Semitic Programme

The following courses will be given within the Semitic programme:

Language Change in Ancient Syria-Palestine (1500-500 B.C.) (9.30 - 11.00)

Agustinus Gianto (Rome)

After a brief presentation of the basic resources for a historical-comparative study of the Semitic languages, the course will discuss the following topics:
1. The Semitic verbal system and the rise of the Hebrew and Aramaic verbal systems: theory and practice of reconstruction.
2. The "Canaanized" Akkadian of the Amarna Letters: a case in language contact with imperfect learning?
3. Grammaticalization and mechanisms of change across Northwest Semitic.
4. Variation in Classical Hebrew.
5. Linguistic creativity: lost and found in the grammar of Aramaic.

A selection of the instructor’s published papers on each the above topics will be made available to the participants at the beginning of the course.

The course is open to participants interested in historical linguistics without special background in Semitic languages.

S hort Bibliography
W.R. Garr, Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine 1000–586 B.C.E., Philadelphia: U. Pensylvania Press 1985.
H. Gzella (ed.), Languages from the World of the Bible, Berlin – New York: De Gruyter 2011
N.J.C. Kouwenberg, The Akkadian Verb and Its Semitic Background, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2010.
A.M.S. McMahon, Understanding Language Change, Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1994.
A.D. Rubin, Studies in Semitic Grammaticalization, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2005.
J. Huehnergard, "Afro-Asiatic", in: R.D. Woodard (ed.), The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia, Cambridge: Cambridge UP 2008, 225-46.

Biblical Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Philology (11.30 - 13.00)

Agustinus Gianto (Rome) & H. Gzella (Leiden)

Combining insights from traditional Semitic Philology, modern descriptive and historical linguistics, and literary scholarship, this course seeks to promote a better appreciation of Biblical Hebrew texts. We will pay close attention to various sample passages belonging to different genres, discuss some of the more subtle features of the language, and historically contextualize the material. The following areas will be covered in particular:
1. Basic notions of tense, aspect, and modality (Gzella-Gianto)
2. Historical prose: sample texts from different periods (Gzella)
3. Early Hebrew poetry in its Northwest Semitic background (Gzella – Gianto)
4. Classical Hebrew poetry: reading of representative texts (Gianto-Gzella)
5. Language, literature, and identity: the case of Second Temple Hebrew (Gianto) 

On the basis of specific examples, we will also treat some of the more controversial, though fundamental, issues of Hebrew grammar, such as the precise functions of the verbal forms and the evolution of the language during the first millennium B.C.E. We hope that this will allow for lively and interesting discussions. Participants should have some knowledge of Biblical Hebrew in order to fully benefit from this course.

A specialized bibliography will be made available to those enrolled.
Short Bibliography
R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, New York: Basic Books 1981.
R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry, New York: Basic Books 1987.
H. Gzella, "Northwest Semitic in General", in: S. Weninger (ed.), The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook, Berlin – New York 2011: De Gruyter, 425–451.
H. Gzella, "Introduction", in: id. (ed.), Languages from the World of the Bible, Berlin – New York 2011: De Gruyter, 1–13.
A. Sáenz-Badillos, A History of the Hebrew Language, Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1993 (its Italian translation Storia della lingua ebraica, Brescia: Paiedeia 2007 can be considered a new edition).
L.A. Schökel, A Manual of Hebrew Poetics, Rome: PIB [GBPress] 1988.
W.G.E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to its Techniques, New York: T&T. Clark 2005 (= unaltered pb edition of the hb [JSOT Suppl. 26] Sheffield: JSOT Press 1986.

Aramaic in Pre-Islamic Northern Arabia: An Introduction to Nabataean (14.00 - 15.30)

Holger Gzella (Leiden) 

The Nabataean kingdom, transformed into the Roman provincia Arabia in 106 CE, goes back to a tribe or tribal federation of unclear provenance that subsequently enriched their nomadic way of life by settled forms of existence. They initially controlled the Incense Road, became part of the Hellenistic world, and were eventually absorbed into the Umayyad Empire. Due to its prestige and convenience as the local heir to the international standard language of the Achaemenid Empire, Nabataean enjoyed a wide diffusion across a vast, multilingual area. The lion’s share of the Nabataean corpus, now almost 6000 texts in total, consists of mostly brief funerary and dedicatory inscriptions. There are also thousands of graffiti from Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, and a handful of legal papyri in the Achaemenid tradition discovered in caves near the Dead Sea. For several centuries, Nabataean and various Arabian languages were used complementarily and thus influenced each other; in addition, the Arabic script evolved out of the Nabataean Aramaic alphabet. The Nabataean material thus gives important insights into the cultural backdrop of early Islam.

