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Introduction To Syriac Paperback – September 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0936347981 ISBN-10: 0936347988
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Editorial Reviews


I wish that this grammar had been around when I was learning Syriac. Thackston's grammar is without doubt the best introduction to the Syriac language presently available, and although I have not been asked to write an overview of introductory Syriac grammars, I find that some comparison will be necessary. Thackston's introduction far surpasses Robinson's trusted grammar in several areas: better exercises, clearer explanations, a better glossary, a real index, and a very nice chrestomathy.
On the whole, this is the best teaching grammar for Syriac that is presently available, and in spite of a few weaknesses, it is far superior to its nearest competitor, which in my opinion remains Robinson's venerable (and out of print) grammar. --Stephen J. Shoemaker. Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies

From the Publisher

A Key to Exercises & English-Syriac Vocabulary has been published to accompany this book. The ISBN is 1588140458.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Ibex Pub (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0936347988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0936347981
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Weaver on January 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
After having tried to learn Syriac (without too much success) from a number of texts (Healey, Ungnad, Muraoka, Robinson), this grammar was like a breath of fresh air! For me, the Syriac script was the major sticking point. Professor Thackston gets the student past this obstacle by using unpointed Estrangela, and by giving transliterations of all paradigms, examples, and vocabulary. In a clear introduction to the sounds and script, he covers the complexities of syllabic division, accentuation, and spirantization in a succinct and understandable manner. There are twenty lessons, and the methodology is similar to that of Lambdin (Biblical Hebrew, Coptic) and Huehnergard (Akkadian): several grammatical points explained clearly, with examples; vocabulary (in Estrangela and in transliteration); and sample sentences / reading exercises. Although I'm only on Lesson 3, I find this book stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable. I'm certain that after completing this text, the conscientious student should have no trouble tackling the New Testament with the aid of a dictionary, or going back to the other works (cited at the beginning of this review) to get extra practice in grammar and reading. The only thing that I feel would have improved this text is a key to the exercises. What I'm doing is to translate the Syriac sentences into English, and after a day or two, translate them back into Syriac, and compare them with the original. This, along with a careful reading of the grammatical principles, gives good feedback. Professor Thackston saw fit to publish a key to his "Introduction to Koranic and Classical Arabic"; hopefully we'll see a key to this work some day as well. But all in all, a pleasure and a wonderful resource.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Many Westerners see the historical split between East and West in Christendom in 1054 as creating a monlithic 'East'; whereas the Western church split into a myriad of sects, from the Western perspective, the East seemed fairly uniform. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, as increasing attention in history, culture, and language studies complement the study of religion in the Eastern realms. Thackston's book on Syriac is one such study that helps to broaden the understanding of Christian history and the cultural diversity of the East.
If you've never heard of Syriac, you are not alone. Syriac literature flourished in the third century C.E. forward, primarily around the major city of Edessa, which was one of the trading centres of the Eastern Roman Empire, so important as a crossroads that evidence exists as far afield as Iceland and China, Ethiopia and northern Russia of traders who made the trek for goods from (or to trade their goods in) Edessa. Ephraim, one of only a handful of saints beyond the apostles to be acknowledged by practically every branch of the church, was from Edessa; his hymns were carried back with the travellers along the trade routes.
Syriac played a crucial role in the preservation of Greek literature in the Islamic times, which later was reintroduced to Europe prior to the Renaissance. Syriac continues as the the liturgical language of some churches, such as the Malabar Church of St. Thomas in India, and the Jacobites and Maronites in the Near East; it is also the classical language of the Nestorians and the Chaldeans. The Mongol language script is a derivative of Syriac.
Syriac is related to various Aramaic strands (Babylonia, Palestinian, Samaritan) and Canaanite (Ugaritic, Hebrew, Phoenician).
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By olaf01 on March 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a difficult review to write. On the negative side, there are simply an unacceptable number of typographical errors--including some baffling errors/ editorial decisions(????) in the chrestomathy. This text book is in dire need of a second edition to correct the numerous publication errors that have found their way into the text.
That being said...
This is arranged and set up as a VERY nice introduction to the Syriac language. In organization and grammatical treatment, it does indeed represent a large step forward from Robinson's grammar. It presupposes no prior knowledge of Semitic language, is clear in its presentation of grammatical concepts, and does a very good job of balancing vocalized forms (in transliteration) with their (as will almsot always be encountered) unvocalized forms in Syriac script.
I fully recommend the use of this grammar--however, because of the fact that numerous errors have crept into the published version, it should only be used in a class taught by an individual with a good knowledge of Aramaic and Semitic verbal morphology.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By buddy balagia on August 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm now in my second read of the book, and can actually read my Peshitta (although very slowly)! This grammar uses a great and easy teaching method, and it's easier to use than most other Greek/Hebrew grammars. It's also very affordable, compared to other Syriac/Aramiac grammars and language tools.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Paul Stevenson VINE VOICE on March 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be an excellent introduction to Syriac. For the most part, it is adequate for self-taught students. I worked through the lessons on my own in two months (though I suppose I should add that I have some knowledge of Hebrew and Arabic, and considerable experience in numerous non-Semitic languages, so this was far from my first introduction to a foreign language). The points are presented in an order that is useful to a learner and at a manageable rate. The earlier lessons are rather short, which is helpful as one gets started with a new language. The lessons get longer as the student gains greater familiarity with the language and can assimilate more at a time.

A great strength of the book is its introduction of the perfect form of the verb starting in the first lesson. The presentation of the full paradigm of the perfect in Lesson 2 allows English-speaking students, who will not be used to gender distinctions in verbs, to get accustomed to this feature quickly.

The Estrangelo font used in the book leaves something to be desired. In particular, it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish the letter _het_ from the two-letter sequence _nun-yod_. That said, though, I think that Thackston's use of the unpointed consonantal script with transliteration is a great service to the student. The constant use of transliteration is particularly good for helping the student to see which consonants are doubled and which are not. This is a feature that is not marked in any way Theodor Noldeke's Compendious Syriac Grammar or J. Payne Smith's
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