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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Part II | Option

Course Description 2023-24

This paper will cover the principles of historical linguistics and the comparative method and their applications to the Semitic languages with respect to their phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. A knowledge of at least one Semitic language (Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian, Gəʿəz) will be required.

This paper offers the opportunity for students of the Semitic languages to contextualize their language work within the larger academic fields of language typology and historical linguistics and comparative Semitics. The scope of the comparison will include both the classical literary languages and the modern spoken dialects, ranging from Akkadian to Maltese and Ugaritic to Tigre. Students taking the course must have a knowledge of a least one Semitic language (e.g. Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Akkadian). Upon completion of this course, students will (i) understand and describe linguistic evolution and linguistic relatedness, (ii) be familiar with the key debates and themes within Comparative Semitic Linguistics and (iii) will have mastered the basic concepts in linguistic typology and the basic principles of historical linguistics and the comparative method. Selected issues of the historical reconstruction, classification and comparative phonology, morphology and syntax of the Semitic languages will be examined through case studies.

Form and Conduct

This paper is assessed by a research essay of no more than 5,000 words, including footnotes and excluding bibliography. Each student will develop the research question of the essay in consultation with the instructor. One electronic copy (pdf) of the project shall be submitted to the Programmes Administrator in the Faculty Office so as to arrive not later than the fourth Friday of Full Easter Term.


Borrowed by Linguistics Tripos students as their Paper Li.35

This description is subject to change, for the latest information, students should consult the Undergraduate Handbook available on the Faculty Intranet.