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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: Introducing Classical Syriac (DIVI08031)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe Syriac tradition is one of the oldest in the history of Christianity. Spanning 2,000 years, Classical Syriac literature encompasses multiple genres, including some of the most ancient translations of the Bible, the earliest Christian poetry, and an important witness to Christian-Muslim interactions. Currently, however, only a handful of institutions in the world offer training in this subject. This course (open to levels 8-11) will provide students with a foundational introduction to Syriac as language and field.
Course description Academic Description
This course introduces students to Classical Syriac - the language of one of the most ancient traditions of Christianity. The course is accessible to absolute beginners and assumes no prior knowledge. Students begin by learning the alphabet and writing system, followed by a systematic study of grammar, syntax, and will acquire new vocabulary each week. Learning will be consolidated through short translation exercises and vocab quizzes. By the end of the course, students will be able to read simple Syriac prose, and conduct a detailed final exam of a set text taken from a 4th-century homily.

Outline Content
The course begins with an introduction to the alphabet, vocalic system, and pronunciation followed by a systematic overview of grammar. Elements of grammar will include: nouns (emphatic, absolute, construct); active and passive participles; strong and weak verbs (forms I-VI). This is supplemented by incremental vocabulary acquisition and frequent translation exercises from various textbooks. The course ends with an examination of a short extract of a homily by Ephrem of Syria (d. 373). Students will be required to analyse and parse out the grammatical, syntactic, and theological features of this text.

Student Learning Experience
The course meets four times a week. The course tutor will explain new grammar, but students are encouraged to ask questions and actively engage with the course material. This includes students being required to not only read and translate sentences in Syriac but to also analyse and parse out their grammar. There is an expectation that students will come prepared for lessons and go over each class in their own time, memorising vocabulary, verb forms, and other aspects of the language. There will also be an audio-visual component of the teaching, namely video and tape recordings of Syriac recitation in liturgical settings by members of the community. This will provide students with a sense of the language as a living tradition. Students will demonstrate their achievements through class tests and a final exam.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  8
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 044, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 149 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 90 %, Coursework 0 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Practical Exam (weekly quizzes) (30%): Translate sentences from course book.

Coursework (mid-semester assessment) (10%): 1-page translation exercise of a simple set text

Exam (60%) (in person exam)
Feedback Students will have the opportunity to see Course Organiser in office hours for official feedback on draft translations/general questions about upcoming assignments.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Read simple passages from various Classical Syriac sources and translate them into English.
  2. Identify noun states and verb forms frequently used in Classical Syriac literature so that they can look them up in a dictionary.
  3. Acquire a vocabulary of the most frequently used words in Syriac homiletic and Biblical texts.
  4. Demonstrate an awareness of some key exegetical and theological features of Syriac literature (e.g. typology and use of metre) and their importance to Christianity as a whole.
  5. Understand grammatical, syntactic, and theological issues relating to a set text from Ephrem and other texts.
Reading List
- Coakley's grammar
- Margoliouth's Compendious Syriac Dictionary.
- Zammit's Chrestomathy.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Students will develop problem solving skills by analysing grammar and thinking critically about translation.
- This course will open up a whole new language and tradition to students, inviting them to think about the world differently.
Course organiserDr Salam Rassi
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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