Akkadian is a cover term for the Semitic languages of ancient Mesopotamia,
constituting the eastern branch of the Semitic family.
Akkadian, the most ancient Semitic linguistic continuum attested, was
written in the cuneiform script, mainly on clay tablets. It is attested
from the third millennium BCE to the third century CE.
Linguistic research of Akkadian has been relatively scanty, and grammatical
descriptions of any of the attested languages and dialects were intended
primarily for didactic purposes. Research has concentrated on phonology,
and, especially, on morphology, which is typically Semitic. Syntactic
structures have remained largely unexplored.
The grammatical description offered in LW/M is based on the language of
mythological narratives from the Old Babylonian period (the first half of
the second millennium BCE). Considering the state of the art and the frame
and goals of this series, the authors have confined themselves to a brief
model of the language and to defining the basic linguistic strategies of
Akkadian. As such, it may also serve as a guide to Semitic grammatical
All levels of the grammar of this language are treated together for the
first time: phonology, morphology, micro- and macro-syntax. Some attention
is given to linguistic variation, acknowledging the (relatively small)
diversity within the time-space continuum of the texts which constitute
this corpus. A short description of the cuneiform script will aim at giving
some idea of the problems one encounters in attempting to elicit the
linguistic data of Akkadian.
This grammatical description is written with a systemic, structural
conception of language in mind. It is intended first and foremost for
linguists for whom the language is inaccessible for various reasons, and
for Semitists whose expertise is not in Akkadian. However,
Assyriologists will benefit from it as well, as this description is unique
in its linguistic presentation, revealing important details hitherto unknown.
Shlomo Izre'el is professor of Semitic linguistics at Tel-Aviv University.
Eran Cohen is lecturer in linguistics at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A provisional list of corrections to Literary Old Babylonian by Shlomo
Izre'el and Eran Cohen (Languages of the World/Materials, 81, München:
LINCOM, 2004) can be found at