Published: RTR 74, no. 1, 2015
AN INTRODUCTION TO UGARITIC
By John Huehnergard (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2012), xviii + 246 pp., US$69.95
Beginning students of Ugaritic suddenly find themselves in the situation of being spoilt for choice. Learning Ugaritic in the 20th century was not for the fainthearted, but the early 21st century has seen a number of excellent texts published. Michael Williams’ Basics of Ancient Ugaritic (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), is the most accessible Ugaritic Grammar yet to be published. It is simple, concise, and even light-hearted in places, and those competent with Hebrew should be able to move through it rapidly. Huehnergard, also published in 2012, could well be the second port of call for those who have worked through Williams (whilst also commending the ‘Primer’ of Schniedewind and Hunt, Cambridge University Press, 2007). It is serious, detailed, and comprehensive, but still stands out as being more readable than some Ugaritic Grammars. It is rightly seen as a standard reference text.
As a supplement to Williams, it works well. It would not work so well as a stand-alone classroom text, though. It does not have a series of lessons, but rather its chapters move from orthography, to phonology, then on to morphology, etc. Only in chapter seven is vocabulary introduced, with three practice exercises. Still, a collection of Ugaritic texts is included, which can be used for practice, and the appendix of paradigms is welcome, as are the 51 colour plates.
There are some small irritations. The characters used to transliterate Hebrew aleph and yod, and their Ugaritic equivalents, are not the standard SBL ones. In the alphabet table (p. 24), the letter, ‘r’, is missing, and it might have been helpful to include Ugaritic and Aramaic forms, not just their transliterations. Personally, I question the insistence on using what is only hypothecated vocalised Ugaritic text, but this is common across Ugaritic Grammars (probably in an effort to be user-friendly). Those who know Arabic will feel at home, but those coming only from Hebrew will repeatedly be baffled and alienated. Correlation to Hebrew emerges more clearly in consonantal text, besides which, vocalisation does not prepare one for reading actual Ugaritic, which is only consonantal.