In this book Guy Deutscher examines the historical
development of Akkadian, the oldest recorded Semitic
language and one of the earliest attested languages. Two
thousand years of texts from 2500BC to 500BC provide a
unique source for the study of linguistic change.
The first two parts of the book present an historical
grammar of sentential complementation. Part one traces the
emergence of new structures, describing how finite
complements first developed, and tracing the
grammaticalization of the quotative construction. Part two
examines the language's functional history. It looks at the
evolution of linguistic structures, showing for example how
finite complements and embedded questions became more
widespread as other parataxis and non-finite complements
receded. In the final part of the book the author puts these
changes in a broader typological perspective and compares
the development of Akkadian to similar processes in other
languages. The emergence of finite complementation may, he
suggests, be an adaptive process, related to the growing
complexity of communication.
This book throws new light on the nature of linguistic
change and offers fresh insights on a language that has
rarely been presented to non-specialists, despite its
enormous historical importance.