"Wordplay" in Ancient Near Eastern Texts
Ancient Near Eastern Monographs Series, 26; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature Press, 2021. This book is free to download through SBL Press. Click here

This monograph offers a comparative study of the various functions that wordplay serves in ancient Near Eastern texts and provides a comprehensive taxonomy for the phenomenon. Languages covered include Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Ugaritic, biblical Hebrew, and Aramaic. The monograph also examines definitions of "wordplay" by exploring ancient conceptions of words and the generative role of scripts (consonantal, syllabic, and pictographic). Also discussed are issues of terminology, genre, audience, grammaticality, interpretation, and methodology. The book further considers the distribution and preferences of these devices among the languages and discusses a number of principles and strategies that inform their creation, such as ambiguity, repetition and variation, delayed comprehension, metaphor and metonymy, clustering, and the use of rare words. The book concludes by suggesting potential avenues for future research.