Monday, February 07, 2005

Al-Quds

An interesting linguistic lesson from The Velveteen Rabbi. We pick up in the middle of a Hebrew session with her rabbi:

I learned that the dagesh (a diacritical dot) in the first letter of the word mishpatim ("laws" or "judgements") denotes a missing letter; there used to be a lamed before that word. In an apparent digression [the rabbi] asked, "What's the Arabic name for Jerusalem?" Al-Quds, I said. "And what does it mean?" It means the-Holy; the Arabic qds shares a root with the Hebrew word kodesh, and we too call Jerusalem "The Holy City," in Hebrew ir ha-kodesh. Turns out that same diacritical dot (the one denoting a lost "l" sound) appears at the start of the word kodesh: in some Semitic linguistic of Hebrew, we too would have said ha'l-kodesh. Al-Quds by any other name...


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