[b-hebrew] Semitic Languages

Trevor Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Thu Apr 29 05:40:57 EDT 2004

I suppose this is not exactly on topic, but others who have started with 
Hebrew may be interested in where to go next, so I'll answer on-list for 

Jonatha Mosebach wrote:

> Has asnyone ever studied Syric and or Ugaritic.

Yes, to both.

> I am thinking of Tackling these next cananyone give me any help on grammars

Probably the most accessible introductory grammar to Syriac right now is 
Thackston. The biggest problem I found with using it was getting used to 
reading without vowels; but since you already know Arabic, you shouldn't 
have too much trouble here. On the other hand, with your breadth of 
background, it's probably not out of the question that you just pick up 
a copy of Noldeke and read through it. The fundamentals of Syriac 
grammar are pretty easy to master--possibly the easiest of any Semitic 
language. Where you'd want more help is when you get into serious 
reading. My prof. said, and my experience bore out, that this is how it 
is with Syriac--you can learn the grammar on your own if you have to, 
but you need help when you get to reading texts. If you have someone you 
can read with, I'd say Syriac should be pretty easy to pick up.

Since you already know Hebrew and Arabic, you would probably benefit 
from the kind of approach we took to Ugaritic. Here at CUA, students in 
the Semitics dept. cannot take Ugaritic until they've had Hebrew and 
either Arabic or Akkadian. The reason is that, once you've had this 
combination of languages, you pretty much have all you need to get right 
into Ugaritic. You should read some good summaries of Ugaritic grammar. 
We focused priimarily on some unpublished notes by Huehnergard, but we 
also compared them with Pardee's chapter in The Semitic Languages (ed. 
by Hetzron, 1997). I think you'd be OK with just Pardee for this. Then 
we started reading prose texts for the rest of the first semester and 
moved into poetry for the second. Along the way, we consulted as 
necessary with the reference grammars (Sivan and Tropper). We used the 
Spanish dictionary, but you have the advantage that the English edition 
has just come out. The reason this system works is that Ugaritic was 
largely reconstructed on the basis of what was known about other Semitic 
languages. You can see a lot of Arabic and Akkadian in the grammar. I 
had already taken Akkadian before starting, and I was taking Arabic at 
the same time. I found both languages beneficial.

> and or which wone should I pursue next I know Hebrew Arabic Heiratic Demotic Coptic Greek Modern Hebrew Modern Greek and some Aramaic.

Neither one should require you to learn a great deal in terms of the 
basics. You already have the materials you need for that. Learning 
Syriac seems to me somewhat preferable. It would help you fill out your 
knowledge of Aramaic and give you access to a large volume of literature 
that goes generally unnoticed. And if you have someone to read with, who 
knows what they're doing, you should take advantage of the opportunity. 
Ugaritic you should be able to pick up more or less on your own (in 
consultation, of course, with good published resources).

Trevor Peterson

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