Friday, October 01, 2010

The Sound of Babylonian

Anyone who has ever studied a "dead" language such as Ancient Greek or Latin has wondered what it really sounded like when it was the vernacular. The problem is compounded when the language is Babylonian, which hasn't been spoken in several millennia. An article describes a website that offers short audio files of Babylonian texts recorded by a number of different scholars. The extracts come from such well-known works as the Code of Hammurabi, one of the world's oldest set of laws, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is interesting to listen to the snippets and hear the native accents of the speakers come through. Babylonian sounds a lot like Hebrew to me, which makes sense because both are Semitic languages, as is Arabic. However, Professor Martin Worthington, the leader of the project and a well-known Assyriologist who teaches at Cambridge University, says he thinks Babylonian sounds "'a bit like a mixture of Arabic and Italian.'" I don't hear any echoes of Italian, but I defer to Professor Worthington's superior knowledge in this area. The image is of the Code of Hammurabi on a stele held by the Louvre Museum in Paris.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

This is so cool, Marie! Thank you for sharing it.