The Department of Near Eastern Languages, later to become the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, was established in 1959 by Wolf Leslau.

The professors of Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, who had until then resided in other departments, now joined it. This new department was the first step in fulfilling Gustave von Grunebaum¹s farsighted agenda to provide a solid foundation at UCLA for Near Eastern Studies, present and past, particularly for those related to Islam. In subsequent years the department curriculum grew to include courses in the Turkic languages of Central Asia, ancient and modern; courses in the languages of the Ancient Near East, Sumerian, Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew and Egyptian; and finally, courses in the other languages in which the Armenian churches were involved.

This broad coverage of the languages, many in both their written and spoken forms, was accompanied by the development of courses in the associated literatures and cultures. In recent years, with university and outside support, members of the department have been applying the digital technology to create innovative research and instructional materials that the founders of the department could never have dreamed of. You will find the links in our web-site site to the Hebrew Workbook, the Turkish Tutor, the Cuneiform Digital Library, and the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology--all examples of NELC faculty projects. Please explore them.