Philologastry

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

Mandaic Aphorisms, II

The Doctrine of John (p. 44, ln. 10) presents us with yet another gem:

ṭubẖ lman ḏaqria bmia umia beudnẖ laiit
“Happy is the one who is swept away (?) by the water and doesn’t get any water in his ear.”

This is another great example of a phrase that is transparent at first glance but still eludes parsing. The verb aqria likely comes from the root √ʔ-q-r “to uproot” (or, to quote Drower and Macuch, “to uproot, tear loose, tear away, eradicate, detach, destroy, exterminate, break down, tear down,” which is used in several idioms such as aqar apra “dust was whirled off” or aqria ziqia “the winds break loose,” both of which are evidently intransitive despite the transitive nature of the root. Perhaps an impersonal plural is intended? “They uproot the dust” = “the dust is uprooted” or “they uproot the winds” = “the winds are uprooted.”

Clearly this form is somehow related to the others dealing with winds and dust. Could aqria be a variant spelling of aqrẖ, “he uprooted him”? That would be orthographically, morphologically, and syntactically feasible but semantically meaningless.

Could this be the C-stem perfective of a root √q-r-ʔ ? Just such a root exists, and it even means “to tear,” but it never appears in the C-stem, not in Mandaic and not in any other dialect with which I’m familiar. Plus, the expected from would be aqra, not aqria, and it would mean “he causes to tear,” which is even less meaningful in this context. What about a variant spelling for the G-stem passive participle qria? A prothetic a is not at all uncommon before initial consonant clusters, especially after a proclitic, and especially in this text. Given the similarity of forms derived from these two roots and the strong possibility of contamination between them, it’s possible that aqria has taken the form of the G-stem passive participle of √q-r-ʔ with the meaning of the root √ʔ-q-r.

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