Semitic Programme

The Semitic programme will consist of four courses: Ugaritic, Biblical Hebrew, Neo-Aramaic, and Historical Grammar of Arabic. For some of the students, the course "The Structure of Iraqw, in a Cushitic and a typological perspective" from the Descriptive Linguistics programme may also be of interest.

Slot 1: Ugaritic Language and Literature: An Introduction (9.30-11.00)

Agustinus Gianto (Rome)

Course outline
The indigenous language of Ugarit, a city-state on the northern Syrian coast that flourished in the second millennium BCE, is the oldest independently documented language in the Northwest Semitic group. The Ugaritic language therefore has a special relevance for the historical-comparative study of the Semitic languages. Its rich literature also provides an important context for the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible.

Course description
The grammar and vocabulary of Ugaritic will be explained in a way that allows the student to start reading continuous texts in this language. At the end of the course the student will, among other things, be able to enjoy the following poetic passage in the original language: "I have a word to tell you, a story to recount to you: the tree's word and the stone's charm, the heavens' whisper to the earth, the deep ocean's (whisper) to the stars […..]. Come and I will reveal it in the midst of my mountain, the divine Zaphon, in the holy place, the mountain of my inheritance, in the beautiful place, the hill of my might!" (Baal's message to Anat, KTU 1.3:III:21-25; 28-31).

Notes on Ugaritic grammar with exercises and annotated texts prepared by the instructor will be available. For an outline of Ugaritic, see A. Gianto, “Ugaritic” in Languages from the World of the Bible, edited by Holger Gzella, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter 2011, 28-54.

Introductory bibliography
P. Bordreuil – D. Pardee, A Manual of Ugaritic, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2009. This manual contains an outline of Ugaritic grammar, copies of the tablets, fifty-five texts of various genres, translation, notes, and glossary

J. Huehnergard, An Introduction to Ugaritic, Peabody: Hendrickson 2012. Besides its rich grammatical presentation, this introduction also contains a selection of twelve texts of various genres with ample notes and glossary. Together with the manual mentioned above, this textbook represents the best approach to Ugaritic.

KTU / CAT = M. Dietrich – O. Loretz – J. Sanmartín, The Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places, AOAT 360/1, Münster 2013; this is the third, enlarged edition of Die keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit, AOAT 24/1, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1976). Its numbering system has been widely accepted.

G. del Olmo Lete – J. Sanmartín, Diccionario de la lengua ugarítica, vol. I-II, Sabadel 1996, 2000 = A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition, transl. by W.G.E. Watson, vol. I-II, HdO I/67, Leiden: Brill 2004.

S. B. Parker (ed.), Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, Scholars 1997. The texts are arranged in poetic lines with facing translation and brief explanatory notes by a team of scholars.

W. G. E. Watson – N. Wyatt (eds.), Handbook of Ugaritic Studies, HdO I/39, Leiden 1999. This 892-page book provides a serious overview of Ugarit's history, languages, literature, religion, economy and society.

Slot 2: Biblical Hebrew: Reading and Interpretation (11.30-13.00)

Agustinus Gianto (Rome)

Course description
This course aims at developing skills in reading and interpreting various forms of ancient Israelite literature as preserved in the Hebrew Bible. Class discussions will be based on passages taken from Early Hebrew Poetry, Classical Hebrew Narrative, Prophets, Psalms, and Wisdom literature. Special attention will be given to the syntax and special vocabulary of these passages.

A selection of texts and special bibliography will be made available to the participants. A basic knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is required.

R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, New York: Basic Books 1981.
M. Coogan, The Old Testament. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
A. Sáenz-Badillos, A History of the Hebrew Language, Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1993. (The Italian edition Storia della lingua ebraica, Brescia: Paideia 2007 is practically a new edition.)
L. Alonso 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 paperback edition of the hardback (JSOT Suppl. 26 Sheffield: JSOT Press 1986).

Slot 3: Introduction to Neo-Aramaic (14.00-15.30)

Paul Noorlander (Leiden)

Course outline
This course offers a typological overview of the basic structure of the endangered Eastern Neo-Aramaic languages of mainly Jewish and Christian minorities in the Middle East and beyond. In so doing, there are two main components: language learning and linguistics. We will treat the basics of the grammar of Ṭuroyo with exercises and read one or more texts. From there, we will examine other varieties and explore the linguistic diversity of Eastern modern Aramaic both synchronically and diachronically. We will discuss a number of topics within Neo-Aramaic studies ranging from dialectal hallmarks to contact phenomena. As the astonishing diversity of these dialects unfolds, we will discover how the multilingualism of their speakers, from Arabic, Kurdish, Persian to Turkish, shapes their linguistic creativity.

There will regularly be assignments and readings in preparation of the next meeting.

A basic acquaintance with Aramaic or another Semitic language like Arabic or Hebrew is essential to get most out of this course. Enthusiasts without such knowledge but with a keen interest in linguistics are more than welcome to join, but should be prepared to learn at a high pace.

Literature to read in advance
Participants are advised to familiarize themselves with basic notions of grammatical analysis before doing this course, by means of, for instance: Paul R. Kroeger, Analyzing Grammar: An Introduction (2005, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Slot 4: Historical Grammar of Arabic (16.00-17.30)

Ahmad Al-Jallad (Leiden)

Course description
This course outlines the historical and comparative grammar of Arabic.  Beginning with Proto-Semitic, we examine how the linguistic innovations which characterize Arabic developed, and how the different varieties of Arabic, both ancient and modern, in turn evolved from Proto-Arabic.  Our discussion will be guided by reading selected texts from different phases of Arabic, beginning with the pre-Islamic period and the evidence attested in the Ancient North Arabian scripts and ending with the contemporary spoken dialects.  We will also discuss the various scripts used to write Arabic and the evolution of the Arabic script from its Nabataean forebear.

Course outline
Week 1: Proto-Semitic and Old Arabic
1. The linguistic landscape of Arabia and the position of Arabic within Semitic
2. The Old Arabic consonants
3. The vowels of Old Arabic, diphthongs, and triphthings
4. Nominal and pronominal morphology
5. Verbal morphology, negation, and existential predication

Week 2: Later stages of Arabic
6. The Qurʾānic Consonantal Text
7. The Poetic Koiné
8. Najdi Arabic
9. Rural Levantine (including Cypriot) and Qəltu
10. Maġrebine and Yemenite dialects

The student should be familiar with the methods of historical linguistics and have some knowledge of Arabic and/or comparative Semitics.

There will be short daily homework assignments.

Daily course packets will be distributed and all readings will be posted in a Dropbox file available to registered students.