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Thy Name is Deer. Animal Names in Semitic Onomastics and Name- Giving Traditions: Evidence from Akkadian, Northwest Semitic, and Arabic

Hekmat Dirbas defended his thesis on 14 February 2017

Hekmat Dirbas
14 February 2017
Leiden Repository
My dissertation examines the sociocultural underpinnings of name-giving by speakers of Semitic languages, focusing on the component of the onomasticon derived from animal names. The study deals with three language groups: (1) Akkadian, (2) Northwest Semitic (i.e., Amorite, Hebrew, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Phoenician), and (3) Arabic (classical and modern sources). The main findings of this study can be summarized as follows: (1) The occurrence of animal names in every corpus points to a common Semitic background imbued with metaphoric, affective, and apotropaic aspects. There is, however, no evidence for totemism. (2) Whereas names of herbivorous animals (wild and domestic) are found in every language examined, names of venomous animals, predators, and raptors are much more attested in West Semitic, especially Arabic, than in Akkadian, and this is apparently related to the symbolic nature of names within the social ideology of a society. (3) The survival of animal names in modern Arabic practices, specifically among nomads, points to an adherence to ‘pre-Islamic’ naming methods vis-à-vis normative Islamic views. These findings contribute to the discussion about naming in general and in the context of Semitic linguistic in particular.

Supervisors: Prof. Holger Gzella, Jan Gerrit Dercksen and Maarten Kossmann (LUCL)

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