The system that any language uses to express evaluations, judgments, estimations, and imaginary situations tends to be complicated and poorly understood. This has certainly been the case, historically, for Akkadian. In this study, Nathan Wasserman presents the fruit of 15 years of study of the epistemic modal system of Old Babylonian, which represents one of the best-documented periods of the Akkadian language.
As Wasserman notes, the interplay of philology, linguistics, and psychology that is involved in understanding any modal system makes coming to conclusions a difficult enterprise. And though many questions remain unanswered, in this clearly organized monograph he guides the reader through a study of each modal word and its etymology, syntax, and usage, on the basis of an examination of the Old Babylonian examples that have been published. He thus arrives at a general view of epistemic modality in Old Babylonian.
Most Probably: Epistemic Modality in Old Babylonians is a work that will add significantly to your understanding of the Old Babylonian language and the interpretation of texts. It will become the benchmark for further study of verbal modality in Akkadian and other Semitic languages.
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The author’s deep linguistic approach reveals itself in the theoretical excurses, where he explains the function of the Old Babylonian system of epistemic modality and its particular elements through generalized theory. The typological parallels from various modern languages, including English, French, German, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Hindi, are noteworthy . . . One cannot avoid mentioning the wonderfully lively style of the book, which is (almost paradoxically) very simple, scientific, and yet at the same time almost literary. Wasserman’s monograph is highly recommended to all who are interested in Akkadian and Semitic linguistics, as well as those interested in studies of modality in general.
—Ilya Khait, University of Leipzig