Benno Landsberger’s Theory of the Specific Concepts of the Ancient Near East Cultures

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2016, Vol. 2. №4

Benno Landsberger’s Theory of the Specific Concepts of the Ancient Near East Cultures

About the author:

Sergey V. Grigorishyn, Cand. Sci. (Philos.), Associate Professor, Department of Archeology, Ancient History, and Middle Ages, Tyumen State University;


The article deals with B. Landsberger’s theory of “eigenbegrifflichkeit” (specific concepts) of Sumerian, Akkadian, and Ancient Hebrew cultures. The theory is studied with respect to the term “eigenthümlichkeit” as it is presented in the philosophy of language by W. von Humboldt. The views of Landsberger’s followers, W. von Soden and O. D. Edzard, are analyzed. The interrelation between Landsberger’s theory of “eigenbegrifflichkeit” and W. von Soden’s theory of “listenwissenschaft” is revealed. The author outlines O. D. Edzard’s arguments in favour of the implementation of these theories. The article also gives the overview of criticism on Landsberger’s theory by contemporary assyriologists. In particular, the author describes W. Sallaberger’s attempt to prove the abstract character and unfeasibility of the tasks set by B. Landsberger. In addition, a more well-reasoned standpoint adopted by G. Zeltz, whose low-key criticism of Landsberger’s theory is offered with due regard to the presuppositions of J. Piaget’s psychology. In conclusion, the counterarguments are adduced to attest to Landsberger’s theory of “einbegrifflichkeit” as well as to the groundlessness of W. Sallaberger and G. Seltz’ criticism. The major results of the research reveal the following facts: 1) the evidence of the historical succession between B. Landsberger’s theory of specific concepts and the studies by W. von Soden and O. D. Edzard; 2) the direct intersubordination of sumero-akkadian “listenwissenschaft” and billinguism of ancient near east cultures; Edzarad’s complete support and extension of Sumero-Akkadian studies of Wolfram von Soden’s “listenwissenschaft”; 3) significant prospects of further modern studies of specific concepts and theory “listenwissenschaft” in contemporary historical investigations.


  1. Edzard D.-O. 1999. Rationalitätstypen. In: K. Gloy (ed.). 1999. Sumerisch-akkadischen Listenwissenschaft und andere Aspekte altmesopotamischer Rationalität, pp. 246-267. Freiberg/München: Verlag Karl Alber.
  2. Humboldt W. 1836. Über die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaus und ihren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwicklung des Menschengeschlechts. Berlin.
  3. Landsberger B. 1926. “Die Eigenbegrifflichkeit der babylonischen Welt.“ Islamica, no 2, pp. 355-72.
  4. Litke R. L. 1998. A Reconstruction of Assyro-Babylonian God-Lists, AN: dA-nu-um and AN: Anu ša amēli. New Heaven: Yale Babylonian Collection.
  5. Sallaberger W. 2007. “Benno Landsbergers “Eigenbegrifflichkeit” in wissenschaftlicher Perspektive.” In: C. Wilcke (ed.). 2007. Das geistige Erfassen der Welt im Alten Orient. Sprache, Religion, Kultur, und Gesellschaft. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag, pp. 63-82.
  6. Selz G. J. 2011. “Remarks on the Empirical Foundation of Early Mesopotamian Acquisition of Knowledge.” In: Selz G. J., Wagensonner K. (eds). 2011. Wiener Offene Orientalistik, vol. 6, pp. 49-70. Wien.
  7. Soden W. 1960. Zweisprachigkeit in der geistigen Kultur Babyloniens. Wien: Herman Böhlaus Nachf.