Akkadian language

Akkadian language

Overview
Akkadian (also Accadian, Assyro-Babylonian) is an extinct
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

 Semitic language (part of the greater Afroasiatic language family) that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

, an unrelated language isolate
Language isolate
A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. They are in effect language families consisting of a single...

. The name of the language is derived from the city of Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

, a major center of Mesopotamian civilization.

During the third millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism.
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Encyclopedia
Akkadian (also Accadian, Assyro-Babylonian) is an extinct
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

 Semitic language (part of the greater Afroasiatic language family) that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

, an unrelated language isolate
Language isolate
A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. They are in effect language families consisting of a single...

. The name of the language is derived from the city of Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

, a major center of Mesopotamian civilization.

During the third millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influence of Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund
Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

.

Akkadian was first attested in Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 texts in proper names from around 2800 BC. From the second half of the third millennium BC, texts fully written in Akkadian begin to appear. Hundreds of thousands of texts and text fragments have been excavated up to date; covering a vast textual tradition of mythological narrative, legal texts, scientific works, correspondence and many other examples. By the second millennium BC, two variant forms of the language were in use in Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

 and Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

 (known as Assyrian and Babylonian respectively).

Akkadian had been for centuries the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 in the Ancient Near East. However, it began to decline around the 8th century BC, being marginalized by Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

 during the Neo Assyrian Empire. By the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

, the language was largely confined to scholars and priests working in temples. The last Akkadian cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 document dates to the 1st century AD. A number of Akkadian loan words survive in the Mesopotamian Neo Aramaic dialects spoken in and around modern Iraq by the Assyrian
Assyrian people
The Assyrian people are a distinct ethnic group whose origins lie in ancient Mesopotamia...

 Christians of the region, and the giving of Akkadian personal names is still common amongst these people.

Classification


Akkadian belongs with the other Semitic languages in the Afro-Asiatic
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

 family of languages, a family native to Western Asia and Northern Africa.

Within the Semitic languages, Akkadian forms an East Semitic subgroup (with Eblaite
Eblaite language
Eblaite is an extinct Semitic language, which was spoken in the 3rd millennium BC in the ancient city of Ebla, at Tell Mardikh , between Aleppo and Hama, in western modern Syria....

). This group distinguishes itself from the Northwest and South Semitic languages by its SOV word order, while the other Semitic languages usually have either a VSO or SVO order. This novel word order is due to the influence of the Sumerian substratum, which has an SOV order.

Additionally Akkadian is the only Semitic language to use the prepositions ina and ana (locative
Locative case
Locative is a grammatical case which indicates a location. It corresponds vaguely to the English prepositions "in", "on", "at", and "by"...

, English in/on/with, and dative
Dative case
The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

-locative
Locative case
Locative is a grammatical case which indicates a location. It corresponds vaguely to the English prepositions "in", "on", "at", and "by"...

, for/to, respectively). Other Semitic languages like Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 and Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

 have the prepositions bi/bə and li/lə (locative and dative, respectively). The origin of the Akkadian spatial prepositions is unknown.

In contrast with most other Semitic languages, Akkadian has only one non-sibilant fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

: [x]. Akkadian lost both the glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

 and pharyngeal
Pharyngeal consonant
A pharyngeal consonant is a type of consonant which is articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx.-Pharyngeal consonants in the IPA:Pharyngeal consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet :...

 fricatives, which are characteristic of the other Semitic languages. Up until the Old Babylonian period, the Akkadian sibilants
Sibilant consonant
A sibilant is a manner of articulation of fricative and affricate consonants, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the sharp edge of the teeth, which are held close together. Examples of sibilants are the consonants at the beginning of the English words sip, zip, ship, chip,...

 were exclusively affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

.

Writing




Old Akkadian is preserved on clay tablets dating back to 2600 BC. It was written using cuneiform
Cuneiform script
Cuneiform script )) is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium , cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs...

, a script adopted from the Sumerians using wedge-shaped signs pressed in wet clay. As employed by Akkadian scribes the adapted cuneiform script could represent either (a) Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 logogram
Logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

s (i.e. picture-based characters representing entire words), (b) Sumerian syllables, (c) Akkadian syllables, or (d) phonetic complement
Phonetic complement
A phonetic complement is a phonetic symbol used to disambiguate word characters that have multiple readings, in mixed logographic-phonetic scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Akkadian cuneiform, Japanese, and Mayan...

s. However, in Akkadian the script practically became a fully fledged syllabic script
Syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent syllables, which make up words. In a syllabary, there is no systematic similarity between the symbols which represent syllables with the same consonant or vowel...

, and the original logographic
Logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

 nature of cuneiform became secondary. However, logograms for frequent words such as 'god' and 'temple' were still used. For this reason the sign AN can on the one hand be a logogram for the word ilum ('god'), and on the other signify the god Anu
Anu
In Sumerian mythology, Anu was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, Consort of Antu, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as...

, or even the syllable -an-. Additionally the sign was used as a determinative
Determinative
A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in logographic scripts which helps to disambiguate interpretation. They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, though they may derive historically from glyphs for real words, and...

 for divine names.

Example 4 in the image on the right shows another peculiarity of Akkadian cuneiform. Many signs do not have a well-defined phonetic value. Certain signs, such as , do not distinguish between the different vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

 qualities. Nor is there any coordination in the other direction; the syllable , for example, is rendered by the sign , but also by the sign . Both of these are often used for the same syllable in the same text.

Cuneiform was in many ways unsuited to Akkadian: among its flaws was its inability to represent important phonemes in Semitic, including a glottal stop
Glottal stop
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

, pharyngeals
Pharyngeal consonant
A pharyngeal consonant is a type of consonant which is articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx.-Pharyngeal consonants in the IPA:Pharyngeal consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet :...

, and emphatic consonant
Emphatic consonant
Emphatic consonant is a term widely used in Semitic linguistics to describe one of a series of obstruent consonants which originally contrasted with series of both voiced and voiceless obstruents. In specific Semitic languages, the members of this series may be realized as pharyngealized,...

s. In addition, cuneiform was a syllabary
Syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent syllables, which make up words. In a syllabary, there is no systematic similarity between the symbols which represent syllables with the same consonant or vowel...

 writing system — i.e. a consonant plus vowel comprised one writing unit — frequently inappropriate for a Semitic language made up of triconsonantal root
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

s (i.e. three consonants plus any vowels).

Development


Akkadian is divided into several varieties
Variety (linguistics)
In sociolinguistics a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself...

 based on geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 and historical period:
  • Old Akkadian, 2500–1950 BC
  • Old Babylonian/Old Assyrian, 1950–1530 BC
  • Middle Babylonian/Middle Assyrian, 1530–1000 BC
  • Neo-Babylonian/Neo-Assyrian, 1000–600 BC
  • Late Babylonian, 600 BC–100 AD


The earliest known Akkadian inscription was found on a bowl at Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, addressed to the very early pre-Sargonic king Meskiang-nuna of Ur by his queen Gan-saman, who is thought to have been from Akkad.

The Akkadian Empire, established by Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great "the Great King" , was an Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC. The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, Sargon reigned in the last quarter of the third millennium BC...

, introduced the Akkadian language (the "language of Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

") as a written language, adapting Sumerian cuneiform orthography for the purpose. During the Middle Bronze Age (Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian period), the language virtually displaced Sumerian, which is assumed to have been extinct as a living language by the 18th century BC.

