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Bibliographisches Glossar des Hurritischen.

Bibliographisches Glossar des Hurritischen. By Thomas Richter. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Ver LAG, 2012. Pp. xxxvi + 667. 98 [euro].

One of the most urgent desiderata in ancient Near Eastern linguistics is a dictionary of the Hurrian language. Although the size of the Hurrian corpus is still relatively small in comparison with its Akkadian, Hittite, or Biblical Hebrew counterparts, the Hurrian lexicon is of special importance for the study of language contact in the ancient Near East. In the course of their history the Hurrians absorbed a large number of loanwords from the Akkadian, Anatolian, and West Semitic languages, and reciprocated with loans of their own in each of the three cases. This is an expected state of affairs, since the Hurrian expansion in southeastern Anatolia and northern Syria in about 1700 B.C.E. drove a wedge between Anatolian Indo-Europeans to the north and east and West Semites to the south. The Hurrian state of Mittanni at its zenith in about 1500 B.C.E. exercised its influence over large territories inhabited by non-Hurrian-speaking populations. The Hurrians played a crucial role in the transfer of Mesopotamian cultural baggage to Anatolia, as witnessed by Hurrian versions of Mesopotamian texts found in the archives of Hattusa.

Yet another facet of language contact involving Hurrians bears upon the primary research project of Thomas Richter, the author of the volume under review. In 2002 a joint German-Syrian-Italian archaeological expedition discovered the royal archive of the Bronze Age Syrian town of Qatna. The documents of this archive are composed in Akkadian, the international diplomatic language of the time, but feature a large number of Hurrian code-switches. The decipherment of these tablets was complicated by the fact that they apparently record a heretofore unknown dialect of the Hurrian language. That the archive of Qatna was published in the same year as the volume under review (Richter 2012) is a testimony to the exceptional philological competence of its author and the dynamic character of Hurrian studies.

In contrast to the above-mentioned editio princeps, the volume under review (BGH) is not conceived as a definitive reference publication, but rather represents an ancillary tool summarizing the progress in Hurrian lexicography of the last thirty or so years. Its stated purpose is to provide an update to the pioneering Hurrian glossary prepared by Emmanuel Laroche (1980). Although very useful at the time of its publication, Laroche's glossary quickly became obsolete after the discovery in one of the temples of Hattusa of the Hurrian Epic of Manumission with Hittite translation. The study of this bilingual allowed scholars to describe a dialect of Hurrian that was grammatically quite different from the one used in the chancery of the kingdom of Mittanni. It was also conducive to a large number of new lexical identifications, which, in turn, facilitated the understanding of other Hurrian texts found in Hattusa. Even though most monolingual Hurrian texts still lack adequate translations, since 1984 they have been published in transliteration in the series Corpus der hurritischen Sprachdenkmaler (ChS), sometimes accompanied by glossaries.

Thomas Richter began annotating the secondary literature on Hurrian lexicography when he studied in Berlin in the early nineties under the supervision of Volkert Haas and Ilse Wegner, two of the founders of the ChS. Later Ilse Wegner proposed that he publish his bibliographic glossary as a companion to her own manual of Hurrian (Wegner 2010). The author was not able to accept this offer because of conflicting time commitments, and the glossary has now appeared later and separately. This is perhaps to the better, since the scope of the lexical material treated in the BGH is not limited to the passages discussed in Wegner's manual, but extends to the entire Hurrian corpus. Included are also ghost-words appearing in Laroche's glossary but discarded through subsequent research, as well as unattested Hurrian lexemes reconstructed through linguistic comparison (on which see below). The bulk of the glossary is devoted to Hurrian forms in cuneiform transmission, but its appendix also treats the assured or likely Hurrian lexemes attested in the Ugaritic alphabetic script.

Because of its comprehensive character, the volume under review will no doubt contribute to making Hurrian studies a less esoteric subject. Its target audience consists not only--and not primarily--of students of Hurrian, but also includes specialists in adjacent fields, who occasionally need to check the Hurrian data for comparative purposes. Thus I much regret not having had access to an updated Hurrian glossary when Miguel Valerio and I were exploring origins of Akk. parzillu- and related words for 'iron' (Valerio and Yakubovich 2010). The existence of Hurr. parzilli- (transliterated barzilli- in BGH 302) is compatible with our reconstruction of Luwian *parzil(i)-, but we failed to locate the Hurrian noun in the reference sources that were available to us at the time of our writing.

