Semitic Programme

This programme consists of four courses: Introduction to Ugaritic, Biblical Hebrew: Woman, Wisdom, and Way of Life in the Book of Proverbs, Historical Grammar of Hebrew, Non-Sabaic Ancient South Arabian languages.

Time slot 1: Introduction to Ugaritic (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. Ugaritic has therefore a special relevance for the historical-comparative study of the Semitic languages. Its rich religious literature also provides an important context for the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible.
The basic grammar and vocabulary of Ugaritic will be presented in the first week as a preparation to reading continuous texts during the second week. 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 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).
A manual for use in class will be made available to those signing up for this course.

Basic reading 

  • Gianto, A., “Ugaritic” in: Languages from the World of the Bible, edited by Holger Gzella, Berlin – New York: de Gruyter 2011, 28-54.
  • Gianto, A., “Ugaritology and Biblical Interpretation” in: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation, edited by Steven L. McKenzie, Oxford: Oxford UP 2013, vol 2, 429-436.

For further studies

  • Bordreuil, P. – D. Pardee, A Manual of Ugaritic, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2009. This manual contains an outline of Ugaritic grammar, fifty-five texts of various genres with copies, photos, transliteration, translation, copious notes, and glossary. The brief treatment of grammar can be supplemented by the following textbook.
  • Huehnergard, J., An Introduction to Ugaritic, Peabody: Hendrickson 2012. This textbook contains the basic grammar, practical exercises with keys, paradigms and twelve annotated texts of various genres, glossary. Included is an essay on the Ugaritic alphabetic script by John L. Ellison.
  • 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. 
  • del Olmo Lete, G. – J. Sanmartín, A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition, translated by W.G.E. Watson, 2 volumes, HdO I/67, 3rd edition, Leiden: Brill 2015. 
  • Parker, S.B. (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.
  • Tropper, J., Ugaritische Grammatik, 2nd edition, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag 2012. This is the most complete  reference grammar to date.
  • Watson, W.G.E. – N. Wyatt (eds.), Handbook of Ugaritic Studies, HdO I/39, Leiden 1999. This is a compendious overview of Ugarit's history, languages, literature, religion, and society.

Time slot 2: Biblical Hebrew: Woman, Wisdom, and Way of Life in the Book of Proverbs (11.30 - 13.00)

Agustinus Gianto (Rome) 

Course outline
Through the woman metaphor, the Book of Proverbs presents ancient Israelite wisdom as a way of life that leads to success and happiness. Representative passages developing this theme will be discussed in depth with special attention to syntax and vocabulary, especially words denoting wisdom and folly.
The texts to be studied are Proverbs 1:1-7 (what the book is all about); 1:20-33 (Woman Wisdom’s teaching); 2:1-22 (Woman Wisdom’s invitation to learn the right way of life); 5:1-12 (the deceptive woman); 7:1-24 (the strange woman); 8:22-36 (Woman Wisdom as the first of God’s creative acts); 9:1-11.13-18 (wisdom versus folly); 31:10-31 (the ideal wise woman).
A critical edition of the above passages will be made available to those signing up for this course.

A working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is assumed in order to take full advantage of this course.

Selected commentaries:

  • Clifford, R.J., Proverbs. Louisville: Westminster John Knox 1999.
  • Fox, M.V., Proverbs 1-9. New Haven – London: Yale University Press 2000.
  • Fox, M.V., Proverbs 10-31. New Haven – London: Yale University Press 2009.
  • Perdue, L.G., Proverbs. Louisville: Westminster John Knox 2000.

Time slot 3: Historical Grammar of Hebrew (14.00 - 15.30)

Benjamin Suchard (Leiden)

Course outline
This course will cover the historical phonology and morphology of Biblical Hebrew. In the first week, students will be made familiar with the most important sound laws governing the development of the individual Proto-Northwest-Semitic phonemes, with special attention to the vowels. In the second week, we will see how the interaction of these sound laws and various analogies have affected Hebrew morphology.

Week 1: Phonology
·         Monday: Introduction, Proto-Northwest-Semitic
·         Tuesday: Proto-Canaanite
·         Wednesday: Proto-Hebrew
·         Thursday: Proto-Jewish Hebrew
·         Friday: Masoretic Hebrew

Week 2: Morphology
·         Monday: Pronouns
·         Tuesday: Nouns
·         Wednesday: The strong verb
·         Thursday: Weak verbs (I)
·         Friday: Weak verbs (II)

Students must have a good working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew.

Students will be asked to review the topics covered in class and complete a take-home assignment over the weekend.

Slot 4: Non-Sabaic Ancient South Arabian languages (16.00 - 17.30)

Alessia Prioletta (Paris)

Course description
The course is focused on familiarizing students with the linguistic structure and lexicon of the three non-Sabaic Ancient South Arabian languages: Minaic, Qatabanic and Ḥaḍramitic.

Instructional methods
Class lectures; daily home assignments that will be discussed in class the following day.

Course outline
Lesson 1: Introduction
Lesson 2: Script. Orthography
Lesson 3: Phonology
Lesson 4: Morphology (1): Nouns. Adjectives
Lesson 5: Morphology (2): Pronouns. Numerals
Lesson 6: Morphology (5): Prepositions. Adverbs. Particles. Conjunctions.
Lesson 7: Morphology (3): Verbal aspects and verbal forms
Lesson 8: Morphology (4): Derived stems. Week verbs
Lesson 9: Syntax
Lesson 10: Text genres and formularies

Required texts
Beeston A.F.L. 1962. A , London: Luzac.
R. Hasselbach 2012. “Old South Arabian”, in H. Gzella (ed.), Languages from the world of the Bible, Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 160-193.
Nebes N., Stein P. 2004. “Ancient South Arabian”, in R. D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 454-487.
P. Stein 2011. “Ancient South Arabian”, in S. Weninger (ed.) in collaboration with Geoffrey Kahn, Michael P. Streck and Janet C.E. Watson, The Semitic Languages. An International Handbook (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft 36), Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 1042-1073.

The texts will be provided in .pdf format by the instructor.

The knowledge of at least one Semitic language is preferable.