This course offers a brief introduction to the Nabataean language and close reading of several original texts, supplemented by more general linguistic and cultural information. No previous knowledge of any Semitic language is required, but those familiar with, e.g., Hebrew, any other Aramaic variety, or Arabic will have a chance to further contextualize their understanding of historical-comparative Semitic grammar.

Introductory bibliography
J. Cantineau, Le Nabatéen, 2 vols., Paris 1930–32: Presses Universitaires de Frances. Reprint Osnabrück 1978: Zeller.
H. Gzella, "Late Imperial Aramaic", in: S. Weninger et al. (eds.), The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook, Berlin and New York 2011: De Gruyter, 598–609.
J.F. Healey, The Nabataean Tomb Inscriptions of Mada’in Salih, Oxford 1993: Oxford University Press.
J.F. Healey, Aramaic Inscriptions & Documents of the Roman Period, Oxford and New York 2009: Oxford University Press (esp. the Introduction on pp. 1–51 and the selection of Nabataean texts on pp 52–121).
M.C.A. Macdonald, "Languages, Scripts, and the Uses of Writing among the Nabataeans", in: G. Markoe (ed.). Petra Rediscovered, New York and Cincinnati, OH, 2003: Abrams and Cincinnati Art Museum, 36–56, 264–66 (endnotes).

Introduction to Old South Arabian (16.00 - 17.30)

Rebecca Hasselbach (Chicago)

Old South Arabian (OSA), also called "Epigraphic South Arabian" or "Sayhadic", is a group of four languages (Sabaic, Minaic, Qatabanic, and Hadramitic) that are attested in inscriptional material dating to the time between approximately the 8th century BCE to the 6th century CE. The inscriptional material primarily comes from the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, meaning the area of today’s Yemen. OSA inscriptions are the oldest written material found in the Arabian Peninsula and thus represent important evidence for the history of the region and the existence of highly developed pre-Islamic societies and cultures. The Old South Arabian languages belong to the Central Semitic branch of Semitic and are thus most closely related to Arabic and Northwest Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Aramaic.

The inscriptions are written in an almost purely consonantal alphabet that is derived from an early form of proto-Canaanite scripts that were used before the 12th century BCE. Through trade relations with Ethiopia, the OSA alphabet also provided the base for the Ethiopic syllabic script that is still in use in Ethiopia today. The OSA inscriptional material primarily consists of royal and dedicatory inscriptions, which are incised on stone and, less often, metal, and a large amount of letters and other non-official documents, which were written on wood in ink.

This course will introduce the writing system, grammar, and main textual material written in the OSA languages. Although knowledge of a Semitic language is not a prerequisite for this class, it can be helpful. We will further look at the linguistic differences that are apparent in different periods of the best attested language, Sabaic, and at the main distinguishing characteristics of the four languages. At the end of the class, students will have a working knowledge of the grammar and script of OSA languages and will have read some original inscriptions and letters.

Introductory Bibliography

Beeston, A.F.L. 1984. Sabaic Grammar. Manchester: JSS.
Hasselbach, R. 2011. Old South Arabian. In Languages from the World of the Bible, ed. H. Gzella; 160-193.
Jamme, A. 1962. Sabaean Inscriptions from Mañram Bilqîs (Mârib). Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man 3; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.
Nebes, N. und Stein, P. 2004. Ancient South Arabian. In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages, ed. R.D. Woodard; 454-487.
Ryckmans, J.; Müller, W.W.; Abdallah, Y.M. 1994. Textes du Yémen antique inscrits sur bois. Louvain-la-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste.
Schippmann, K. 2001. Ancient South Arabia: From the Queen of Sheba to the Advent of Islam. Princeton: Markus Wiener.
Stein, P. 2003. Untersuchungen zur Phonologie und Morphologie des Sabäischen. Rahden: Marie Leidorf.