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...