What is CAL?

A new dictionary of the Aramaic language, entitled The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, is currently in preparation by an international team of scholars, with headquarters at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio USA. This major scholarly reference work covers 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.

Why a New Lexicon?

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existing dictionaries do not come up to modern standards of accuracy, and practically all are seriously incomplete and out-of-date.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.

A Comprehensive Lexicon

The new lexicon is comprehensive in the following ways: 1) it includes all of ancient Aramaic, not just selected portions; 2) it is based on a new and thorough compilation of all Aramaic literature, not just on existing dictionaries; 3) it takes into account modern scholarly discussion of the Aramaic language.

Publication

(View current list of publications)

When the project was conceived, in the mid-1980's, we hoped to publich the Lexicon in book form, as a multi-volume set. In addition, the work of the project has lead to the compilation of textual, lexical, and bibliographic data bases. 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 publishers have been the Johns Hopkins University Press and Eisenbraun's.

With the rapid development of Web technology since the onset of the project, and limited funds, it soon became clear that development of a WWW site was a greater contribution to scholarship than a printed volume would be at this stage. The many advantages of the online site over a printed dictionary are detailed elsewhere.

Project Support

The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon originally received substantial 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, and has also been supported in part by private contributions. Outsiode support is particularly needed at this crucial stage of citation collection.

The online Web Site

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. Any scholarly citations of data from the CAL should include the date of the search results and cite the CAL as "Stephen A. Kaufman, et al., The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (http://cal.huc.edu)".

 

For further information, please contact Prof. S. Kaufman. Please DO NOT send requests for for translations from Aramaic for engagement rings and tattoos!

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