Old Akkadian, which was used until the end of the 3rd century BC, differs from both Babylonian and Assyrian, and was displaced by these dialects. By the 21st century BC Babylonian and Assyrian, which were to become the primary dialects, were easily distinguishable. Old Babylonian, along with the closely related dialect Mari
Mari, Syria
Mari was an ancient Sumerian and Amorite city, located 11 kilometers north-west of the modern town of Abu Kamal on the western bank of Euphrates river, some 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, Syria...

otic, is clearly more innovative than the Old Assyrian dialect and the more distantly related Eblaite language
Eblaite language
Eblaite is an extinct Semitic language, which was spoken in the 3rd millennium BC in the ancient city of Ebla, at Tell Mardikh , between Aleppo and Hama, in western modern Syria....

. For this reason, forms like lu-prus ('I will decide') are first encountered in Old Babylonian instead of the older la-prus (even though it was archaic compared to Akkadian). On the other hand, Assyrian developed certain innovations as well, such as the "Assyrian vowel harmony" (which is not comparable to that found in Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 or Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

). Eblaite is even more archaic, retaining a productive dual
Dual (grammatical number)
Dual is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities identified by the noun or pronoun...

 and a relative pronoun
Relative pronoun
A relative pronoun is a pronoun that marks a relative clause within a larger sentence. It is called a relative pronoun because it relates the relative clause to the noun that it modifies. In English, the relative pronouns are: who, whom, whose, whosever, whosesoever, which, and, in some...

 declined in case, number and gender. Both of these had already disappeared in Old Akkadian.

Old Babylonian was the language of king Hammurabi
Hammurabi
Hammurabi Hammurabi Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c...

 and his code
Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC . It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay...

, which is one of the oldest collections of laws in the world. (see Code of Ur-Nammu
Code of Ur-Nammu
The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. It was written in the Sumerian language circa 2100 BC-2050 BC...

.)

The Middle Babylonian (or Assyrian) period started in the 16th century BC. The division is marked by the Kassite
Kassites
The Kassites were an ancient Near Eastern people who gained control of Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire after ca. 1531 BC to ca. 1155 BC...

 invasion of Babylonia around 1550 BC. The Kassites, who reigned for 300 years, gave up their own language in favor of Akkadian, but they had little influence on the language. At its apogee, Middle Babylonian was the written language of diplomacy of the entire ancient Orient, including Egypt. During this period, a large number of loan words were included in the language from North West Semitic languages and Hurrian
Hurrian language
Hurrian is a conventional name for the language of the Hurrians , a people who entered northern Mesopotamia around 2300 BC and had mostly vanished by 1000 BC. Hurrian was the language of the Mitanni kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, and was likely spoken at least initially in Hurrian settlements in...

; however, the use of these words was confined to the fringes of the Akkadian speaking territory.

Middle Assyrian
Middle Assyrian
Middle Assyrian refers to the Middle Assyrian period of the Ancient Near East, ca. 16th to 10th centuries BC *the Middle Assyrian Empire, see Assyrian Empire*the Middle Assyrian language, see Akkadian language...

 served as a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 in much of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

 of the Late Bronze Age (Amarna Period
Amarna Period
The Amarna Period was an era of Egyptian history during the latter half of the Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten in what is now modern-day Amarna...

). During the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Neo-Assyrian began to turn into a chancellery language, being marginalized by Old Aramaic. Under the Achaemenids, Aramaic continued to prosper, but Assyrian continued its decline. The language's final demise came about during the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

 when it was further marginalized by Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

, even though Neo-Assyrian cuneiform remained in use in literary tradition well into Parthian
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 times. The latest known text in cuneiform Babylonian is an astronomical text dated to 75 AD. The youngest texts written in Akkadian date from the 3rd century AD. A number of Akkadian words and many personal names survive to this day in the modern Assyrian (or Neo Aramaic) language spoken by ethnic Assyrians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians)in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.


Old Assyrian developed as well during the second millennium BC, but because it was a purely popular language — kings wrote in Babylonian — few long texts are preserved. From 1500 BC onwards, the language is termed Middle Assyrian.

During the first millennium BC, Akkadian progressively lost its status as a lingua franca. In the beginning, from around 1000 BC, Akkadian and Aramaic were of equal status, as can be seen in the number of copied texts: clay tablets were written in Akkadian, while scribes writing on papyrus and leather used Aramaic. From this period on, one speaks of Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian. Neo-Assyrian received an upswing in popularity in the 8th century BC when the Assyrian kingdom became a major power, but texts written exclusively in Neo-Assyrian disappear within 10 years of Nineveh's
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

 destruction in 612 BC.

After the end of the Mesopotamian kingdoms, which fell due to the Persian conquest of the area, Akkadian (which existed solely in the form of Late Babylonian) disappeared as a popular language. However, the language was still used in its written form; and even after the Greek invasion under Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, Akkadian was still a contender as a written language, but spoken Akkadian was likely extinct by this time, or at least rarely used. The latest positively identified Akkadian text comes from the 1st century AD.

Decipherment


The Akkadian language was rediscovered when the Dane Carsten Niebuhr
Carsten Niebuhr
Carsten Niebuhr or Karsten Niebuhr , a German mathematician, cartographer, and explorer in the service of Denmark, is renowned for his travels on the Arabian peninsula.-Biography:...

 in 1767 was able to make extensive copies of cuneiform texts and published them in Denmark. The deciphering of the texts started immediately, and bilinguals, in particular Old Persian
Old Persian language
The Old Persian language is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages . Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets, and seals of the Achaemenid era...

-Akkadian bilinguals, were of great help. Since the texts contained several royal names isolated signs could be identified, and were presented in 1802 by Georg Friedrich Grotefend
Georg Friedrich Grotefend
Georg Friedrich Grotefend was a German epigraphist.-Life:He was born at Hann. Münden and died in Hanover. He was educated partly in his native town, partly at Ilfeld, where he remained till 1795, when he entered the university of Göttingen, and there became the friend of Heyne, Tychsen and Heeren...

. By this time it was already evident that Akkadian was a Semitic language, and the final breakthrough in deciphering the language came from Henry Rawlinson
Henry Rawlinson
Maj.-Gen. Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, 1st Baronet CB was a British politician and Orientalist, sometimes described as the Father of Assyriology.-Early life:...

 in the middle of the 19th century.

Dialects


The following table summarises the dialects of Akkadian certainly identified so far.
|+ Known Akkadian dialects
! Dialect !! Location
|-
| Assyrian >
>-
| Babylonian
>-
| Mariotic
Mari
Mari, Syria
Mari was an ancient Sumerian and Amorite city, located 11 kilometers north-west of the modern town of Abu Kamal on the western bank of Euphrates river, some 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, Syria...

)
>-
| Tell Beydar


Some researchers (such as W. Sommerfeld 2003) believe that the Old Akkadian variant used in the older texts isn't an ancestor of the later Assyrian and Babylonian dialects, but rather a separate dialect that was replaced by these two dialects and which died out early.

Phonetics and phonology


Because Akkadian as a spoken language is extinct and no contemporary descriptions of the pronunciation are known, little can be said with certainty about the phonetics
Phonetics
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

 and phonology
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

 of Akkadian. Some conclusions can be made, however, due to the relationship to the other Semitic languages and variant spellings of Akkadian words.

The website http://www.speechisfire.com/ collects acoustic recordings of modern scholars reading Akkadian aloud. Thus you can consult the website to hear how different scholars think the language sounded.

