Hittite Dictionary

“Did you know that 3500 years ago when Hittites said watar it meant the same as our English word water?” teases a display at Chicago’s  Oriental Institute.

It continues:

English and Hittite both belong to the Indo-European language family, of which Hittite is the oldest known member. This means that they share grammar and words: watar = English water. The Hittites lived in ancient Anatolia, which is now modern Turkey. Between 1650 and 1200 BC they were one of the great powers of the ancient Near East alongside Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia. There are over 30,000 Hittite texts comprising laws, letters, annals, hymns and prayers, oracles and omens, myths, scenarios for religious celebrations and rituals, and even ancient dictionaries.

The Hittite dictionary project has been going since 1976. It has already been in print (I have seen a used three-volume set priced at $20 per volume).  The Chicago Hittite Dictionary is also free online (it downloads a Java application file first).

Other language projects at the Oriental Institute have not been so successful, at least yet. The oldest project, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, began in 1921, and is said to be nearly complete with 20 volumes so far. A project to supplement a 1954 glossary of Demotic Egyptian is also still underway; plans call for a hard copy and a CD-ROM as a final product.

Of course there are rumors the dictionary is already available in the members’ library upstairs.

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