Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: The Ancient Languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Aksum

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Roger D. Woodard (ed.), The Ancient Languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Aksum. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008

Reviewed by Mark Weeden, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

The present volume presents a relatively affordable, paperback collection of articles from Woodard's massive and extremely useful Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the World's Ancient Languages (abbreviated WAL, Cambridge/New York, CUP, 2004), apparently selected according to geographical criteria. The book contains chapters on ancient languages from the areas mentioned in the title (Aksum is old Ethiopia), adopted directly from the original WAL, with prefatory and introductory remarks by the editor. Other volumes have appeared in a similar format, picking up the ancient languages covered by WAL belonging to other geographical areas (Asia and the Americas, Asia Minor, Europe, Syria-Palestine and Arabia, all detailed on pp. 238-242). The purpose of these publications is to make the essays they contain more widely available to scholars and students. The problem is that they are now largely out of date.

The chapters are all organised according to a consistent structure with sections on (section 1) Historical and Cultural Contexts; (section 2) Writing Systems; (section 3) Phonology; (section 4) Morphology; (section 5) Syntax; (section 6) Lexicon; (section 7) Reading List. Not all chapters have all sections, however.

See the above page for the entire review.

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