Consonants


As far as can be told from the cuneiform orthography of Akkadian, several Proto-Semitic phonemes are lost in Akkadian. The Proto-Semitic glottal stop , are lost as consonants, either by sound change or orthographically, but they gave rise to the vowel quality e not exhibited in Proto-Semitic. The interdental and the voiceless lateral fricatives  merged with the sibilants as in Canaanite
Canaanite languages
The Canaanite languages are a subfamily of the Semitic languages, which were spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region, including Canaanites, Israelites and Phoenicians...

, leaving 19 consonantal phonemes.

The following table gives the consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

 sounds distinguished in the Akkadian use of cuneiform, and the IPA signs give the presumed pronunciation according to Streck 2005. The parenthesised sign following is the transcription used in the literature, in the cases where that sign is different from the phonetic sign. This transcription has been suggested for all Semitic languages by the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DMG), and is therefore known as DMG-umschrift.
Akkadian consonantal phonemes
  Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Interdental Dental/Alveolar Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Uvular
Uvular consonant
Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be plosives, fricatives, nasal stops, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and...

Pharyngeal
Pharyngeal consonant
A pharyngeal consonant is a type of consonant which is articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx.-Pharyngeal consonants in the IPA:Pharyngeal consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet :...

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

plain emphatic
Emphatic consonant
Emphatic consonant is a term widely used in Semitic linguistics to describe one of a series of obstruent consonants which originally contrasted with series of both voiced and voiceless obstruents. In specific Semitic languages, the members of this series may be realized as pharyngealized,...

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m   n            
Plosive voiceless p   t Akkadian emphatic consonants are reconstructed as ejectives (Hetzron, Robert (1997) . "The Semitic languages ". Taylor & Francis, 1997. p8).   k q   ʔ
voiced b   d     ɡ      
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

voiceless     s ʃ x    
voiced     z            
Trill
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

    r            
Approximant     l   j w      

The status of as postalveolar and of as fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

s is contested, due to attested assimilations
Assimilation (linguistics)
Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

 of voiceless coronal
Coronal consonant
Coronal consonants are consonants articulated with the flexible front part of the tongue. Only the coronal consonants can be divided into apical , laminal , domed , or subapical , as well as a few rarer orientations, because only the front of the tongue has such...

 affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

s to . For example, when the possessive suffix is added to the root ('word'), it is written ('his word') even though would be expected. What triggered the change from to is unclear, especially since a shift of to does not occur in other contexts.

According to Patrick R. Bennett's "Comparative Semitic Linguistics: a manual", the *š was a voiceless alveolo-palatal. In the pronunciation of a alveolo-palatal, the tongue approximates the teeth more closely.

An alternative approach to the phonology of these consonants is to treat *s *ṣ as voiceless coronal affricates [t͡s t͡sˤ], *š as a voiceless coronal fricative [s] and *z as a voiced coronal affricate or fricative [d͡z~z]. In this vein, an alternative transcription of *š is *s̠, with the macron below indicating a soft (lenis) articulation in Semitic transcription. The assimilation is then awat-su to [awat͡su], which is quite common across languages.

The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Akkadian, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew
Tiberian Hebrew
Tiberian Hebrew is the extinct canonical pronunciation of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh and related documents in the Roman Empire. This traditional medieval pronunciation was committed to writing by Masoretic scholars based in the Jewish community of Tiberias , in the form of the Tiberian vocalization...

:
Proto-Semitic Akkadian Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

Hebrew
ب ב
د ד
ج ג
ف פ
ت ת
ك כ
(Ø)/ ء א
ط ט
ق ק
ذ ז
ز
ث שׁ
س
ش שׂ
س ס
ظ צ
ص
ض
غ ע [ʕ]
(e) These are only distinguished from the Ø (zero) reflexes of /ḥ/ and /ʻ/ by /e/-coloring the adjacent vowel *a, e.g. PS } ('owner, lord') → Akk. bēlu(m) . ع [ʕ]
خ [x] ח
(e) ح [ħ]
(Ø) ه ה
م מ
ن נ
ر ר
ل ל
و ו
י

ي [j] י
Proto-Semitic Akkadian Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

Hebrew
Tiberian Hebrew
Tiberian Hebrew is the extinct canonical pronunciation of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh and related documents in the Roman Empire. This traditional medieval pronunciation was committed to writing by Masoretic scholars based in the Jewish community of Tiberias , in the form of the Tiberian vocalization...


Vowels

|+ Akkadian vowels
!   !! Front !! Central !! Back
|- align="center"
! Closed
| i >
  >- align="center"
! Mid
| e
  >- align="center"
! Open
|  
a


Additionally, most researchers presume the existence of back mid vowel /o/, but the cuneiform writings give no good proof for this.

All consonants and vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s appear in long and short forms. Long consonants are represented in writing as double consonants, and long vowels are written with a macron (ā, ē, ī, ū). This distinction is phonemic
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

, and is used in the grammar, for example iprusu ('that he decided') versus iprusū ('they decided').

Stress


Nothing is known of Akkadian stress
Stress (linguistics)
In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or to certain words in a phrase or sentence. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. The word accent is sometimes also used with this sense.The stress placed...

. There are however certain points of reference, such as the rule of vowel syncope (see the next paragraph), and some forms in the cuneiform that might represent the stressing of certain vowels; however, attempts at identifying a rule for stress have so far been unsuccessful.

A rule of Akkadian phonology is that certain short (and probably unstressed) vowels are dropped. The rule is that the last vowel of a succession of syllables that end in a short vowel is dropped, for example the declinational root of the verbal adjective of a root PRS is PaRiS-. Thus the masculine singular nominative is PaRS-um (< *PaRiS-um) but the feminine singular nominative is PaRiStum (< *PaRiS-at-um). Additionally there is a general tendency of syncope of short vowels in the later stages of Akkadian.

Overview


Akkadian is an inflected language; and as a Semitic language, its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

. And like all Semitic languages, Akkadian uses the system of consonantal roots
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

. Most roots consist of three consonants (called the radicals), but some roots are composed of four consonants (so-called quadriradicals). The radicals are occasionally represented in transcription in upper-case letters, for example PRS (to decide). Between and around these radicals various infix
Infix
An infix is an affix inserted inside a word stem . It contrasts with adfix, a rare term for an affix attached to the end of a stem, such as a prefix or suffix.-Indonesian:...

es, suffix
Suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

es and prefix
Prefix
A prefix is an affix which is placed before the root of a word. Particularly in the study of languages,a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the words to which it is affixed.Examples of prefixes:...

es, having word generating or grammatical functions, are inserted. The resulting consonant-vowel pattern differentiates the original meaning of the root. Also, the middle radical can be geminated, which is represented by a doubled consonant in transcription (and sometimes in the cuneiform writing itself).

The consonants ʔ, w, j and n are termed "weak radicals" and roots containing these radicals give rise to irregular forms.

Case, number and gender


Akkadian has two grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

s, masculine and feminine, with many feminine forms generated from masculine words by adding an -at suffix.

Formally, Akkadian has three numbers (singular, dual and plural) and three cases (nominative
Nominative case
The nominative case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject of a verb or the predicate noun or predicate adjective, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments...

, accusative
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

 and genitive
Genitive case
In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

). However, even in the earlier stages of the language, the dual number is vestigial, and its use is largely confined to natural pairs (eyes, ears, etc.), and adjectives are never found in the dual. In the plural numbers, the accusative and genitive are merged into a single oblique case
Oblique case
An oblique case in linguistics is a noun case of synthetic languages that is used generally when a noun is the object of a verb or a preposition...

