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Introduction to Akkadian

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Introduction to Akkadian offers a twelve-lesson course in the essentials of Akkadian grammar. The lessons feature concise explanations of Akkadian grammar, as well as exercises in reading, transliteration and translation. These introduce the student to common vocabulary and basic cuneiform signs. In addition, Introduction includes appendices dealing with Akkadian phonetics and metrology, indices, and a paradigm of the strong verb.

Why Akkadian?

There are many reasons why the study of Akkadian would prove worthwhile. Akkadian is one of the great cultural languages of world history. For a period of some 2500 years it was the vehicle of a dominant culture in the Ancient Near East, and abundant written records were written in it: religious, historical, literary, and grammatical.

The language is a member of the Semitic language family, one of its earliest and, overwhelmingly, its best attested ancient member. As such, it is similar not only to ancient Hebrew, but also Ugartic. Therefore, a familiarity with Akkadian would be helpful if, during your exegesis of a Hebrew text, a hapax legomenon (a word appearing only once in a corpus or document) turns out to be translatable via Akkadian.

Moreover, studying the many works composed in Akkadian help contextualize the narratives of the Israelites into the greater context of Ancient Near Eastern culture. Many of these ancient texts share similarities with stories and documents in the Hebraic tradition. These include the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enûma Elish, and the Code of Hammurabi.

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Top Highlights

“Functionally, signs in their earliest stage were logographic, i.e. they represented one or more specific words.” (Page 5)

“Akkadian is a member of the Semitic language family, indeed one of its earliest and overwhelmingly its best attested ancient member. A traditional classification of the Semitic languages is based on their geographical location: Akkadian is the northeastern member of the family; Canaanite (a sub-group which includes Hebrew and Phoenician, and, in the opinion of some scholars, Ugaritic and Eblaite) and the Aramaic dialects form the northwest Semitic branch; while Arabic, ancient South Arabic and Ethiopic form the southern branch.” (Page 3)

“In form the signs also underwent evolution: early documentable stages are often more recognizably pictographic, and more curvilinear in shape, while in later stages signs are simplified and each stroke assumes a characteristic wedge-shaped appearance, diverging into two main traditions, Babylonian and Assyrian.” (Pages 4–5)

“It is characteristic of the cuneiform writing system (due in part to the nature of the Sumerian language) that a given syllable in Akkadian may be represented by any one of several signs; in order that alphabetic representations might indicate which sign is actually used, modern scholars distinguish homophonous signs by index numbers, following a standard listing compiled by the French scholar François Thureau-Dangin (see the sign-lists mentioned in §2). Thus the syllable /tu/ may be written with the signs ‘tu one’, ‘tu two’, ‘tu three’, etc.; in alphabetic representation, the first of these is unmarked, the ‘two’ and ‘three’ values are indicated by acute and grave accents, and further values by a subscribed number: tu, tú, tù, tu4, tu5, etc.” (Page 6)

  • Title: Introduction to Akkadian
  • Authors: Richard Caplice with Daniel Snell
  • Edition: Fourth
  • Publisher: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico
  • Publication Date: 2002
  • Pages: 108

Richard Caplice, S.J. (b.1931) is the author of Introduction to Akkadian published by Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico and The Akkadian Namburbi Texts: An Introduction published by Undena Publications.


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Save 25% off during the Memorial Day Sale!


Digital list price: $17.99
Regular price: $13.99
Save $3.50 (25%)