I Don't Know -- It's All Etruscan To Me!
January 11, 2019 1:06 AM   Subscribe

Lexicity: dedicated to providing online study resources for ancient languages, claims to be "the first and only comprehensive index for ancient language resources on the internet." With links to resources for 30 ancient languages from Akkadian to Ugaritic (a language discovered in 1928!), you can spelunk and meander and amble your way through dictionaries, grammar lessons, charts and aids, ancient texts, and other resources.

As you'd expect, the site has ancient Greek and Latin, Hebrew and Arabic, Sanskrit and Sumerian. Sure, they've thrown in Old French and Gaulish, Old Irish and Old English, Old French and Old High German. But the "olds" don't stop there, and if you want to find resources to brush up on your Church Slavonic, Hittite, or the Mayan language families, there's something here for you.

What's nifty is that even if you've barely got a passing knowledge of the existence of a language (or none at all), the site gives you some introductory info before sending you down the rabbit hole. "Old Frisian is a West Germanic language, closely related to Old English." Okay, then! If you want to read Confucius and Mencius in the original Old Chinese, this might be your starting point. If you're tired of Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic language families and want to plumb the depths of Kartvelian language families, jump into ancient Georgian and an "Analysis of Georgian Morphosyntax." (As one does.)

A few of the most obscure languages aren't fully fleshed out, like Elamite, of which the site says, "Extinct, difficult, and of questionable practical value; like a pet velociraptor, however, Elamite definitely impresses at parties." So there are no charts for it, but when you see a link to the "Persepolis Fortification Archive," don't you have to at least take a peek?

So wend your way through the Old and New Testaments and Icelandic sagas in Old Norse, or spend your weekend with a "fragment of the Iliad" in Syriac.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese (7 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
By coincidence, just last night I started reading The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh by David Damrosch, all about the various Victorians responsible for undigging the tablets and unraveling the languages, as well as the early history of the library of Ashurbanipal. Page turning stuff, good fun, just the sort of thing to jazz one up for this kind of site.
posted by BWA at 5:59 AM on January 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I had a friend & roommate in graduate school whom I admired so much, not least because she read several dead/ancient languages: Latin, Greek, Old English, Old Irish, Old Norse. She also read French and German (which are still 2 more languages than I have), but they were never as impressive. She's changed fields, but maybe she's still keeping her hand in and will be picking up other languages, provided they are long gone.

Another friend learned some Tocharian - not sure if he ever used it in his research (he was working on medieval China/central Asia), but he did say it was pretty easy, given the limited vocabulary we have. ('Easy' was in comparison to Chinese and Japanese, which he also had to learn as an adult).
posted by jb at 8:11 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

(sadly, I can't read any of these languages - once had some Latin but have lost it. But I love reading about them. Thanks!)
posted by jb at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nice post. You might also like Omniglot - the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages.

Is it just me or does the Lexicity site have horrible contrast problems?
posted by zengargoyle at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is great, thank you so much for sharing!
posted by xarnop at 5:52 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

omg, thank you for posting this! I've been looking for a Sumerian dictionary, and Lexicity linked to one: http://lexicity.com/resources/sumerian/dictionaries/
posted by elsilnora at 8:46 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Really great website, thanks for the share!

Is it just me or does the Lexicity site have horrible contrast problems?
But seriously though, where is the Dark Mode? Haha
posted by infide1castr0 at 1:07 PM on January 12, 2019

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