.

Akkadian, unlike Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, has mainly regular plurals (i.e. no broken plurals), although some masculine words take feminine plurals. In that respect, it is similar to Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

.

The nouns šarrum (king), šarratum (queen) and the adjective dannum (strong) will serve to illustrate the case system of Akkadian.
|+ Noun and adjective paradigms
!
! Noun (masc.) !! Noun (fem.) !! Adjective (masc.) !! Adjective (fem.)
|-
! Nominative singular
| šarr-um >
šarr-at-um dann-um >-
! Genitive singular
| šarr-im
šarr-at-im dann-im >-
! Accusative singular
| šarr-am
šarr-at-am dann-am >-
! Nominative dual
| šarr-ān
šarr-at-ān
|-
! Oblique dual The oblique case includes the accusative and genitive.
| šarr-īn
>-
! Nominative plural
| šarr-ū
šarr-āt-um dann-ūt-um >-
! Oblique plural
| šarr-ī
šarr-āt-im dann-ūt-im


As is clear from the above table, the adjective and noun endings differ only in the masculine plural. Certain nouns, primarily those referring to geography, can also form a locative ending in -um in the singular and the resulting forms serve as adverbial
Adverbial
In grammar an adverbial is a word or a group of words that modifies or tells us something about the sentence or the verb. The word adverbial is also used as an adjective, meaning 'having the same function as an adverb'...

s. These forms are generally not productive, but in the Neo-Babylonian the um-locative replaces several constructions with the preposition ina.

In the later stages of Akkadian the mimation
Mimation
Mimation refers to the suffixed   which occurs in some Semitic languages.This occurs in Akkadian on singular nouns. It was also present in proto-Semitic....

 (word-final -m) - along with nunation
Nunation
In some Semitic languages, notably Arabic, nunation is the addition of a final nun to a noun or adjective to indicate that it is fully declinable and syntactically unmarked for definiteness....

 (dual final "-n") - that occurs at the end of most case endings has disappeared, except in the locative. Later, the nominative and accusative singular of masculine nouns collapse to -u and in Neo-Babylonian most word-final short vowels are dropped. As a result case differentiation disappeared from all forms except masculine plural nouns. However many texts continued the practice of writing the case endings (although often sporadically and incorrectly). As the most important contact language
Language contact
Language contact occurs when two or more languages or varieties interact. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics.Multilingualism has likely been common throughout much of human history, and today most people in the world are multilingual...

 throughout this period was Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, which itself lacks case distinctions, it is possible that Akkadian's loss of cases was an areal as well as phonological
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

 phenomenon.

Noun States and Nominal Sentences


As is also the case in other Semitic languages, Akkadian nouns may appear in a variety of "states" depending on their grammatical function in a sentence. The basic form of the noun is the status rectus (the Governed state), which is the form as described above, complete with case endings. In addition to this, Akkadian has the status absolutus (the Absolute state) and the status constructus (Construct state). The latter is found in all other Semitic languages, while the former appears only in Akkadian and some dialects of Aramaic.

The status absolutus is characterised by the loss of a noun's case ending (e.g. awīl < awīlum, šar < šarrum). It is relatively uncommon, and is used chiefly to mark the predicate of a nominal sentence, in fixed adverbial expressions, and in expressions relating to measurements of length, weight, and the like.

(1) Awīl-um šū šarrāq
Awīl-um šū šarrāq.
Man (Masculine, nominative) he (3rd masc. personal pronoun) thief (status absolutus)


Translation: This man is a thief

(2) šarrum lā šanān
šarr-um šanān.
King (Status rectus, nominative) not (negative particle) oppose (verbal infinitive, status absolutus)


Translation: The king who cannot be rivaled

The Status Constructus is a great deal more common, and has a much wider range of applications. It is employed when a noun is followed by another noun in the genitive, a pronominal suffix, or a verbal clause in the subjunctive, and typically takes the shortest from of the noun which is phonetically possible. In general, this amounts to the loss of case endings with short vowels, with the exception of the genitive -i in nouns preceding a pronominal suffix, hence:

(3) māri-šu
māri-šu
Son (status constructus) + his (3rd person singular possessive pronoun


Translation: His son, its (masculine) son

but

(4) mār šarr-im
mār šarr-im
Son (Status constructus) king (genitive singular)


Translation: The king's son

There are numerous exceptions to this general rule, usually involving potential violations of the language's phonological limitations. Most obviously, Akkadian does not tolerate word final consonant clusters, so nouns like kalbum (dog) and maḫrum (front) would have illegal construct state forms *kalb and *maḫr unless modified. In many of these instances, the first vowel of the word is simply repeated (e.g. kalab, maḫar). This rule, however, does not always hold true, especially in nouns where a short vowel has historically been elided (e.g. šaknum < *šakinum "governor"). In these cases, the lost vowel is restored in the construct state (so šaknum yields šakin).

(5) kalab belim
kalab bel-im
dog (Status constructus) master (genitive singular)


Translation: The master's dog

(6) sakin ālim
šakin āl-im
Governor (Status constructus) city (genitive singular)


A genitive relation can also be expressed with the relative preposition ša, and the noun that the genitive phrase depends on appears in status rectus.

(7) salīmātum ša awīl Ešnunna
salīmātum ša awīl Ešnunna
Alliances (Status rectus, nominative) which (relative particle) man (status constructus) Ešnunna (genitive, unmarked)


Translation: The alliances of the Ruler of Ešnunna (literally "Alliances which man of Ešnunna (has)")

The same preposition is also used to introduce true relative clauses, in which case the verb is placed in the subjunctive mood.

(7) awīl-um ša māt-am i-kšud-Ø-u
Awīl-um ša māt-am i-kšud-Ø-u
Man (Masculine, nominative) that (relative pronoun) land (singular, accusative) 3rd person - conquer (preterite) - singular, masculine - subjunctive


Translation: The man who conquered the land
Verb aspects

The Akkadian verb has six finite
Finite verb
A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand on their own as complete sentences....

 verb aspects
Grammatical aspect
In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

 (preterite
Preterite
The preterite is the grammatical tense expressing actions that took place or were completed in the past...

, perfect, present
Present tense
The present tense is a grammatical tense that locates a situation or event in present time. This linguistic definition refers to a concept that indicates a feature of the meaning of a verb...

, imperative, precative and vetitive) and three infinite
Non-finite verb
In linguistics, a non-finite verb is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person...

 forms (infinitive
Infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...

, participle
Participle
In linguistics, a participle is a word that shares some characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. It can be used in compound verb tenses or voices , or as a modifier...

 and verbal adjective
Non-finite verb
In linguistics, a non-finite verb is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person...

). The preterite is used for actions that are seen by the speaker as having occurred at a single point in time. The present is primarily imperfective in meaning and is used for concurrent and future actions as well as past actions with a temporal dimension. The final three finite forms are injunctive
Injunctive mood
The injunctive mood was a mood in Sanskrit characterized by secondary endings but no augment, and usually looked like an augmentless aorist or imperfect. It typically stood in a main clause and had a subjunctive or imperative meaning; for example, it could indicate intention, e.g. "Indra's heroic...

 where the imperative and the precative together form a paradigm for positive commands and wishes, and the vetitive is used for negative wishes. Additionally the periphrastic
Periphrasis
In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which a grammatical category or grammatical relationship is expressed by a free morpheme , instead of being shown by inflection or derivation...

 prohibitive, formed by the present form of the verb and the negative adverb
Adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

 lā, is used to express negative commands. The infinitive of the Akkadian verb is a verbal noun
Verbal noun
In linguistics, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive in English language usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g...

