The Near East is characterized by an array of written traditions spanning over more than five millennia, starting with Sumerian, arguably the oldest written language. Several of the oldest languages of the region are isolates (of no known relationship), such as Sumerian, Elamite or Hurrian. Many other languages of the region belong to the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic phylum, such as Akkadian, Hebrew or Aramaic, while Hittite or Luwian, in present-day Turkey, belong to the Anatolian branch of Indo-European languages.
Ancient languages are known through written attestations, generally in various cuneiform scripts for older languages (Sumerian, Akkadian, etc.) and generally in writings derived from Proto-Sinaitic for relatively recent languages (Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, etc.). The Near East also has the tradition of – and this is a major characteristic of the region – writing languages via systems borrowed from other languages (allography): Garshuni thus designates Arabic written in Syriac script.
While some ancient languages of the Near East, such as Sumerian, Akkadian or Hittite, have died out over the course of history, they have left behind significant written corpora; others, like Hebrew, Aramaic or Arabic, have evolved into varieties of ancient and modern.
This year, ILARA offers rare courses in these precious languages:
- an intensive course in Amorite, an ancient Semitic language of the Fertile Crescent, spoken in Syria and in Mesopotamia between the end of the 3rd millennium and the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE but related to West Semitic languages, to which also belong Ugaritic and Aramaic.
- an intensive course in Biblical Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament.
- a course in two Anatolian languages, Lycian and Carian, known from inscriptions dating back to the 7th – 3rd centuries BCE
See the EPHE – PSL website for more courses in Near Eastern languages.