Gene B. Gragg

Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Linguistics
Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1966.
Teaching at Chicago since 1969.

Special Interests

Cushitic and Afroasiatic Comparative Linguistics, Historical and Computational Linguistics, Morphological Theory, Linguistic Prehistory of the Languages of the ANE

Gene Gragg has been involved in both linguistics and languages of the Near East since the time when, as a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago (1962-66), he became interested in applying linguistic rigor to the study of Ancient Near Eastern languages. The result was a dissertation on the dimensional infixes of Sumerian, a short form of which was eventually published as The Dimensional Infixes of Sumerian (Neukirchen, 1973).Coming back to the University of Chicago in 1969, with a joint appointment in the Departments of Linguistics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, he divided his teaching time between the two departments, with time off for a year of field work in Ethiopia. He was chair of NELC (1979-85), director of the Oriental Institute(1997-2002), and retired in 2004.

His recent research has largely evolved around problems of electronic analysis and publication of Ancient Near Eastern textual corpora, and the lexical and grammatical research tools correlated with these corpora, and with on-going projects in historical (Afroasiatic) linguistics. In this context he has been focusing on the comparative morphology of the Cushitic and Omotic branches of Afroasiatic. With initial support from a Mellon Foundation Emeritus Fellowship, and with the help of programmer Gregg Reynolds, he has been working on an  Afroasiatic Morphological Archive (AAMA) project, aimed at building a comparative-historical reference archive of all available morphological information on the Cushitic-Omotic languages (some fifty Afroasiatic languages spoken in the Horn of Africa) --eventually with reference to their Afroasiatic context. The present state of the project, with links to the data and the application and interface source code can be found at



Recent Publications:

Selected Recent Articles:

  • Kuschitisch.” In Burkhart Kienast (ed.), Historische Semitische Sprachwissenschaft. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2001, pp. 574–617.
  • "Geªez (Aksum).” In Roger D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 427–53.
  • “Bushes, Trees, and Networks in Afroasiatic”, Papers from the 40th Regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society (Chicago; Chicago Linguistic Society, 2004).
  • “Morphology and root structure: A Beja Perspective”, Aula Orientalis 23 (2005): 23 – 34.
  • “The ‘Weak’ Verb: Akkadian and Beja.” in G. Deutscher and N. J. C. Kouwenberg (eds.)The Akkadian Language in its Semitic Context. Leiden: Netherlands Institute of the Near East (= PIHANS  106), 2006, pp. 19-29.
  • “What kind of Speech Community is represented by the 'Cushitic' Node?: Introduction to the Lexical Evidence”  in Rainer Voigt (ed.),  Akten des 7. internationalen Semitohamitistenkongresses (VII. ISHaK), Berlin 13. bis 15. September  2004 (= Semitica et Semitohamitica Berloinensia 5). Aachen: Shaker Verlag, 2007, pp. 211-236.
  • “An Approach to Describing Afroasiatic Templatic Morphologies”, Aula Orientalis 26 (2008) 61-89.
  • “Grammaticization and Paradigm Formation in Afroasiatic: Verbal Negation in Cushitic,” Aula Orientalis29 (2011) 43-60.
  • “Synthèse. The Dynamics of Case -- Recapitulation and Future  Directions “,  in Fruyt, Michele, Michel Mazoyer, & Dennis Pardee (eds.), Grammatical Case in the Languages of the Middle East and Europe, (= SAOC 64). Chicago: Oriental Institute, 2011, pp. 417-419.
  • (with Robert Hoberman), "Semitic", in Zygmunt Frajzyngier & Erin Shay (eds.) The Afroasiatic Languages (Cambridge University Press: 2012), pp. 145-235.
  • “Cushitic verb inflectional classes revisited”, in Simeone-Senelle, Marie-Claude and Martine Vanhove (eds.).  Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Cushitic and Omotic Languages - Paris, 16-18 April 2008. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2013, pp. 21-35.
  • "Paradigms and Graphs: Reflections on a Morphological Database", in Stauder, Andreas, & Christopher Woods (eds.), Linguistic Methods and Theory and the Languages of the Ancient Near East. Chicago: Oriental Institute, (Forthcoming).