, and in contrast to some other languages the Akkadian infinitive can be declined in case
Grammatical case
In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is an inflectional form that indicates its grammatical function in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject , of direct object , or of possessor...

. The verbal adjective is an adjectival form and designates the state or the result of the action of the verb, and consequently the exact meaning of the verbal adjective is determined by the semantics
Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

 of the verb itself. The participle, which can be active or passive, is another verbal adjective and its meaning is similar to the English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 gerund
Gerund
In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

.

The following table shows the conjugation of the G-stem verbs derived from the root PRS ("to decide") in the various verb aspects of Akkadian:
Preterite Perfect Present Imperative stative Infinitive Participle (active) Verbal adjective
1st Person singular aprus aptaras aparras parsāku parāsum pārisum (masc.)
pāristum (fem.)
parsum (masc.)
paristum (fem.)
1st Person plural niprus niptaras niparras parsānu
2nd Person singular masc. taprus taptaras taparras purus parsāta
2nd Person singular fem. taprusī taptarsī (< *taptarasī) taparrasī pursi parsāti
2nd Person plural taprusā taptarsā taparrasā pursa parsātunu (masc.) / parsātina(fem.)
3rd Person singular iprus iptaras iparras paris
3rd Person plural masc. iprusū iptarsū (< *iptarasū) iparrasū parsat
3rd Person plural fem. iprusā iptarsā(< *iptarasā) iparrasā parsū (masc.) /parsā (fem.)


The table below shows the different affix
Affix
An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

es attached to the preterite aspect of the verb root PRS "to decide"; and as can be seen, the grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

s differ only in the second person singular and third person plural.
G-Stem D-Stem Š-Stem N-Stem
1st Person singular a-prus-Ø u-parris-Ø u-šapris-Ø a-pparis-Ø
1st Person plural ni-prus-Ø nu-parris-Ø nu-šapris-Ø ni-pparis-Ø
2nd Person singular masc. ta-prus-Ø tu-parris-Ø tu-šapris-Ø ta-pparis-Ø
2nd Person singular fem. ta-prus-ī tu-parris-ī tu-šapris-ī ta-ppars-ī
2nd Person plural ta-prus-ā tu-parris-ā tu-šapris-ā ta-ppars-ā
3rd Person singular i-prus-Ø u-parris-Ø u-šapris-Ø i-pparis-Ø
3rd Person plural masc. i-prus-ū u-parris-ū u-šapris-ū i-ppars-ū
3rd Person plural fem. i-prus-ā u-parris-ā u-šapris-ā i-ppars-ā

Verb moods

Akkadian verbs have 3 moods:
  1. Indicative, used in independent clauses, is unmarked.
  2. Subjunctive, used in dependent clauses. The subjunctive is marked in forms which do not end in a vowel by the suffix -u (compare Arabic and Ugaritic subjunctives), but is otherwise unmarked. In the later stages of most dialects, the subjunctive is indistinct, as short final vowels were mostly lost
  3. Ventive or allative. The ventive is not a mood in the strictest sense, being a development of the 1st person dative pronomial suffix -am/-m/-nim. With verbs of motion, it often indicates motion towards an object or person (e.g. illik, "he went" vs. illikam, "he came"). However, this pattern is not consistent, even in earlier stages of the language, and its use often appears to serve a stylistic rather than morphological or lexical function.


The following table demonstrates the verb moods of verbs derived from the root PRS ("to decide","to separate"):
Preterite.Both verbs are for the 3rd person masculine singular. Stative.
Indicative iprus paris
Subjunctive iprusu parsu
Ventive iprusam parsam

Verb patterns

Akkadian verbs have thirteen separate root
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

 stems. The basic, underived, stem is the G-stem (from the German Grundstamm, meaning "basic stem"). Causative
Causative
In linguistics, a causative is a form that indicates that a subject causes someone or something else to do or be something, or causes a change in state of a non-volitional event....

 or intensive
Intensive
In grammar, an intensive word form is one which denotes stronger or more forceful action relative to the root on which the intensive is built. Intensives are usually lexical formations, but there may be a regular process for forming intensives from a root...

 forms are formed with the doubled D-stem, and it gets its name from the doubled middle radical that is characteristic of this form. The doubled middle radical is also characteristic of the present, but the forms of the D-stem use the secondary conjugational affixes, so a D-form will never be identical to a form in a different stem. The Š-stem is formed by adding a prefix š-, and these forms are mostly causatives. Finally, the passive forms of the verb are in the N-stem, formed by adding a n- prefix. However the n- element is assimilated to a following consonant, so the original /n/ is only visible in a few forms.

Furthermore, reflexive
Reflexive
Reflexive may refer to:In fiction:*MetafictionIn grammar:*Reflexive pronoun, a pronoun with a reflexive relationship with its self-identical antecedent*Reflexive verb, where a semantic agent and patient are the same...

 and iterative verbal stems can be derived from each of the basic stems. The reflexive stem is formed with an infix -ta, and the derived stems are therefore called Gt, Dt, Št and Nt, and the preterite forms of the Xt-stem are identical to the perfects of the X-stem. Iteratives are formed with the infix -tan-, giving the Gtn, Dtn, Štn and Ntn. Because of the assimilation
Assimilation (linguistics)
Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

 of n, the /n/ is only seen in the present forms, and the Xtn preterite is identical to the Xt durative
Dynamic verb
A dynamic or finitive verb is a verb that shows continued or progressive action on the part of the subject. This is the opposite of a stative verb....

.

An alternative to this naming system is a numerical system. The basic stems are numbered using Roman numerals so thet G, D, Š and N become I, II, III and IV, respectively, and the infix
Infix
An infix is an affix inserted inside a word stem . It contrasts with adfix, a rare term for an affix attached to the end of a stem, such as a prefix or suffix.-Indonesian:...

es are numbered using Arabic numerals; 1 for the forms without an infix, 2 for the Xt, and 3 for the Xtn. The two numbers are separated using a solidus. As an example, the Štn-stem is called III/3. The most important user of this system is the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary.

There is mandatory congruence between the subject of the sentence and the verb, and this is expressed by prefix
Prefix
A prefix is an affix which is placed before the root of a word. Particularly in the study of languages,a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the words to which it is affixed.Examples of prefixes:...

es and suffix
Suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

es. There are two different sets of affixes, a primary set used for the forms of the G and N-stems, and a secondary set for the D and Š-stems.

