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On September 30th, UCLA's Professor Stanislav Segert, the great scholar of the North-West Semitic languages and my own venerated teacher and Doktorvater, died after a short hospitalization at the age of 84.

Segert was the last great grammarian of the Semitic languages in the polymathic European tradition of Dillmann, Brockelmann, and Noeldeke. He is perhaps best known in the United States for his textbook Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language (1984), but in my opinion his finest work is his Altaramäische Grammatik (1975). He also wrote a fundamental Grammar of Phoenician and Punic (1976). Besides these works he wrote still unpublished grammars of Syriac and Biblical Aramaic for classroom use.

His hundreds of articles include many on the Qumran texts, and dozens more on aspects of Ugaritic studies. His study of the language of the Moabite stone ("Die Sprache der moabitischen Königinschrift," Archiv Orientalni, 1961) is still the best survey of that dialect.

Segert was born in Prague on May 4, 1921, and the first part of hiscareer unfolded in what is now the Czech Republic. He was ordained aminister in the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (Unitas Fratrum)in 1943. He received his PhD from Charles University in Prague in1947, where he taught until 1968 when the worsening politicalsituation caused him to emigrate to the United States. Beginning in 1970, heserved on the faculty of UCLA's Department of Near Eastern Languagesand Cultures, as Full Professor and Professor Emeritus, until his death.

Not only was Segert a great scholar, he was a great gentleman. His erudition was exceeded only by his courtesy, and any suggestion of scholarly hostility or odium theologicum caused him great pain. When someone in class once mentioned to him the falling out that had taken place between two European archaeologists, his only comment was, "Ah! Let us hope that no very great time will pass until they will once again be friends." His epitaph might well be: He died without enemies.

After Samuel Johnson died in 1784, William Hamilton wrote, "He has made a chasm which not only nothing can fill up, but which nothing has a tendency to fill up. Johnson is dead. Let us go to the next best. There is nobody; no man can be said to put you in mind of Johnson."

The same is true of Segert. He is gone, and he is irreplaceable. His books and articles remain for those to learn from who will; I will continue to study them, but even more than these, I will treasure the memory of his kindness and gentleness. As both a scholar and a man, he was a giant.

[A version of this remembrance first appeared on "Ralph the Sacred River" (]

Edward Cook,

Citation: Edward Cook, " Stanislav Segert (1921-2005) In memoriam," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Sept 2005]. Online:


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