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Ancient Near Eastern Languages

Have you ever wanted to read the hieroglyphs on Egyptian coffins or the oldest versions of the Bible? Studying ancient languages provides avenues for experiencing cultures beyond the contemporary or even recent past. Just as learning another language allows you to navigate and experience a foreign country, so too does knowing an ancient language help you navigate and experience the past. Learning an ancient language gives you insight into the history, stories, and cultures of people who lived in the Middle East thousands of years ago.

The languages offered in the Department of Near Eastern Studies include some of the oldest recorded languages in history (Sumerian and Egyptian), the languages of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (Hebrew and Aramaic), as well as many other languages that offer access to people and civilizations of the ancient Middle East. You can study the oldest written languages related to Arabic (Akkadian) or English (Hittite) recorded on 3000 year old clay tablets, learn the earliest preserved alphabet (Ugaritic), or read the thoughts of people living in Egypt during the Roman Empire written on papyri in Coptic.

Learning an ancient language will challenge you in new, exciting ways. Unlike when learning modern languages, you will not learn how to converse with fellow students. Since you cannot simply ask an instructor or a speaker about an ancient language, you will hone transferable skills such as puzzle solving, code-breaking, interpretation, pattern recognition, and probability analysis. You can read about the exploits of legendary figures, the complaints of a merchant, the songs of both the victorious and the downtrodden, and the calculations of businessmen. Any student interested in history, anthropology, linguistics, literature, philosophy, science, mathematics, EECS, or any other field would benefit from learning an ancient language.

Ancient Near Eastern Language Courses

Please note that, while some ancient Near Eastern languages are taught regularly, many of the courses listed below are only offered when need exists. Interested students should contact Near.Eastern.Studies@umich.edu.

Akkadian

NESLANG 420: Introduction to Akkadian

NESLANG 513: Readings in Akkadian

NESLANG 514: Akkadian Literary Texts

NESLANG 515: Akkadian Documents

Aramaic

NESLANG 425: Aramaic I

NESLANG 426: Aramaic II

Classical Hebrew 

NESLANG 101/501: Elementary Classical Hebrew I

NESLANG 102/502: Elementary Classical Hebrew II

NESLANG 201/601: Intermediate Classical Hebrew I

NESLANG 202/602: Intermediate Classical Hebrew II

For more information on Classical Hebrew, please visit the Hebrew language page.

Coptic

NESLANG 440: Coptic I

NESLANG 441: Coptic II

Demotic Egyptian

NESLANG 460: Introduction to Demotic Egyptian

Hittite

NESLANG 415: Elementary Hittite

NESLANG 517: Hittite Readings

Middle Egyptian

NESLANG 430: Introduction to Middle Egyptian I

NESLANG 431: Introduction to Middle Egyptian II

NESLANG 530: Advanced Middle Egyptian I

NESLANG 531: Advanced Middle Egyptian II (Completion of this course with a grade of C- or better meets the LSA Language Requirement)

NESLANG 532: Middle Egyptian Readings I

Syriac

NESLANG 465: Syriac I

Sumerian

NESLANG 435: Introduction to Sumerian

NESLANG 537: Readings in Sumerian

NESLANG 538: Sumerian Literary Texts

Ugaritic

NESLANG 445: Ugaritic I

NESLANG 446: Ugaritic II