At the same time it should be stressed that the author did not attempt to impose his own understanding of the Hurrian lexicon upon the reader. The title Bibliographisches Glossar honestly reflects the content of individual lexical entries: They list the opinions of individual scholars regarding the meanings and etymologies of individual lexemes, but do not evaluate conflicting views. References are normally made not to the primary sources of attestation of forms and lexemes but rather to their discussion in secondary literature. Richter accepts responsibility only for grouping synchronically related forms into a single lexical entry, as well as listing their heterographic equivalents and synonyms. This, again, is the appropriate position to take under the circumstances, since a full-fledged dictionary of the Hurrian language should represent the result of a concentrated and ideally collective effort, and not something performed on the margin of another creative philological project. On the other hand, the non-committal nature of the discussion in the BGL potentially facilitates its further development. Mentions of new secondary literature can be easily added to the existing entries without modifying their structure.

This brings us to the question of the future of Richter's project. The raison d'etre of a bibliographic glossary is to provide up-to-date bibliography for an independent evaluation by specialists in the field. Therefore, a monograph belonging to such a genre inevitably goes out of date much more quickly than a synchronic or etymological dictionary containing creative solutions. Given that the publication of a new edition of the volume under review every five years is hardly feasible, the best way of ensuring its durability would be converting it into a digital bibliographic database, to be updated periodically with references to new secondary literature. Richter (p. xiv) mentions the related digital project Literatur zum hurritischen Lexikon proposed by Stefano de Martino and Mauro Giorgieri in 2005, but given that the Italian project ( does not appear to have yet gone beyond the letter A, launching another digital project based on Richter's glossary or finding a way to join the two projects would clearly do service to scholarship.

This could be a low-maintenance enterprise, requiring the initial effort of a programmer, periodic contributions by a graduate student, plus a minimal amount of supervision. Online publication would inevitably involve copyright issues, but setting up a nominal access/subscription fee might represent a viable solution. A collateral advantage of a potential database would be the possibility of automatically generating word indices for languages other than Hurrian, which are regrettably absent in the published version of the glossary.

Neither the genre of a brief book review nor my own qualifications are conducive to discussing every detail of this much-needed work. In what follows I will dwell on one minor methodological issue linked to an important problem of ancient Near Eastern contact linguistics. Sometimes the author feels forced to include asterisked entries for unattested Hurrian lexemes, just because they have been postulated by someone in the secondary literature, for example, as sources of Classical Armenian forms. Cases in point are, for example, Hurr. *agurri, supposedly a missing link between Akkadian agurru 'baked brick' and Armenian agur 'id.' (p. 10), or Hurr. *kanik(ki) 'sealing', bridging Akk. kaniku 'sealed document' and Arm. knik' 'seal' (p. 184). There is no doubt, in my opinion, that the Armenian words ultimately represent Akkadian loans in both cases, but Hurrian does not impose itself as a mediator, as Richter also appears to acknowledge. Conjecturing a particular loanword trajectory is not sufficient grounds to include a reconstructed intermediary in a synchronic glossary, bibliographic or not. An obvious pitfall of the asterisked lemmas lies in the possibility for specialists in adjacent fields to infer that the reconstruction of *agurri and *kanik(ki) is an assured matter. It would certainly be more appropriate if reconstructed lexemes were relegated to a separate section of the dictionary, as has, in fact, been done to the forms in Ugaritic transmission.

But quite aside from this formal quibble, the question of language contact between Hurrian and Armenian deserves substantial discussion. There is no doubt that the two languages share a number of exclusive lexical isoglosses, for example Hurr. hinzuri 'apple' vs. Arm. xnjor 'id.' (cf. BGH 152) or Hurr. alipsi 'clay brick' vs. Arm. aliws 'id.' (Hrach Martirosyan, pers. comm.). Armenian, however, also features exclusive lexical isoglosses with Urartian, the only known close relative of the Hurrian language. As examples of lexical matches that are peculiar to Urartian and Armenian one can mention Urart. ANSEultu(ni) 'camel' vs. Arm. ult 'id.'(Harouthiunian 2000: 472; Akk. udru is formally more remote) or Urart. sani 'cauldron' vs. Arm. san 'id.' (Harouthiunian 2000: 462).

