About us

The Section of Semitic Linguistics offers the chance to study both the ancient and the modern Semitic languages, from a modern linguistic approach. Coursework and research are done at all levels, whether towards an undergraduate (B.A.) or graduate (M.A. and PhD) degree in Semitic Linguistics.

Thus, our students study languages whose only witnesses are ancient texts, like Ge'ez (Classical Ethiopic) and Phoenician, together with modern languages, like Amharic and Israeli Hebrew. In like manner, amply documented languages, e.g. Akkadian, are studied together with partially documented languages, e.g. Ugaritic. This provides our students with the linguistic tools and the linguistic methodology with which they may inquire into the many facets of the Semitic languages. Language instruction introduces them to the linguistic structures of each language through texts (ancient or modern), audio and even video.

Semitic Languages

The majority of coursework in the Section of Semitic Linguistics is based on a thorough study of a nubmer of Semitic languages. Accordingly, the languages that are taught by the Section's faculty and by its assoicated departments represent the different branches of the Semitic language family:

  • East Semitic:
    • Akkadian (in cooperation with the Department of Archeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures)
  • South Semitic:
    • Ge'ez and Amharic (Ethio-Semitic)
    • Mehri (Modern South Arabian)
  • Central Semitic:
    • Ugaritic
    • Phoenician and other epigraphic Canaanite languages
    • Old Aramaic, Babylonian Aramaic and Galilean Aramaic (in cooperation with the Section of Talmud and Ancient Literature)
    • Christian and Jewish Neo-Aramaic
    • Classical Arabic and Colloquial Palestinian Arabic (in cooperation with the Department of Arabic and Islam)
    • Modern Israeli Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew and Rabbinical Hebrew (in cooperation with the Section of Hebrew Language)
    • The language of the El Amarna letters from Canaan (Canaano-Akkadian)

Sidaama, a Cushitic langauge that belongs to Ethiopian language area together with the Ethio-Semitic langauges, is occasionly offered as well.

Theoretical Study

Linguistics is more than just the study of languages, and Semitic Linguistics is no different. The theoretical courses that are taught by the Section's faculty include comparisons of the Semitic languages and of the world's languages at large, dialectology, the connections between language and society in Ethiopia, the study of spoken language, languages and writing systems, lexicography, language and culture etc.

Our Research

The research that is done by the Section's faculty and by its graduate students encompasses the ancient and living Semitic languages. A large research project that is done in cooperation with scholars from Tel Aviv University and from other universities both in Israel and abroad, is the creation of a Corpus of Spoken Israeli Hebrew (CoSIH).

Our Faculty

The faculty members of the Section of Semitic Linguistics have achieved international recognition for their work in the El Amarna letters (which were written in a mixed Canaanite-Akkadian language), Akkadian linguistics, the Neo-Aramaic languages, the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Spoken Israeli Hebrew. Our faculty members took part in editing Israel Oriental Studies, a publication of the Department of the Humanities of Tel Aviv University, during all its years. The twentieth volume of the series was dedicated to the state of Semitic Linguistics at the turn of the 21st century.

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