The stems, their nomenclature and examples of the third-person masculine singular stative of the verb parāsum (root PRS: 'to decide, distinguish, separate') is shown below:
# Stem Verb Description Correspondence
I.1 G PaRiS the simple stem, used for transitive and intransitive verbs Arabic stem I (fa‘ala) and Hebrew qal
II.1 D PuRRuS gemination of the second radical, indicating the intensive Arabic stem II (fa‘‘ala) and Hebrew pi‘el
III.1 Š šuPRuS š-preformative, indicating the causative Arabic stem IV (’af‘ala) and Hebrew hiph‘il
IV.1 N naPRuS n-preformative, indicating the reflexive/passive Arabic stem VII (infa‘ala) and Hebrew niph‘al
I.2 Gt PitRuS simple stem with t-infix after first radical, indicating reciprocal or reflexive Arabic stem VIII (ifta‘ala) and Aramaic ’ithpe‘al (tG)
II.2 Dt PutaRRuS doubled second radical preceded by infixed t, indicating intensive reflexive Arabic stem V (tafa‘‘ala) and Hebrew hithpa‘el (tD)
III.2 Št šutaPRuS š-preformative with t-infix, indicating reflexive causative Arabic stem X (istaf‘ala) and Aramaic ’ittaph‘al (tC)
IV.2 Nt itaPRuS n-performative with a t-infix preceding the first radical, indicating reflexive passive
I.3 Gtn PitaRRuS simple stem with tan-infix after first radical
II.3 Dtn PutaRRuS doubled second radical preceded by tan-infix
III.3 Štn šutaPRuS š-preformative with tan-infix
IV.3 Ntn itaPRuS n-preformative with tan-infix

Stative


A very often appearing form which can be formed by noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s, adjectives as well as by verbal adjectives
Predicative verb
A predicative verb is a verb that behaves as a grammatical adjective; that is, it predicates . It is a special kind of stative verb....

 is the stative. Nominal predicatives
Predicative (adjectival or nominal)
In grammar, a predicative is an element of the predicate of a sentence that supplements the subject or object by means of the verb. A predicative may be nominal or adjectival . If the complement after a linking verb is a noun or a pronoun, it is called a predicate nominative...

 occur in the status absolutus and correspond to the verb "to be" in English. The stative in Akkadian corresponds to the Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 pseudo-participle. The following table contains an example of using the noun šarrum (king), the adjective rapšum (wide) and the verbal adjective parsum (decided).
šarrum rapšum parsum
1st Person singular šarr-āku rapš-āku pars-āku
1st Person plural šarr-ānu rapš-ānu pars-ānu
2nd Person singular masc. šarr-āta rapš-āta pars-āta
2nd Person singular fem. šarr-āti rapš-āti pars-āti
2nd Person plural masc. šarr-ātunu rapš-ātunu pars-ātunu
2nd Person plural fem. šarr-ātina rapš-ātina pars-ātina
3rd Person singular masc. šar-Ø rapaš-Ø paris-Ø
3rd Person singular fem. šarr-at rapš-at pars-at
3rd Person plural masc. šarr-ū rapš-ū pars-ū
3rd Person plural fem. šarr-ā rapš-ā pars-ā


Thus, the stative in Akkadian is used to convert simple stems into effective sentences, so that the form šarr-āta is equivalent to: "you were king", "you are king" and "you will be king". Hence, the stative is independent of time forms.

Derivation


Beside the already explained possibility of derivation of different verb stems, Akkadian has numerous nominal formations derived from verb roots
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

. A very frequently encountered form is the maPRaS form. It can express the location of an event, the person performing the act and many other meanings. If one of the root consonants is labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

 (p, b, m), the prefix
Prefix
A prefix is an affix which is placed before the root of a word. Particularly in the study of languages,a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the words to which it is affixed.Examples of prefixes:...

 becomes na- (maPRaS >> naPRAS). Examples for this are: maškanum (place, location) from ŠKN (set, place, put), mašraḫum (splendour) from ŠRḪ (be splendid), maṣṣarum (guards) from NṢR (guard), napḫarum (sum) from PḪR (summarize).

A very similar formation is the maPRaSt form. The noun derived from this nominal formation is grammatically feminine. The same rules as for the maPRaS form apply, for example maškattum (deposit) from ŠKN (set, place, put), narkabtum (carriage) from RKB (ride, drive, mount).

The suffix
Suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

 - ūt is used to derive abstract nouns. The nouns which are formed with this suffix are grammatically feminine. The suffix can be attached to nouns, adjectives and verbs, e.g. abūtum (paternity) from abum (father), rabutum (size) from rabum (large), waṣūtum (leaving) from WṢY (leave).

Also derivatives of verbs from nouns, adjectives and numerals are numerous. For the most part, a D-stem is derived from the root of the noun or adjective. The derived verb then has the meaning of "make X do something" or "becoming X", for example: duššûm (let sprout) from dišu (grass), šullušum (to do something for the third time ) from šalāš (three).
Independent personal pronouns

Independent personal pronouns in Akkadian are as follows:
Nominative Oblique Dative
Person singular  Plural
Plural
In linguistics, plurality or [a] plural is a concept of quantity representing a value of more-than-one. Typically applied to nouns, a plural word or marker is used to distinguish a value other than the default quantity of a noun, which is typically one...

 
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st anāku "I" nīnu "we" yāti niāti yāšim niāšim
2nd masculine atta "you" attunu "you" kāti (kāta) kunūti kāšim kunūšim
feminine atti "you" attina "you" kāti kināti kāšim kināšim
3rd masculine šū "he" šunu "they" šātilu (šātilu) šunūti šuāšim (šāšim) šunūšim
feminine šī "she" šina "they" šiāti (šuāti;šāti) šināti šiāšim (šāšim, šāšim) šināšim

Suffixed (or enclitic) pronouns

Suffix
Suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

ed (or enclitic) pronouns (mainly denoting the genitive, accusative and dative) are as follows:
Genitive Accusative Dative
Person singular  Plural
Plural
In linguistics, plurality or [a] plural is a concept of quantity representing a value of more-than-one. Typically applied to nouns, a plural word or marker is used to distinguish a value other than the default quantity of a noun, which is typically one...

 
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st -i, -ya -ni is used for the nominative, i.e. following a verb denoting the subject. -ni -ni -niāti -am/-nim -niāšim
2nd masculine -ka -kunu -ka -kunūti -kum -kunūšim
feminine -ki -kina -ki -kināti -kim -kināšim
3rd masculine -šū -šunu -šū -šunūti -šum -šunūšim
feminine -ša -šina -ši -šināti -šim -šināšim

Demonstrative pronouns


Demonstrative pronouns in Akkadian differ from the Western Semitic
West Semitic languages
The West Semitic languages are a proposed major sub-grouping of Semitic languages. One widely accepted analysis, supported by semiticists like Robert Hetzron and John Huehnergard, divides the Semitic language family into two branches: Eastern and Western. The former consists of the extinct Eblaite...

 variety. The following table shows the Akkadian demonstrative pronouns according to near and far deixis
Deixis
In linguistics, deixis refers to the phenomenon wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and phrases in an utterance requires contextual information. Words are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place...

:
Deixis
Deixis
In linguistics, deixis refers to the phenomenon wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and phrases in an utterance requires contextual information. Words are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place...

Proximal Distal
Masc. singular annū "this" ullū "that"
Fem. Singular annītu "this" ullītu "that"
Masc. plural annūtu "these" ullūtu "those"
Fem. plural annātu "these" ullātu "those"

Relative pronouns


Relative pronouns in Akkadian are shown in the following table:
Nominative Accusative Genitive
Masc. singular šu ša ši
Fem. Singular šāt šāti
Dual šā
Masc. plural šūt
Fem. plural šāt


Unlike plural relative pronouns, singular relative pronouns in Akkadian exhibit full declension to case. However, only the form ša (for the accusative masculine singular) survived, while the other forms disappeared in time.

Interrogative pronouns


The following table shows the Interrogative pronouns used in Akkadian:
Akkadian English
mannu who?
mīnū what?
ayyu which?

Prepositions


Akkadian has prepositions which consist mainly of only one word. For example: ina (in, on, out, through, under), ana (too, for, after, approximately), adi (to), aššu (because of), eli (up, over), ištu/ultu (of, since), mala (in accordance with), itti (also, with)). There are, however, some compound prepositions which are combined with ina and ana (e.g. ina maḫar (forwards), ina balu (without), ana ṣēr (up to), ana maḫar (forwards). Regardless of the complexity of the preposition, the following noun is always in the genitive case.

