The Akkadian language and script.

The Akkadian language (akkadītum, lišānum, ak.ka.dû) , also known as Assyro-Babylonian , is an extinct Semitic language, a member of the larger linguistic Afro-Asiatic family), spoken in ancient Mesopotamia.

It is the oldest attested Semitic language. It used a cuneiform writing system derived from ancient Sumerian, a completely different isolated language.

The name of the language comes from the city of Akkad, an important Mesopotamian cultural centre.

During the third millennium BC, a very close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerian and Akkadian peoples, which included extensive bilingualism.

The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowings on a massive scale, to syntax, morphology and phonological convergence.

This has led scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a language union (Sprachbund).

Akkadian is first attested in Sumerian texts in nouns from about 2800 BC and from the second half of the third millennium BC texts written entirely in Akkadian begun to appear.

Hundreds of thousands of texts and text fragments have been excavated to date revealing a broad literary tradition from mythological narratives, legal texts, scientific works, correspondence and many other fields.

By the second millennium BC, two different forms of the language were in use in Assyria and Babylonia (known as Assyrian and Babylonian, respectively).

Akkadian was for centuries the lingua franca in the ancient Near East. However, it began to decline around the 8th century BC and was marginalized by Aramaic.

By the Hellenistic period, the language was mostly restricted to use by scholars and priests working in temples. The last Akkadian cuneiform document dates to the 1st century AD.

the writing system
A cuneiform writing system was used for writing Akkadian script, which the Akkadians borrowed from the Sumerians.

It was written using a wedge which was pressed onto wet clay.The writing consisted of a combination of ideograms and symbols representing a syllable.

This writing had several problems; the same symbol was used several times to denote more than one syllable even within the same word.

Also the same symbol was used either as a logogram or as a syllable.There were no spaces between words and some specific anaphoric words were used to indicate the category of a noun.

E.g. the word mātu (country) in front of country names,or the word ilum (god) in front of god names.

cuneiform Akkadian script

(1 = mixture of logogram-syllabic (LG) (SG) ḫi,
2 = LG 'moat',
3 = SG aʾ,
4 = SG aḫ, eḫ, iḫ, uḫ,
5 = SG kam,
6 = SG im,
7 = SG bir)


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