The linguistic contacts between Armenian and Urartian are historically unproblematic, because the kingdom of Urartu occupied roughly the same territory in the early first millennium B.C.E. that the kingdom of Armenia occupied a millennium later. A number of Urartian toponyms are preserved in the Classical Armenian sources, for example the name of the Urartian capital Tuspa rendered in Armenian as Tosp (Harouthiunian 2000: 526). By contrast, the concept of direct lexical borrowings from Hurrian into Armenian is considerably less trivial. The Hurrian language is no longer attested in writing after circa 1200 B.C.E., while many scholars assume that the Proto-Armenians migrated from the Balkans to eastern Anatolia only after the collapse of the Hittite Empire (e.g., Diakonoff 1984). A linguistic argument in favor of such a late date is the absence of assured Hittite loanwords in Armenian (Simon 2013).

Therefore one might legitimately wonder whether the alleged Hurrian borrowings into Armenian may in fact represent loanwords from unattested Urartian lexemes, whose Hurrian cognates happen to be known (similarly Greppin 2008: 134). Such a situation can be easily explained by the poorer state of preservation of the Urartian lexicon in comparison with its Hurrian counterpart. Thus for 110 basic meanings of the modified Swadesh list one can fill in 65 slots for Hurrian, and only 22 for Urartian (Kassian 2010: 385). But the missing links between Hurrian and Armenian comparanda are gradually being revealed through the identification of new lexical items in Urartian texts.

One case in point is that of Hurr. puh- 'to exchange', which remains a formally possible source of the Armenian loanword p'ox- 'id.' (BGH 321). The volume under review takes proper notice of a proposition to treat Urartian as its alternative source, but does not mention that the relevant Urartian verb has already been identified. The recently found Urartian inscription of Ayanis contains the prohibitive formula VIII 1-2: MAN-e a-li i-si i-ku-ka-ni e-di-ni ma-nu-li mi-i gi-i i-na-a-ni ba-u-si-na-ni KIN i-si-ia-ni mi-i gi-i se-pu-ia-ar-di-a-ni mi-i pu-hi-a-ni, which is rendered as follows by Salvini (2008: I 569-70): "II re quale per questo stesso luogo sara non qualcosa da/di questi ordini ... (resto della r. 2 intraducibili proibizioni)." The meaning of the prohibitives i-si-ia-ni and se-pu-ia-ar-di-a-ni still remains elusive, but pu-hi-a-ni in the given context is perfectly compatible with the meaning "let him not alter (anything of these orders)" (Yakubovich 2010: 152). Presumably, the orders in question are ritual prescriptions found elsewhere in the text. If one accepts this interpretation, then the root puh-, which is only attested through nominal derivatives in Hurrian, emerges in a finite verb in Urartian, as well as in Classical Armenian (p'ox-em), which tips the scales in favor of Urartian as the source of Armenian borrowing. The ultimate source of this loanword is, of course, Akkadian piihu 'exchange, substitute'.

Under such conditions, the only way to prove Hurrian lexical influence on Classical Armenian would be finding Armenian words of Hurro-Urartian origin that display specific innovations typical of the Hurrian language. Using a list of Hurro-Urartian loanwords in Armenian prepared by Igor Diakonoff (1985) and checking it against the BGH, I was unable to find such examples, although two cases deserve special attention.

Akkadian andku 'tin' is argued to have arrived in Classical Armenian as a nag 'id.' via Hurrian, because the lenition of intervocalic stops is not typical of Urartian. This word, however, is not Semitic or Hurro-Urartian in origin, but was probably borrowed from a language of Central Asia, the principal source of tin in the Bronze Age Near East. Since Sanskrit naga- 'lead, tin' likewise shows the voiced stop (cf. BGH 29 with ref.), it is the unvoiced consonant of Akkadian anaku that requires explanation. It remains possible that *anagi 'tin' existed in both Hurrian and Urartian, but there is no formal way to decide which of the two languages (if either) was the source of Arm. anag.

The case of Armenian t'iw 'number' is more complicated. Hurrian tiwe 'word, thing, matter' is clearly a better match to the Armenian word than Urart. tini 'name' from both formal and semantic perspectives. Yet the two forms are not lexical cognates, since the likely counterpart of Urart. tini is Hurr. ti(j)eni 'name (vel sim.)' (cf. BGH 454). On the other hand, the disappearance of intervocalic -w- is a distinct innovation of Urartian vis-a-vis Hurrian. Thus it is perfectly possible that *tiwi 'word (vel sim.)' existed in Urartian at its pre-written stage and was borrowed from there into Armenian. In a later period, Urart. *tiwi > *ti might have fallen out of use, possibly because of a constraint on monosyllabic nominal stems.

