Periphrastic Perfect in Classical Mandaic
I was inspired by a recent inquiry (from my colleague Dr. Eleanor Coghill at the University of Konstanz) to dig up the information that I have thus far on qtil l- and related constructions in the Doctrine of John. The qtil l- construction is an innovative means of rendering the perfect of transitive verbs in Aramaic. The action is rendered periphrastically, using the passive participle, and the agent is marked with the preposition l-, which is usually employed to indicate the patient of an action. This construction, which eventually replaces the old West Semitic “suffix conjugation” in Neo-Aramaic (save for Western Neo-Aramaic and, oddly enough, Neo-Mandaic), has been compared to the split ergative system of various Iranian languages (such as Pahlavi) as well as the perfect of Germanic languages and Romance languages such as Italian (ho mangiato “I have [something] eaten” = “I have eaten”) since Semitic languages like Aramaic also render possession with the preposition l-.
As portions of the Doctrine of John appear already in the Coptic Manichaean Psalm Book, and its final redaction probably occurred shortly after the Advent of Islam, the text provides a terminus ante quem for the appearance of this construction. I’ve found examples in two sections of the text so far. On page 26 of Lidzbarski’s edition, lines 1-5, Yoshamin, the rebellious Second Life, is speaking to the Messenger of the King of Light:
hakima ḏlahzilak dmutaiubintai ulaštilak bkasa minaiHow long have you not seen (la-hzi-l-ak) my likenessand my stature, and have you not drunk (la-šti-l-ak) from a cup with me?hakima ḏlaekilak pihta mn paturaiulagdilak klila ulatriṣlak brišakHave long have you not eaten (la-ekil-[l]-ak) the sacramental bread from my platter,nor woven (la-gdil-[l]-ak) the wreath, nor set [it] (la-triṣ-l-ak) upon your head?hakima ḏlahzilak dmutaiuṣautai lašreia elakHow long have you not seen (la-hzi-l-ak) my form and my light has not shined over you?
kḏ arza ḏhdirlẖ parzlaminilia ḏbildbabai hidrun elaiLike a cedar that iron has surrounded,the words of my enemies surrounded me.
hinela smiklia simakaḏiadana ḏlaiit balhudaiNevertheless, I took (smik-l-ia) solace in the factthat I know that I am not alone.ana šmilia mn ab ḏrurbiaḏmitauzipia el dirdqia mištaiiliabhaṭaiun uabahata lasania bniaI heard (šmi-l-ia) from my fatherthat the great who are joined/added (?) to the little will be held responsiblefor their sins, and fathers do not hate their sons.
ṣaida anat gadaiaḏnunia ḏagma laṣidlakYou are a lucky fisher,who did not catch (la-ṣid-l-ak) the fish of the marsh!lahzilak ekilta ḏnuniabgauaihun kanpia ekilta
You did not see (la-hzi-l-ak) the food of the fishwithin its receptacles.
ṭaibilun mn qipiauabihdia klila kalia
They will sink (ṭaib-i-l-un) under the surfaceand be restrained (kalia) with the circlet.darilun bdiguriauṭarilun minẖ mn aṭaria
They will be carried off (dari-l-un) in drovesand beaten back (ṭari-l-un) from the circlet.
lahazilan ṣaidia ḏdamilak
We never see (la-hazi-l-an) fishers that resemble you.
sqiria mala lṣaidausukana ḏnahnar bhauria
The fisher steers (mala) the sail-yardand the rudder, which brings light to the marshes.