The field of Comparative Semitics is devoted to the study of the languages and dialects of the Semitic language family. The purpose of the program is to provide a thorough grounding in each of the major Semitic languages, with special emphasis on one of these languages. The key consideration in the development of any particular program is that the student should reach a level of competence in the major language which equals that expected of someone majoring in that language in a context other than Comparative Semitics. The student’s orientation may be more heavily weighted toward a linguistic approach, i.e., characterized by the formal study of language, or toward a philological approach, i.e., characterized by emphasis on the study of texts and literatures. Basic knowledge of linguistic methods and principles is a requirement for both orientations. The principal factor which distinguishes this program from the various other language programs in the department is the conscious intent to introduce the student to a comprehensive understanding of the Semitic languages and their development.
The student will choose a main language of specialization out of the five major areas of Semitic. The five main languages of specialization are Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian, Arabic, and Ge‘ez. At the end of the program, students are expected to pass examinations at a four-year level in their main language and to control the major dialects of their area.