An indisputable Hurrian innovation is the laryngeal feature neutralization of word-initial stops, which contrasts with the Urartian preservation of a threefold distinction between the voiced, voiceless, and "emphatic" stops in word-initial position. Here the Armenian borrowings side with Urartian against Hurrian, in that they preserve the initial voiced stops. This is, of course, not surprising when the source of borrowing is attested in Urartian, e.g., Arm. burgn 'fortress' vs. Urart. burganani 'an architectural installation' (if the Armenian word is indeed borrowed from Urartian and not vice versa). But in the instance of Hurr. tabre/inni 'metal founder' (cf. BGH 440) vs. Arm. darbin 'blacksmith', reconstructing an unattested Urartian *dabrini as a source of the Armenian word appears to be the only plausible way of linking the two nouns (Yakubovich 2009). The advantage of such a solution lies in assigning the source of the Armenian word for 'metal worker' to the Urartian civilization, which was famous for its metallurgy. The unlikely alternatives include attributing the close formal resemblance between the two nouns to chance, or treating the Hurrian professional designation as an Armenian loanword. The last solution, advocated in Martirosyan 2010: 236, implies the presence of Armenians on the Armenian plateau by the mid-second millennium B.C.E. and separates tabre/inni from its synchronic Hurrian cognates listed in the BGH.

Thus the linguistic data do not impose a single case of direct lexical transfer between the Hurrian and Armenian languages, while historical and geographic considerations rather contradict than support such a hypothesis. Therefore the Armenian evidence probably should not be used to back up the existence of Hurrian forms such as *agurri and *kanik(ki), whose value for the glossary remains very questionable. It goes without saying that my discussion of the few asterisked forms is in no way meant to undermine the importance of the new Hurrian glossary. The volume under review fills in a critical gap in ancient Near Eastern scholarship and will do a great service to scholars in a variety of its subfields.




Diakonoff, Igor. 1984. The Prehistory of the Armenian People. Delmar, NY: Caravan Books.

--. 1985. Hurro-Urartian Borrowings in Old Armenian. JAOS 105: 597-603.

Greppin, John. 2008. The Urartian Substratum in Armenian. Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences 2: 134-37.

Harouthiunian, Nikolaj. 2000. Korpus urartskikh klinoobraznykh nadpisej. Yerevan: Gitouthiun.

Kassian, Alexei. 2010. Hurro-Urartian from the Lexicostatistical Viewpoint. Ugarit-Forschungen 42: 383-451.

Laroche, Emmanuel. 1980. Glossaire de la langue hourrite. Paris: Klincksieck.

Martirosyan, Hrach. 2010. Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Inherited Lexicon. Leiden: Brill.

Richter, Thomas. 2012. Das Archiv des Idadda: Die Keilschrifttexte aus den deutsch-syrischen Ausgrabungen 2001-2003 im Konigspalast von Qatna. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Salvini, Mirjo. 2008. Corpus dei testi urartei, pt. 1: Le iscrizioni su pietra e roccia. Vol. I: Testi, vol. II: Thesaurus, vol. Ill: Carte, fotografie e disegni. Rome: Istituto di studi sulle civilt'a dell'Egeo e del Vicino Oriente.

Simon, Zsolt. 2013. Die These der hethitisch-luwischen Lehnworter in Armenischen: Eine kritische Neubetrachtung. International Journal of Diachronic Linguistics and Linguistic Reconstruction 10: 97-135.

Valerio, Miguel, and Ilya Yakubovich. 2010. Semitic Word for Iron as Anatolian Loanword. Issledovanija po lingvistike i semiotike: Sbornik statej k jubileju Viach. Vi. Ivanova, ed. T. M. Nikolaeva. Pp. 108-16. Moscow: Languages of Slavonic Culture.

Wegner, Use. 2010. Einfiihrung in die hurritische Sprache, 2nd ed. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Yakubovich, Ilya. 2009. Two Armenian Etymologies. Giorgi Melikishvili Memorial Volume, ed. I. Tatishvili et al. Pp. 266-72. Tbilisi: Logos.

--. 2010. Morphological Negation in Urartian. Aramazd 5: 141-65.
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Author:Yakobovich, Ilya
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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