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Reynolds, he has been working on an Afroasiatic Morphological Archive (AAMA) project, aimed at building a comparative-historical reference archive of all available morphological information on the Cushitic-Omotic languages (some fifty Afroasiatic languages spoken in the Horn of Africa)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 http://aama.github.io.