Recent Developments in Digital Assyriology - Zoom Workshop, Helsinki, August 26-27 2020

Presenting on behalf of the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires (Team 1), PIs Saana Svärd and Krister Lindén on August 27, 17.40-18.00 in Session 3: Using Text Data, Publishing and Digital Assyriology.

ABSTRACT “Meaning in Networks of Words? ‘Fear’ as a case study”

This presentation will summarize the results of an article in press authored by Svärd, Alstola, Jauhiainen, Sahala and Lindén, “Fear in Akkadian Texts: New Digital Perspectives on Lexical Semantics.” The aim of the article was to examine the semantic lexical field of five verbs that are commonly translated as “to fear” or similar in English, namely, adāru, galātu, palāḫu, parādu and šaḫātu. These verbs form an entry point by which we can attempt to understand how the native Akkadian users themselves may have perceived the relationships between these five lexemes and their relationships to other words. The research relies on the idea that the meaning of any word lies in its relationship with other words. By using language technological methods (PMI and fastText), we traced semantically relevant properties of the five fear verbs with other words of Akkadian. This enabled us to create for the first time a semantic map (in the form of a gephi graph) of how these verbs relate to each other and other lexemes in our corpus. This provided us with tools to reflect on the semantic domains of the words beyond what is covered by existing research, even comprehensive volumes like the CAD. The statistical results cannot significantly improve the existing lexical semantics in terms of adding new nuances and new “meanings” to already known ones, but this approach can analyze the "quantitative meaning” of a word of interest. The presentation will give one simple example of this methodology. For further information, see our data at