Marginal Notes on: Safaitic inscriptions published in The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook

This belongs to a series of “marginal notes” I will post on recently published Safaitic inscriptions.

In the 2011 The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook, Hayajneh published in his contribution on Ancient North Arabian two new Safaitic inscriptions (p. 775, fig 44.9a). The first is an inscription in the Safaitic square script. The texts come from northern Jordan, but no further details of the location are given.

Hayajneh (2011: 775, fig 44.9a; photo H. Hayajneh)

Hayajneh reads and translates the inscriptions as follows:

” l tm bn ṣrmt ḏ l mrt w rʿy ḍrk w ʾlt w dšr ġnyt

‘By Tm son of Ṣrmt of the tribe ʿmrt and he pastured Ḍrk (place name!). Oh Lt and Dšr (grant) wealth’. ”

The reading is sound, but I would restore an alif between the and l. Its absence is most likely the result of a writing error, as the loss of the glottal stop would yield a glide in this position. In fact both ḏwl /ḏū-āl/ and ḏyl /ḏī-āl/ are rarely attested. I would, however, like to suggest a better translation for ḍrk. Unattested toponyms are generally a last resort for the interpretation of these texts, since anything can be a toponym and context rarely rules out such an interpretation. Considering that prayers are often connected to the narrative component, I would instead suggest that ḍrk should be interpreted along the lines of Classical Arabic ḍaruka ‘to be struck by misfortune’; ḍarīk ‘poor, hungry’. In the context of pasture, I suggest that the word refers to scarcity, perhaps on account of a drought. Syntactically, it is an accusative of circumstance, so the phrase should be translated as /raʿaya ḍarīka/ ‘he pastured suffering from scarcity’. The prayer then petitions the Nabataean deity ds²r Dusares and the goddess ʾlt (Allāt) to alleviate his condition, asking for ġnyt /ġaniyyat/ ‘abundance’. The new translation is thus:

New translation

By Taim son of Ṣrmt of the linage of ʿmrt and he pastured suffering from scarcity so, O Dusares and ʾAllāt, let there be abundance!

The second inscription consist only of a name, which the edition reads as l ʾs¹lm bn ṣmʿn. Note that the strongly resembles an r, but the personal name rmʿn is not known.



Hayajneh, Hani. 2011. “Ancient North Arabian,” in Stephan Weninger with Geoffrey Khan, Michael Streck, and Janet Watson (eds.), The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswis-senschaft 36). Boston-Berlin. 756–782.