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Rabbi Jonah ibn Janah (Hebrew: יונה אבן ג'נאח, Arabic: أبو الوليد مروان بن جناح Abu-l-walīd Marwān ibn Janāh, Latin: Marinus) (ca. 990 in Córdoba - ca. 1050 in Saragossa), was a prominent Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer of the Middle Ages. He was born in Córdoba, and studied in Lucena after leaving his native city in 1012. After wandering Iberia, he finally settled in Saragossa. Rabbi Jonah was known to his contemporaries by his Arabic name Abu-l-walid, while the name ibn Janah (Arabic: "winged"‎) may have been appended because of his Hebrew name Yonah (Hebrew: "dove"‎).

He had training as a physician and is mentioned elsewhere as the author of a medical text, but seems to have found his true calling in the investigation of the Hebrew language and in scriptural exegesis. Although he wrote no actual commentary on the Hebrew Bible, his philological works exercised the greatest influence on Judaic exegesis and form the basis of many modern interpretations. His work is considered to have laid the foundations for scholarly Biblical exegesis (Glatzer 1964).

Rabbi Jonah's first work, al-Mustalha ("Complement"), is a critique and expansion of the work of Judah ben David Hayyuj, the founder of systematic Hebrew grammar studies. He is best known for the Kitab al-tanqih ("Book of Exact Investigation"), which is divided into two parts: the Kitab al-luma ("Book of the Many-Coloured Flower Beds") and the Kitab al-usul ("Book of the Roots"). The first focuses on the grammar of Hebrew, the second its lexicon. Rabbi Jonah's last work, his Kitab al-Tashwir ("Book of Refutation"), is largely lost. Like most Spanish Jews of the time, his works were written in Arabic.

See also

References

  • Nahum M., Glatzer (1964), "The beginnings of modern Jewish studies", in Altmann, Alexander, Studies in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Intellectual History, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 27–45  
  • W. Bacher, Leben und Werke des Abulwalid Merwan ibn Ganach, (Leipzig, 1885)
  • "Ibn Janah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006.
  • Ibn Janah, Abu al-Walid Merwan, Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-06
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

RABBI JONAH (ABULWALID MERWAN IBN JANAII, also R. Marinus) (c. 996 - c. 1050), the greatest Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer of the middle ages. He was born before the year 99 o, in Cordova, studied in Lucena, left his native city in 1012, and, after somewhat protracted wanderings, settled in Saragossa, where he died before 1050. He was a physician, and Ibn Abi Usaibia, in his treatise on Arabian doctors, mentions him as the author of a medical work. But Rabbi Jonah saw the true vocation of his life in the scientific investigation of te Hebrew language and in a rational biblical exegesis based upon sound linguistic knowledge. It is true, he wrote no actual commentary on the Bible, but his philological works exercised the greatest influence on Judaic exegesis. His first work - composed, like all the rest, in Arabic - bears the title Almustalha, ind forms, as is indicated by the word, a criticism and at the same time a supplement to the two works of Yehuda `Ilayyuj on the verbs with weak-sounding and double-sounding roots. These two tractates, with which `Ilayyuj had laid the foundations of scientific Hebrew grammar, were recognized by Abulwalid as the basis of his own grammatical investigations, and Abraham Ibn Daud, when enumerating the great Spanish Jews in his history, sums up the significance of R. Jonah in the words: "He completed what `Hayyuj had begun." The principal work of R. Jonah is the Kitab al Tank (" Book of Exact Investigation"), which consists of two parts, regarded as two distinct books - the Kitab alLuma ("Book of Many-coloured Flower-beds") and the Kitab alusul ("Book of Roots"). The former (ed. J. Derenbourg, Paris, 1886) contains the grammar, the latter (ed. Ad. Neubauer, Oxford, 1875) the lexicon of the Hebrew language. Both works are also published in the Hebrew translation of Yehuda Ibn Tibbon (Sefer Ha-Rikmah, ed. B. Goldberg, Frankfurt am Main, 1855 Sefer Ha-Schoraschim, ed. W. Bacher, Berlin, 1897). 1 The other writings of Rabbi Jonah, so far as extant, have appeared in an edition of the Arabic original accompanied by a French translation (Opuscules et traites d'Abou'l Walid, ed. Joseph and Hartwig Derenbourg, Paris 1880). A few fragments and numerous quotations in his principal book form our only knowledge of the Kitab al-Tashwir (" Book of Refutation") a controversial work in four parts, in which Rabbi Jonah successfully repelled the attacks of the opponents of his first treatise. At the head of this opposition stood the famous Samuel Ibn Nagdela (S. HaNagid) a disciple of `Ilayyuj. The grammatical work of Rabbi Jonah extended, moreover, to the domain of rhetoric and biblical hermeneutics, and his lexicon contains many exegetical excursuses. This lexicon is of especial importance by reason of its ample. contribution to the comparative philology of the Semitic languages - Hebrew and Arabic, infi particular. Abulwalid's works mark the culminating point of Hebrew scholarship during the middle ages, and he attained a level which was not surpassed till the modern development of philological science in the 19th century.

See S. Munk, Notice sur Abou'l Walid (Paris, 1851); W. Bacher, Leben and Werke des Abulwalid and die Quellen seiner Schrifterkldrung (Leipzig, 1885); id., Aus der Schrifterklarung des Abulwalid (Leipzig, 1889); id., Die hebr.-arabische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalid (Vienna, 1884); id., Die hebrciisch-neuhebraische and heb,.-aramaische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalid (Vienna, 1885). (W. BA.)


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