Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

CAMS 470: Languages and Cultures of the Ancient Near East

CAMS 470: Languages and Cultures of the Ancient Near East


Rubio, Gonzalo


Mon, Wed


4:00-5:15 P.M.


Hammond Bldg 217


This course is an overview of the languages and cultures that populated the Ancient Near East.

CAMS 470 Languages and Cultures of the Ancient Near East (3) (IL) (BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.This course aims to provide students with a wide overview of the languages spoken in the Ancient Near East. The goal is to go beyond the merely linguistic sketches of the main grammatical features of these languages. In fact, the focus will be placed on historical, literary, social, anthropological, and ethnic matters: language contact settings; relations between language and ethnicity; sociolinguistic aspects of language evolution, language variation, bilingualism, and diglossia; relations between historical and social patterns and the literary, bureaucratic, and popular uses of language; etc. In order to address this ample variety of issues, the students will be introduced first to the essential set of facts needed to comprehend the sociolinguistic history of each region, i.e., basic overviews of the languages in question, their linguistic affiliation, the main periods of their history as evolving linguistic realities, and their different writing systems. These overviews will immediately open the door to the discussion of a tapestry of topics concerning the realities behind these languages, especially their speakers and their ethnic, historical, and political identity. This inquiry into the facets of language as an inherently human reality will lead to a miscellaneous constellation of problems, such as, for instance, the construction of a national identity through the use, revival, or vindication of a concrete language or dialect. Students will be required to do a number of readings before each class. These readings will include basic historical sketches of the languages and linguistic traditions with which the course will deal. Moreover, students will be expected to give a presentation based on some of the optional readings listed on the syllabus. Thus, every class will consist of a lecture on the topic and a critical and open discussion of the assigned readings. Every lecture will take into account the assigned readings and will be accompanied by some handouts. Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation (including a class presentation), as well as on writing assignments. The writing assignments will include take-home examinations. This course complements other existing courses in areas such as Ancient Near Eastern studies, biblical studies, Classics, Ancient History, and Linguistics. Moreover, this is one of the several history and culture courses in CAMS that provide overviews of major civilizations of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern regions.