Linguistic Variation in the Nabataean Aramaic of the Nabataean Period

John F Healey


One of the unusual features of the corpus of “Nabataean” texts is the fact that they are geographically spread over a very wide area (southern Syria, Jordan, Sinai and northern Saudi Arabia). The aim of the paper is to review the evidence of variation in the Nabataean Aramaic dialect in different regions of Nabataean presence. This variation is not easy to define in detail, but some broad features are clear and have been recognized since the early days of the study of Nabataean epigraphy (e.g. recognition of “Arabisms” by Th. Nöldeke). The variations are detectable on different linguistic levels: in phonetics (at least as detected in spelling), morphology, syntax and lexica. There is also some evidence of variation according to genres of text. All these aspects are reviewed and possible models of explanation are explored, taking account of the fundamental issue of the significance of regional differences in Nabataean culture


Nabataean language, language variation, regionalism

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