The doings of American philologasters are, in truth, a curious study.

kbastai mkaruastai

Yoshamin’s speech in the ninth buta ends on a cryptic note:

hazin kbastai mkaruastai

libai biblia umalia natra

This is my kbasa and my mkaruasa;

My heart sinks in wailing and lamentations.

Both kbastai and mkaruastai are hapaxes. They are evidently feminine nouns (as the enclitic possessive pronoun –ai indicates). Lidzbarski makes the eminently sensible suggestion that the first is somehow related to the Mandaic root k-b-ṣ, itself cognate with Syriac q-p-ṣ “to contract.” He has no suggestion for the second word, which appears to be derived from a root k-r-w-s.

Such a root does not exist in Mandaic or any other Aramaic dialect. There is, however, a Syriac root q-r-p-s, which is synonymous with q-p-ṣ, as required by the context. The shift from q to k presents no particular difficulties, but how does p become u? To explain this change, we must first assume that p assimilated in voice to the following s, becoming b, and was subsequently fricativized to u.  Phonetic spellings of etymological *are rare but not unattested; Macuch cites several examples (§32), such as ṣauta for *ṣibta “ornament” (Syriac ṣeḇtā), or sual for sbal “he has borne.” In later texts, such as the aspar maluašia, examples abound.

Literally, the first half of the verse could be translated “this is my oppression and constriction;” more freely, it might mean something like “this oppresses and constrains me.”


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One thought on “kbastai mkaruastai

  1. Could he be discussing extreme constipation? Thus the “constriction,” followed by the “wailing” and “lamentations”?

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