What a great story.
(The Star) - A language that hasn’t been spoken for more than 1,000 years is being taught this semester at the University of Toronto, a step perhaps towards decoding rarely understood excerpts of history.Complete article here.
The ancient Ethiopic language of Ge’ez is written in a script that’s read left to right and has 26 letters. Letters have variations for the vowels that go with them, meaning students have to learn 26 characters in seven different ways.
The goal of the class, which meets twice a week, is to get students on their way to reading.
Milen Melles, a history major who said her parents immigrated to Canada from Eritrea — which became independent from Ethiopia in the early 1990s after three decades of war — is taking the class as an opportunity to connect with her roots. She one day hopes to study texts from the region at a graduate level.
“This is a huge step for western academia to be exploring African languages, ancient languages, because they usually only study Swahili,” Melles said, noting that African studies often get lumped together at universities, differently than other regions where specific areas or countries are studied independently of one another.
“They treat Africa like a monolith, if they were to have an Ethiopic studies program that would clearly change that whole model of the way that they look at Africa,” said Melles, noting that the Ge'ez language pre-dates Ethiopia as it exists today.
U of T’s Scarborough library is working on digitizing tens of thousands of pages of historical manuscripts written in Ge’ez that hardly anyone can understand.
In its first semester, five undergraduates and five graduate students are enrolled in Holmstedt’s class, with a handful more auditing. He said his students are taking the class for many different reasons, for some it’s a chance to connect with their heritage while for others it’s an effort to unlock ancient bits of history.
Funding for the class started with a $50,000 donation from U of T history professor Michael Gervers, who worked on digitizing manuscripts for the university from the Gunda Gunde monastery in Ethiopia.
Gerver’s donation was later matched by Scarborough’s Abel Tesfaye (better known as Grammy award-winner, the Weeknd) and by the university...