Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ugaritic and Shalom

Curiosity got the best of me.  During my Hebrew classes there were numerous references to similar words in Ugaritic and Akkadian.  I fetched a book on both with an Amazon gift card.  The Ugaritic book arrived first and I quickly set about making myself some flash cards to memorize the cuneiform syllabary of 30 letters. 

The picture shows some of these cards I prepared while the top three spell out sh-l-m which is the Ugaritic equivalent to Shalom (peace) in Hebrew.  Ugaritic doesn't mark vowels, so you have to fill them in.  The book I chose was A Primer on Ugaritic

The Ugaritic language is from the area of Lebanon and was in use from roughly the time of Jacob until the time of Joshua.  About 2/3 of the vocabulary and most of the grammar seem to be very close to Hebrew, thus, getting past the Ugaritic syllabary allows things to make sense rather quickly after studying Hebrew for two semesters.  The reason for studying Ugaritic is that there are many rare words in the Bible which get some additional usage in Ugaritic that have helped clarify meanings.  For those who want to get into the details of Baal worship, there is plenty of literature in this language to read.  I am a novice at all this, so won't try to pretend to any authority.  It is mainly something to amuse myself for the moment.  I hope to take a semester off from the formal classes to read my Hebrew Bible, study Akkadian and Ugaritic a bit, and then jump back in to complete the last semester in the summer.

So what other modern words do we get that were in Ugaritic?  One is the word QBR, which means to bury and goes through Hebrew as qabar, into Arabic, and then made it into English as macabre.  Many other more familiar Hebrew words are the same in Ugaritic, such as "ben" for son, or "yom" as in Yom Kippur for day.  Then there is the familiar "yada yada yada", which I suppose comes from the Hebrew and Ugaritic verb "to know" - yada.  

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