Modern study of cuneiform script awarded De la Court Prize for unpaid research

26 November 2012

Bram Jagersma will receive the 2013 De la Court Prize from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences for his innovative study of Sumerian, one of the oldest written languages. The prize, a monetary award of EUR 7500, is awarded for unpaid, independent research.

Bram Jagersma received his doctorate at Leiden University in 2010 for his thesis A descriptive grammar of Sumerian. It immediately became a standard work. A trade edition of the grammar book will be published by Oxford University Press. Jagersma works part time for Leiden University Library as a subject specialist in linguistics. He conducts his research in his spare time. He is now regarded as one of the leading experts on Sumerian in the world.

Letter in Sumerian dating from approx. 2370 BCE

Sumerian was spoken until approximately 2000 BCE in what is now southern Iraq. It continued to function for another 2000 years after that as the language of scholars and priests. Jagersma spent several decades studying countless clay tablets that preserve the cuneiform script of the Sumerians. The jury selected Jagersma for the huge impact that his work has had both on the study of Mesopotamian languages and cultures and university instruction in this field. He describes Sumerian as if it were a “living” language, in accordance with the most recent linguistic insights.

The prize will be presented on Monday 11 February 2013 at the Trippenhuis Building in Amsterdam. It will be part of a special conference on language and linguistics (In het teken van taal) featuring papers by linguists Pieter Muysken, Frits Kortlandt and Bram Jagersma himself.

 The De la Court Prize (EUR 7500) is awarded every other year for scholarly research in the arts and social sciences that has been performed independently and without financial reward. The Academy awards the prize in recognition of individuals who have performed outstanding scholarly work in their own time and without monetary compensation.