Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ge'ez class takes off at University of Toronto

ETHIOPIC WATCH: U of T students flock to ancient language Ge'ez course, funded in part by The Weeknd. Deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past – even if you don't know how to pronounce the words (David Silverberg, Now Toronto).
How does someone teach a language when we have no idea what it might actually sound like?

That's one of the questions for U of T's Robert Holmsted, who's teaching the university's course on the liturgical Ethiopian language Ge'ez.

In its first semester at U of T, his class has five undergraduates and five graduate students enrolled, and several more students auditing the class. They all realize that deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past.

Ge'ez has a liturgical tradition, so it's an overstatement to say that we have no idea what it sounded like. But, yes, we have no direct evidence for its exact pronunciation in antiquity and we have to resort to reconstruction. The same is true for Hebrew and Aramaic.

Ten students in an introductory class on an obscure ancient language is quite a good number. Congratulations to Professor Holsted and best wishes to the new UT Ethiopic program for more successes.

Background here and links.