Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 56:3 (September 2013) p. 589
Basics of Ancient Ugaritic: A Concise Grammar, Workbook, and Lexicon. By Michael Williams. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012, 143pp., $49.99 paper.
In his Basics of Ancient Ugaritic, Williams offers a grammatical précis of the Ugaritic language in thirteen lessons designed to be mastered over a single semester. By presenting these Ugaritic lessons in vocalized transliteration, the author makes Ugaritic look and feel like a real and learnable language. This book, however, is not intended to replace standard grammars, but only to provide a teaching-oriented manual suitable for elementary classroom instruction. In his introduction, the author accurately defines the nature of this book as “an introductory grammar for those just getting their feet wet in the ocean of Semitic language study” (p. 10). The book is characterized by its simplicity and clarity, and even its occasional humor.
Lesson 1 begins by discussing ancient Ugarit’s location and history. The synopses of a triad of Ugaritic literature, that is, the stories of Aqhat, Kirta, and Baal, is followed by four intersections—“deities,” “literary figures or concepts,” “textual insights,” and “thought world”—through which the author introduces the students to the significance of Ugaritic for the study of the OT. This serves as a suitable point of entry into Ugaritic grammar for beginning students.
In the following chapter, the author introduces a grammatical overview of the Ugaritic language, beginning with the “alphabet” (chap. 2) and then progressing through the grammar in chapters 3–12 organized under the rubrics “Nouns,” “Adjectives,” “Prepositions,” “Pronouns,” “Verbs,” “Moods,” “Infinitives,” “Thematic Stems,” “Weak Verbs,” “Adverbs,” and “Miscellanea.” At the beginning of each of these chapters, students are introduced to basic grammatical concepts without burdening them with technical jargon. They are then presented with Ugaritic data, often in the form of charts, as illustrations. Each chapter concludes with practice exercises followed by annotated bibliographies. Appendices at the end of the book include several helpful aids for students—vocabulary list, exercise answer key, and more.
When I was first initiated to the study of Ugaritic at the University of Chicago, it was a very intimidating experience, as I was expected to absorb the language by reading primary texts and poring over reference grammars and lexica. Since learning any dead language has a heuristic aspect to it, students are often trained to learn Ugaritic inductively—namely, by soaking in it and wrestling with cuneiform texts through trial and error. But a primer like this book will help beginning students to be in...
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