The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Ugaritic language

The Ugaritic language is known to us only in the form of writings found in the lost city of Ugarit since its discovery by French archaeologists in 1928. It has been extremely important for scholars of the Old Testament in clarifying Hebrew texts and has revealed more of how Judaism used common phrases, literary idioms, and expressions employed by surrounding pagan cultures.

Ugaritic was "the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform." Literary texts discovered at Ugarit include the "Legend of Keret", the "Aqhat Epic" (or "Legend of Danel"), the "Myth of Baal-Aliyan", and the "Death of Baal", all revealing a Canaanite mythology.

Ugaritic is a Semitic language written in cuneiform that was adapted for use as an alphabet. This Ugaritic alphabet, among the oldest that has been discovered, is different from all other cuneiform writings insofar as it is an alphabet rather than a syllabary. It has 30 different letters. (See the Ugaritic alphabet for an illustration.) To the casual observer, it appears very similar in appearance to Akkadian or Assyrian writing.

Ugaritic was used by a Canaanite culture, and the use of the term 'Canaanite' to refer to the Ugaritic language is sometimes found. It is closely related to the Canaanite languages. However, from the perspective of linguistic taxonomy, it is not viewed as a Canaanite language; rather, it is a close relative of the proto-language from which the languages termed Canaanite descend, and was spoken at about the same time as that language.


  • at p. 99.
  • One edition of the mythological texts is Gibson, John C.L. (1977). Canaanite Myths and Legends. T. & T. Clark. ISBN 0567023516. This contains Latin-alphabet transliterations of the Ugaritic texts and facing translations in English.
  • A much more affordable and up-to-date edition of many of the Ugaritic texts (including introductions, transcriptions, English translations, and notes) is Parker, Simon B. (editor) (1997). Ugaritic Narrative Poetry: Writings from the Ancient World Society of Biblical Literature. Atlanta: Scholars Press. ISBN 0788503375.
  • The most recent and also the most extensive dictionary of the Ugaritic language in English is: del Olmo Lete, Gregorio; & Sanmartín, Joaquín (2004). A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 9004136940. (2 vols), (originally in Spanish, translated by W.G.E. Watson).

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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04