Examples: ina bītim (in the house, from the house), ana dummuqim (to do good), itti šarrim (with the king), ana ṣēr mārīšu (up to his son).

Numerals


Since numeral
Numeral system
A numeral system is a writing system for expressing numbers, that is a mathematical notation for representing numbers of a given set, using graphemes or symbols in a consistent manner....

s are written mostly as a number sign in the cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 script, the transliteration
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

 of many numerals is not well ascertained yet. Along with the counted noun, the cardinal numeral
Cardinal number
In mathematics, cardinal numbers, or cardinals for short, are a generalization of the natural numbers used to measure the cardinality of sets. The cardinality of a finite set is a natural number – the number of elements in the set. The transfinite cardinal numbers describe the sizes of infinite...

s are in the status absolutus. Because other cases are very rare, the forms of the status rectus are known only by isolated numerals. The numerals 1 and 2 as well as 21–29, 31–39, 41–49 correspond with the counted in the grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

, while the numerals 3–20, 30, 40 and 50 show gender polarity, i.e. if the counted noun is masculine, the numeral would be feminine and vice versa. This polarity is typical of the Semitic languages and appears also in classical Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 for example. The numerals 60, 100 and 1000 don't change according to the gender of the counted noun. Counted nouns more than two appear in the plural form. However, body parts which occur in pairs appear in the dual
Dual
Dual may refer to:* Dual , a notion of paired concepts that mirror one another** Dual , a formalization of mathematical duality** . . ...

 form in Akkadian. e.g. šepum (foot) becomes šepān (two feet).

The ordinal
Ordinal number
In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

s are formed (with a few exceptions) by adding a case ending to the nominal form PaRuS (the P, R and S. must be substituted with the suitable consonants of the numeral). It is noted, however, that in the case of the numeral "one", the ordinal (masculine) and the cardinal number are the same. A metathesis
Metathesis (linguistics)
Metathesis is the re-arranging of sounds or syllables in a word, or of words in a sentence. Most commonly it refers to the switching of two or more contiguous sounds, known as adjacent metathesis or local metathesis:...

 occurs in the numeral "four". The following table contains the masculine and feminine forms of the status absolutus of some of the Akkadian cardinal numbers, as well as the corresponding ordinals.
# Cardinal numeral (masc.) Cardinal numeral (fem.) Congruence (Gender agreement of the cardinal numeral) Ordinal (masc.) Ordinal (fem.)
1 ištēn išteʾat,
ištāt
Congruent (no gender polarity) ištēn išteʾat
2 šinā šittā Congruent šanûm šanītum
3 šalāš šalāšat Gender polarity šalšum šaluštum
4 erbē erbēt Gender polarity rebûm rebūtum
5 ḫamiš ḫamšat Gender polarity ḫamšum ḫamuštum
6 šediš šiššet Gender polarity šeššum šeduštum
7 sebē sebēt Gender polarity sebûm sebūtum
8 samānē samānat Gender polarity samnum,
samnûm
samuntum
9 tešē tišīt Gender polarity tišûm,
tešûm
tišūtum,
tešūtum
10 ešer ešeret Gender polarity ešrum ešurtum
60 šūš No gender distinction
100 meʾat, māt No gender distinction
1000 līm No gender distinction


Examples: erbē aššātum (four wives) (male numeral), meʾat ālānū (100 towns).

Nominal phrases


Adjectives, relative clauses and apposition
Apposition
Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to define or modify the other. When this device is used, the two elements are said to be in apposition...

s follow the noun.
While numerals
Number names
In linguistics, number names are specific words in a natural language that represent numbers.In writing, numerals are symbols also representing numbers...

 precede the counted noun.
In the following table the nominal phrase erbēt šarrū dannūtum ša ālam īpušū abūya 'the four strong kings who built the city are my fathers' is analyzed:
Word Meaning Analysis Part of the nominal phrase
erbēt four feminine (gender polarity) Numeral
šarr-ū king nominative plural
Plural
In linguistics, plurality or [a] plural is a concept of quantity representing a value of more-than-one. Typically applied to nouns, a plural word or marker is used to distinguish a value other than the default quantity of a noun, which is typically one...

 
Noun (Subject)
dann-ūtum strong nominative masculine plural Adjective
ša which relative pronoun Relative clause
āl-am city accusative singular
īpuš-ū built 3rd person masculine plural
ab-ū-ya my fathers masculine plural + possessive pronoun Apposition

Sentence syntax


Akkadian sentence order was Subject+Object+Verb (SOV), which sets it apart from most other ancient Semitic languages such as Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 and Biblical Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew language
Biblical Hebrew , also called Classical Hebrew , is the archaic form of the Hebrew language, a Canaanite Semitic language spoken in the area known as Canaan between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Biblical Hebrew is attested from about the 10th century BCE, and persisted through...

, which typically have a verb–subject–object (VSO)  word order. (Modern South Semitic
South Semitic
South Semitic is a commonly accepted branch of the Semitic languages. Semitic itself is a branch of the larger Afro-Asiatic language family found in Africa and Asia....

 languages in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 also have SOV order, but these developed within historical times from the classical verb–subject–object (VSO) language Ge'ez
Ge'ez language
Ge'ez is an ancient South Semitic language that developed in the northern region of Ethiopia and southern Eritrea in the Horn of Africa...

.) It has been hypothesized that this word order was a result of influence from the Sumerian language
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

, which was also SOV. There is evidence that native speakers of both languages were in intimate language contact, forming a single society for at least 500 years, so it is entirely likely that a sprachbund
Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

 could have formed. Further evidence of an original VSO or SVO ordering can be found in the fact that direct and indirect object pronouns are suffixed to the verb. Word order seems to have shifted to SVO/VSO late in the 1st millennium BC to the 1st millennium AD, possibly under the influence of Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

.

Vocabulary


The Akkadian vocabulary is mostly of Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 origin. Although classified as 'East Semitic', many elements of its basic vocabulary find no evident parallels in related Semitic languages. For example: māru 'son' (Semitic *bn), qātu 'hand' (Semitic *yd), šēpu 'foot' (Semitic *rgl), qabû 'say' (Semitic *qwl), izuzzu 'stand' (Semitic *qwm), ana 'to, for' (Semitic *li).

Due to extensive contact with Sumerian and Aramaic, the Akkadian vocabulary contains many loan words from these languages. Aramaic loan words, however, were limited to the 1st centuries of the 1st millennium BC and primarily in the north and middle parts of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, whereas Sumerian loan words were spread in the whole linguistic area. Beside the previous languages, some nouns were borrowed from Hurrian, Kassite
Kassite
Kassite is a rare mineral with formula CaTi2O42. It crystallizes in the orthorhombic crystal system and forms radiating rosettes and pseudo-hexagonal tabular crystals which are commonly twinned. Crystals are brownish pink to pale yellow and are translucent with an adamantine luster...

, Ugaritic and other ancient languages.
Since Sumerian and Hurrian, two non-Semitic languages, differ from Akkadian in word structure, only nouns and some adjectives (not many verbs) were borrowed from these languages. However, some verbs were borrowed (along with many nouns) from Aramaic and Ugaritic, both of which are Semitic languages.

