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Jo Ann Hackett and John Huehnergard Receive NEH Grant for Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon

Project will update a century-old dictionary to create an open-source resource for students, scholars, and clergy working on Semitic studies.

Posted: July 11, 2013
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Jo Ann Hackett and John Huehnergard, Professors of Ancient Near East/Hebrew Bible in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, have received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities  to update, expand, and make accessible one of the primary English language resources for the study of the Hebrew Bible and its world. This project, the electronic Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon (BHAL), is based on the most widely-used and reliable dictionary for the study of Biblical Hebrew, the Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament of Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and C.A. Briggs (Oxford 1907), and known to generations of students, scholars, and clergy simply as BDB.

BDB, the most comprehensive and widely-used English dictionary of Biblical Hebrew ever created, is a marvel of superb scholarship and practical ease of use, and despite its age it is still the dictionary that many scholars turn to first to look up a Biblical Hebrew form. However, a century of discoveries and new analyses is missing from this essential reference, and yet nothing of comparable utility or reliability has appeared to replace it or fill in these gaps.

The NEH grant will allow the team led by Hackett and Huehnergard to update this dictionary and make it accessible as an open source work. The  end result will be a freely available lexicon available online or through print-on-demand that will allow scholars of the Hebrew Bible, of Semitics, of linguistics, and of other as yet unknown fields to benefit from our resources with a simple click. With a digitized html format of the dictionary (minus two undigitized language scripts) as our base, our team will incorporate a century of textual discovery and scholarship to carry the legacy of BDB into the future with the best of old and new.

The Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon will be part of a website at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) that will be the “go-to” place for Semitic languages. The website, Semitica Electronica, will be an umbrella site housing a number of projects. The first two resources that Hackett and Huehnergard are developing are the electronic lexicon for Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, and a project called Mapping Semitic Languages, which will present historical maps and sample texts for all the Semitic languages throughout recorded history. A third project in the early stages of development by the Arabic faculty is an electronic database for modern Arabic dialects; this project will be linked with the Mapping Semitic Languages site.

This project will be supported through UT's Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services (LAITS), a special service unit comprised of over 20 professional full time graphic designers, audio and video specialists, web developers, programmers, and network administrators. LAITS provides technology support for instruction, research, and administration. 

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