A new dictionary of the Aramaic language, to be called The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, has been in preparation by an international team of scholars since 1986, currently with headquarters at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. This major scholarly reference work will cover all dialects and periods of ancient Aramaic, one of the principal languages of antiquity, with a literature of central importance for history and civilization, and especially for the Jewish and Christian religions.
Many dictionaries of some part of Aramaic exist, but individually and as a whole they are inadequate in important ways. Lexical treatment of Aramaic has been fragmented. Existing dictionaries treat one dialect, or one body of literature, but not the whole language. It is as though we had a dictionary of Shakespeare, and one of Hemingway, without having a dictionary of English! An additional hurdle in the path of users is that Aramaic dictionaries are written in an imposing variety of living and dead languages: not only English but also German, French, Russian, and Latin! Many of the existing dictionaries do not come up to modern standards of accuracy, and practically all are seriously incomplete and out-of-date. Practically every area of Aramaic studies has been enriched by recent discoveries: new inscriptions, new papyri, new scrolls, and new fragments from the Cairo Genizah, a synagogue store-room where a trove of manuscripts was discovered in the 19th century. These recently discovered materials demand inclusion in a lexicon.
The new lexicon is to be comprehensive in the following ways: 1) it will take in all of ancient Aramaic, not just selected portions; 2) it will be based on a new and thorough compilation of all Aramaic literature, not just on existing dictionaries; 3) it will take account of all modern scholarly discussion of the Aramaic language.
The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon is to he published in book form, as a multi-volume set. In addition, the work of the project will lead to the compilation of textual, lexical, and bibliographic data bases which can be distributed and consulted through computers and related technology. Leading up to the lexicon volumes there have been and will continue to be a series of preparatory monographs, consisting of dialect dictionaries, manuals of procedure for the project, editions of texts with concordances, bibliographies, and the like. Our primary publisher is the Johns Hopkins University Press.
The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon has received support in the form of outright grants and federal matching funds (requiring that the project raise equivalent funds from other sources) from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The National Endowment is a federal agency that funds the study of such fields as history, philosophy, literature, and languages. The project is also supported in part by private contributions and additional private and foundation support is being sought. Outsiode support is particularly needed at this crucial stage of citation collection.
The current web site is a tool for scholarly research. It presumes that users are already familiar with the materials they are researching, and should not be misinterpreted as being a complete lexicon at this stage. Our intent is to put the actual lexicon online when at least 50% of all glosses are justified by extensive textual citations. When that occurs depends on funding levels.
For further information, please contact Prof. S. Kaufman. Please DO NOT send requests for for translations from Aramaic for engagement rings and tattoos!