The following table contains examples of loan words in Akkadian:
Akkadian Meaning Source Word in the language of origin
hill Sumerian du
erēqu flee Aramaic ʿRQ (root
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

)
gadalû dressed in linen Sumerian gada lá
isinnu firmly Sumerian ezen
kasulatḫu a device of copper Hurrian kasulatḫ-
kisallu court Sumerian kisal
laqāḫu take Ugaritic LQḤ( root
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

)
paraššannu part of horse riding gear Hurrian paraššann-
purkullu stone cutter Sumerian bur-gul
qaṭālu kill Aramaic QṬL (root
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

)
uriḫullu conventional penalty Hurrian uriḫull-

Akkadian was also a source of borrowing to other languages, above all Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

. Some examples are: Sumerian da-ri ('lastingly', from Akkadian dāru), Sumerian ra gaba ('riders, messenger', from Akkadian rākibu).

Example text


The following text is the 7th section of the Hammurabi code
Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC . It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay...

, possibly written in the 18th century BC.
Akkadian šumma awīl-um kasp-am ḫurāṣ-am ward-am amt-am
English if Man (nominative) or silver (accusative) or gold (accusative) or slave (masculine, accusative) or Slave (feminine, accusative)
 
Akkadian alp-am immer-am imēr-am ū lū mimma šumšu ina
English or Cattle,oxen (accusative) or sheep (accusative) or donkey (accusative) and or something from
 
Akkadian qāt mār awīl-im ū lū warad awīl-im balum šīb-ī u
English hand (status constructus) son (status constructus) man (genitive) and or slave (status constructus) man (genitive) without witnesses (genitive) and
 
Akkadian riks-ātim i-štām-Ø ū lū ana maṣṣārūt-im i-mḫur-Ø
English contracts (genitive) bought (3rd person singular, perfect) and or for safekeeping (genitive) received (3rd person singular, preterite)
 
Akkadian awīl-um šū šarrāq i-ddāk
English man (nominative) (3rd person masculine singular independent pronoun) stealer (status absolutus) is killed (3rd person singular in passive present tense)


Translation: If a man bought silver, gold, a slave (masculine), a slave (feminine), an ox, a sheep, a donkey or something other from the hand of another man or a slave of a man without witnesses or contract, or accepted (them) for safekeeping (without same), then this man is a thief; he will be killed.

Akkadian literature



  • Atrahasis Epic (early 2nd millennium BC)
  • Enûma Elish
    Enûma Elish
    The is the Babylonian creation myth . It was recovered by Austen Henry Layard in 1849 in the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh , and published by George Smith in 1876.The Enûma Eliš has about a thousand lines and is recorded in Old Babylonian on seven clay tablets, each holding...

     (ca. 18th century BC)
  • Amarna letters
    Amarna letters
    The Amarna letters are an archive of correspondence on clay tablets, mostly diplomatic, between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom...

     (14th century BC)
  • Epic of Gilgamesh
    Epic of Gilgamesh
    Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

     (Sin-liqe-unninni
    Sin-liqe-unninni
    Sîn-lēqi-unninni was an incantation/exorcist priest who lived in Mesopotamia in the period between 1300 BC and 1000 BC. He is the compiler of the best preserved version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. His name is listed in the text itself, which is unusual for works written in cuneiform...

    ' "standard" version, 13th to 11th century BC)
  • Ludlul Bel Nemeqi
    Ludlul bel nemeqi
    Ludlul bel nemeqi, I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom, is a Mesopotamian poem written in Akkadian that concerns itself with the problem of the unjust suffering of an afflicted man, named Shubshi-meshre-Shakkan. The author is tormented, but he doesn't know why. He has been faithful in all of his...


General description and grammar

  • Gelb, I. J. (1961). Old Akkadian writing and grammar. Materials for the Assyrian dictionary, no. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226623041
  • Huehnergard, J. A Grammar of Akkadian. Harvard Semitic Museum Studies 45. ISBN 978-1575069227
  • Huehnergard, J. (2005). A Key to A Grammar of Akkadian . Harvard Semitic Studies. Eisenbrauns.
  • Soden, Wolfram von
    Wolfram von Soden
    Wolfram Freiherr von Soden was a German Assyriologist.-Life and work:Born in Berlin, von Soden studied under Benno Landsberger at Leipzig and received his doctorate in 1931, at age 23, with his thesis Der hymnisch-epische Dialekt des Akkadischen...

    : Grundriß der Akkadischen Grammatik. Analecta Orientalia. Bd 33. Rom 1995. ISBN 88-7653-258-7
  • Streck, Michael P. Sprachen des Alten Orients. Wiss. Buchges., Darmstadt 2005. ISBN 3-534-17996-X
  • Ungnad, Arthur: Grammatik des Akkadischen. Neubearbeitung durch L. Matouš, München 1969, 1979 (5. Aufl.). ISBN 3-406-02890-X
  • Woodard, Roger D. The Ancient Languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Aksum. Cambridge University Press 2008. ISBN 9780521684972

Textbooks

  • Rykle Borger: Babylonisch-assyrische Lesestücke. Rom 1963.
    • Part I: Elemente der Grammatik und der Schrift. Übungsbeispiele. Glossar.
    • Part II: Die Texte in Umschrift.
    • Part III: Kommentar. Die Texte in Keilschrift.
  • Richard Caplice: Introduction to Akkadian. Biblical Institute Press, Rome 1988, 2002 (4.Aufl.). ISBN 88-7653-566-7
  • Kaspar K. Riemschneider: Lehrbuch des Akkadischen. Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1969, Langenscheidt Verl. Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1992 (6. Aufl.). ISBN 3-324-00364-4
  • Martin Worthington: "Complete Babylonian: Teach Yourself" London 2010 ISBN 0340983884

Dictionaries

  • Jeremy G. Black, Andrew George, Nicholas Postgate: A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian. Harrassowitz-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2000. ISBN 3-447-04264-8
  • Wolfram von Soden: Akkadisches Handwörterbuch. 3 Bde. Wiesbaden 1958-1981. ISBN 3-447-02187-X
  • Martha T. Roth, ed.: The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
    Chicago Assyrian Dictionary
    The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary or The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is a nine-decade project at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute to compile a dictionary of the Akkadian language and its dialects, focusing on the New-Assyrian forms...

     21 vols. in 26. Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago 1956-2010. (available free online)

Akkadian Cuneiform

  • Cherry, A. (2003). A basic neo-Assyrian cuneiform syllabary. Toronto, Ont: Ashur Cherry, York University.
  • Cherry, A. (2003). Basic individual logograms (Akkadian). Toronto, Ont: Ashur Cherry, York University.
  • Rykle Borger: Mesopotamisches Zeichenlexikon. Alter Orient und Altes Testament (AOAT). Bd 305. Ugarit-Verlag, Münster 2004. ISBN 3-927120-82-0
  • René Labat: Manuel d'Épigraphie Akkadienne. Paul Geuthner, Paris 1976, 1995 (6.Aufl.). ISBN 2-7053-3583-8

Technical literature on specific subjects

  • Ignace J. Gelb: Old Akkadian Writing and Grammar. Materials for the Assyrian dictionary. Bd 2. University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1952, 1961, 1973. ISBN 0-226-62304-1
  • Markus Hilgert: Akkadisch in der Ur III-Zeit. Rhema-Verlag, Münster 2002. ISBN 3-930454-32-7
  • Walter Sommerfeld: Bemerkungen zur Dialektgliederung Altakkadisch, Assyrisch und Babylonisch. In: Alter Orient und Altes Testament (AOAT). Ugarit-Verlag, Münster 274.2003.

External links