JONAH, RABBI (ABULWALID MERWAN IBN JANAH, also R. MARINUS) (c. 996-4;. 1050), the greatest Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer of the middle ages. He was born before the year 990, in Cordova, studied in Lucena, left his native city in 1012 and, after somewhat protracted wanderings, settled in Saragossa where he died before 1050. He was a physician, and Ibn Abi Usaibia, in his treatise on Arabian doctors, mentions him as the author of a medical work. But Rabbi Jonah saw the true vocation of his life in the scientific investigation of the Hebrew language and in a rational biblical exegesis based upon sound linguistic knowledge. It is true, he wrote no actual commentary on the Bible, but his philological works exercised the greatest influence on Judaic exegesis. His first work composed, like all the rest, in Arabic bears the title Almuslalha, and forms, as is indicated by the word, a criticism and at the same time a supplement to the two works of Yehuda 'Hayyuj on the verbs with weak-sounding and double-sounding roots. These two tractates, with which 'Hayyuj had laid the foundations of scientific Hebrew grammar, were recognized by Abulwalid as the basis of his own grammatical investigations, and Abraham Ibn Daud, when enumerating the great Spanish Jews in his history, sums up the significance of R. Jonah in the words: " He completed what 'Hayyuj had begun." The principal work of R. Jonah is the Kitab al Tanfcih (" Book of Exact Investigation") , which consists of two parts, regarded as two distinct books the Kitab alLuma (" Book of Many-coloured Flower-beds ") and the Kitab alusul (" Book of Roots "). The former (ed. J. Derenbourg, Paris, 1886) contains the grammar, the latter (ed. Ad. Neubauer, Oxford, 1875) the lexicon of the Hebrew language. Both works are also published in the Hebrew translation of Yehuda Ibn Tibbon (Sefer Ha-Rikmah, ed. B. Goldberg, Frankfurt am Main, 1855; Sefer Ha-Schoraschim, ed. W. Bacher, Berlin, 1897). The other writings of Rabbi Jonah, so far as extant, have appeared in an edition of the Arabic original accompanied by a French translation (Opuscules el Irailes d'Abou'l Walid, ed. Joseph and Hartwig Derenbourg, Paris 1880). A few fragments and numerous quotations in his principal book form our only knowledge of the Kitab al-Tashwir (" Book of Refutation ") a controversial work in four parts, in which Rabbi Jonah successfully repelled the attacks of the opponents of his first treatise. At the head of this opposition stood the famous Samuel Ibn Nagdela (S. HaNagid) a disciple of 'rjayyuj. The grammatical work of Rabbi Jonah extended, moreover, to the domain of rhetoric and biblical hermeneutics, and his lexicon contains many exegetical excursuses. This lexicon is of especial importance by reason of its ample contribution to the comparative philology of the Semitic languages Hebrew and Arabic, in particular. Abulwalid's works mark the culminating point of Hebrew scholarship during the middle ages, and he attained a level which was not surpassed till the modern development of philological science in the 19th century.
See S. Munk, Notice sur Abou'l Walid (Paris, 1851); W. Bacher, Leben und Werke des A bulwalid und die Quellen seiner Schrifterkldrung (Leipzig, 1885); id., Aus der Schrifterkldrung des Abulwalid ( Leipzig, 1889); id., Die hebr.-arabische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalid (Vienna, 1884) ; id., Die hebrdisch-neuhebrdische und hebr.-aramdische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalid (Vienna, 1885). (W. BA.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)