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31 July 2020

Ancient near eastern languages in contact

Jonathan Stokl

A series of eLectures by Alinda Damsa, Lily Kahn (both UCL) and Jonathan Stökl (KCL).

Ancient near eastern languages in contact

In response to the CoViD-19 crisis, Alinda Damsa, Lily Kahn (both UCL) and I (Jonathan Stökl, KCL) decided to organise a series of e-lectures on the topic of language contact in the ancient Near East (understood rather flexibly, both in terms of area and of time). This past Wednesday we had the 5th of these lectures, with four more to follow.

The topics are far-ranging and often stray from the purely linguistic into the cultural. The first lecture by Mark Weeden (SOAS) was entitled ‘Language Contact between Hittite and Sumerian’, and in the lecture he convincingly showed that while there is no direct language contact, Hittite scribes at times translated Sumerian texts ‘wrongly’ in order to derive further meaning from them in ways that are consistent with wider ancient Near Eastern hermeneutic traditions, which live on through Rabbinic hermeneutics. Mark Geller (UCL) then compared ancient Mesopotamian and late antique Jewish magical practices, based on linguistic observations. Aaron Rubin and Gary Rendsburg both spoke on linguistic and cultural contact between the Levant and Egypt, with different emphases. This week’s fifth lecture was given by my own Hebrew Teacher, Stefan Schorch, who spoke on Samaritan Hebrew, a fascinating lecture ranging from Qumran to modern day Leeds where recently wax cylinders from the collection of Moses Gaster have been discovered in the University Library containing recordings of Samaritan Torah readings from the early 20th century. All lectures took place via MS Teams. Below is a list of each event and when it took place.

  • Dr Marieke Dhont (University of Cambridge), Jewish Multilingualism in the Second Temple Period: Greek as a Jewish Language: 05.08.20
  • Benjamin Whittle (UCL), The Translation of Biblical Hebrew Verbal Stems in the Septuagint of the Pentateuch and Former Prophets: 12.08.20 
  •  Dr Na’ama Pat-El (University of Texas Austin) & Dr Phillip Stokes (University of Tennessee Knoxville), Reevaluating Contact between Aramaic and Arabic in the Levant: 19.08.20
  • Dr Rebecca Hasselbach-Andee (University of Chicago), Language Contact in the Third Millennium BCE: The Case of “Eblaite”: 26.08.20

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