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Akkadian language

Akkadian was a language of the Semitic family spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. It used the cuneiform writing system.



Akkadian (lišānum akkadītum) is divided into dialects based on geography and time.

  • 2500 - 1950 Old Akkadian
  • 1950 - 1530 Old Babylonian/Old Assyrian
  • 1530 - 1000 Middle Babylonian/Middle Assyrian
  • 1000 - 600 Neo-Babylonian/Neo-Assyrian
  • 600 B.C. - 100 A.D. Late Babylonian


Akkadian scribes wrote cuneiform using signs that represented Sumerian logograms, Sumerian syllables, Akkadian syllables, and phonetic complements. Cuneiform was in many ways unsuited to Akkadian: among its flaws were its inability to represent glottal stops, pharyngeal stops, and emphatic consonants, as well as a syllabic construction completely inappropriate for languages demonstrating the triconsonantal root . Sumerian cuneiform also distinguished between i and e; this distinction, however, though not originally present in Akkadian, was adopted rapidly as compensation for the disappearance of the original pharyngeals.


Akkadian was an inflected language, possessing three cases (nominative, accusative, and genitive), three numbers (singular, dual, and plural), and verb conjugations for first, second, and third persons.


Akkadian sentence order was subject, object, verb, which sets it apart from all other Semitic languages. It has been hypothesized that this word order was a result of influence from the Sumerian language, which was also SOV. There is evidence that native speakers of both languages formed the same society for at least 500 years, so it is entirely likely that a sprachbund 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, possibly under the influence of Aramaic.

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45