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The Semantics of Fire in the Targumim

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image of Aramaic Studies

‭Aramaic has two words for fire: nūr and ʾiššā. Utilizing the targumim as a corpus and qualia roles for classification, this paper presents a clearer understanding of the lexical meaning for the two words. In the earliest targumim, ʾiššā is a natural kind governed by a sacred agent. The word nūr, however, is an artifactual kind with a profane agent and an explicit purpose. Since the two words share the same Formal Role (same physical substance), there is a degree of overlap which led at first to their interchangeability and later to the predominance of nūr.‬

Affiliations: 1: The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, USA


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