Princeton students have an opportunity to learn the ancient African language of Gə'əz, also known as classical Ethiopic. This language contains some of the most important works ever written. Our library has the largest Gə'əz manuscript collection in the Americas and our campus hosts a significant Gə'əz digital humanities project.

Writings in Gə'əz span two millennia and contain a vast and diverse body of literature. Despite its tremendous historical significance in African and world history, the language remains under-taught and under-studied in western institutions. In offering this course, the Africa World Initiative at Princeton is leading the way in maintaining ancient African languages as part of the collective, global heritage of learning.

Gə'əz lives on in East Africa and its global diaspora as the sacred, liturgical language of Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Christians, as well as the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews). Gə'əz writings include ancient stone inscriptions, translations of the Biblical books, apocryphal and pseudo-canonical texts (such as Enoch and Jubilees), royal chronicles, hagiographies (saintly biographies), poetry, law manuals, philosophies, theologies, and even a novel. The language is crucial for understanding the early history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in northeastern Africa and beyond. It belongs to the Semitic language family and is related to Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic. It is also a precursor to several modern African languages, including Tigrinya and Amharic.

To teach this course, we are bringing Prof. Hamza Zafer from the University of Washington, who teaches hugely popular Gə'əz language courses.

The Princeton course will be GEZ 101, taught M-Th at 10:00am Fall' 23 and GEZ 102  taught M-Th at10:00am Spring '24.

Registration is through the Princeton student enrollment process.