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Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed" in TranslationA History from the Thirteenth Century to the Twentieth$
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Josef Stern, James T. Robinson, and Yonatan Shemesh

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226457635

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226627878.001.0001

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Rabbi Yosef Qafih’s Modern Medieval Translation of the Guide

Rabbi Yosef Qafih’s Modern Medieval Translation of the Guide

(p.257) 9 Rabbi Yosef Qafih’s Modern Medieval Translation of the Guide
Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed" in Translation

Y. Tzvi Langermann

University of Chicago Press

The various translators of Maimonides’ Dalālat al-ḥāʾirīn, medieval and modern, all had an excellent command of Arabic. However, only two of them can be considered native speakers: Yehudah al-Ḥarizi and Yosef Qafih. While Samuel Ibn Tibbon may well have spoken Arabic at home, he did not grow up in an Arabic-speaking environment. The ability of native speakers goes far beyond the ability to communicate freely in the language; they are familiar with the entire culture of expression for which the language is the main medium. Native speakers possess sensitivity to nuance and innuendo that is nearly impossible to teach, or even for emigrants to pass on within their households. Rabbi Yosef Qafih had yet another advantage: he was born and spent his formative years in the Yemen, a country in which medieval traditions of philosophy and astronomy, close to those in which Maimonides himself was involved, were very much alive.

Keywords:   Qafih, Yemen, Arabic, Hebrew Translations

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