. Herewith the key explanatory paragraph:
Since Aramaic was not used by one well-defined speech community but by
very different groups and in quite distinct social contexts, this work does not
focus on the history of Aramaean peoples and their culture throughout the
ages. Rather, it follows the language in its meanderings from the Ancient Near
Eastern city-states and empires via the Greco-Roman matrix cultures into the
The logic of that paragraph may not be obvious, but so it is.