Akkadian language

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Spoken in

formerly in Mesopotamia , Syria
speaker none ( extinct language )
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Akkadian ( akkadû , ???? ak-ka-du-u 2 ; logogram: ?? URI KI ) is an extinct Semitic language that was heavily influenced by Sumerian . It was used in Mesopotamia and in present-day Syria until the first century AD , in the last few centuries it was increasingly displaced by Aramaic and ultimately served only as a written and scholarly language. Its name is derived from the name of the city of Akkad . Akkadian, together with Aramaic, was the national and official language in Mesopotamia and at times the language of international correspondence from the Middle East to Egypt. Her two main dialects were Babylonian and Assyrian. The Eblaitische is considered by most researchers as next of kin of Akkadian.

Expansion of the empire of the Sargon of Akkad around 2300 BC Chr.


Along with the other Semitic languages, Akkadian belongs to the Afro-Asian languages , a language family that is native to the Middle East and North Africa.

Akkadian forms its own “ Eastern Semitic ” subgroup within the Semitic languages . It differs from Northwest and South Semitic languages ​​by the word order subject-object-verb (SOV), while the other two branches mostly use a verb-subject-object or subject-verb-object position. This word order goes back to the influence of Sumerian, which also has an SOV position.

In addition, Akkadian is the only Semitic language that uses the prepositions ina ( locative , i.e. German in, an, bei, mit) and ana ( dative - allative , i.e. German for, to, after). Many neighboring Northwest Semitic languages, such as Arabic and Aramaic , have bi / bə (locative) or li / lə (dative) instead . The origin of the Akkadian place prepositions is unclear.

Unlike most other Semitic languages Akkadian has only one fricative , namely H [⁠ x ⁠] . It has lost both the glottal and pharyngeal fricatives typical of the rest of the Semitic languages. The sibilants ( sibilants ) of Akkadian were exclusively affricates, at least up to the ancient Babylonian period (approx. 19th century BC).

History and script


Cuneiform script (neo-Assyrian character form)
(1 = word sign (WZ) “mix” / syllable (SZ) ḫi ,
2 = WZ “water ditch”,
3 = SZ ,
4 = SZ aḫ, eḫ, iḫ, uḫ ,
5 = SZ came ,
6 = SZ im ,
7 = SZ bir )

Old Akkadian has been on clay tablets since about 2600 BC. Chr. Handed down. It was written with the cuneiform script adopted from the Sumerians . In contrast to Sumerian, however, it was further developed into a fully developed syllabary in Akkadian . The logogram character of this font took a back seat. Nevertheless, one used especially for very frequently used words like "God", "Temple", etc. a. continue to use the corresponding logograms. So the character AN can e.g. B. on the one hand stand as a logogram for "God", on the other hand denote the god An and can also be used as a syllable for the syllable -an . In addition, the same symbol is used as a determinative for god names.

Example 4 in the figure on the right shows another characteristic of the Akkadian cuneiform system. Many syllable characters have no clear sound value. Some, such as B. AḪ , do not differentiate their syllable vowel . There is also no clear assignment in the other direction. The syllable -ša- is represented, for example, with the character ŠA , but also with the character NÍĜ , often changing even within a text.

Language development

Old Akkadian, which was used until the end of the third millennium BC, differs from both Babylonian and Assyrian and has been supplanted by these dialects. Already in the 21st century BC BC these two later main dialects were clearly distinguishable. Old Babylonian, like the Mariotic, which is closely related to it, is significantly more innovative than the somewhat archaic Old Assyrian and the linguistically and geographically more distant Eblaite . In Old Babylonian, for example, the form lu-prus (I want to decide) is found for the first time instead of the older la-prus . Nevertheless, Assyrian has also developed its own innovations, such as B. the "Assyrian vowel harmony", which however cannot be compared with the harmony systems in Turkish or Finnish . Eblaite is very archaic, it still has a productive dual as well as a relative pronoun differentiated according to case, number and gender . Both have already disappeared in Old Akkadian.

An Akkadian inscription
Detailed view of the building inscription on the Ishtar Gate (604-562 BC)

Old Babylonian is the language of King Hammurapis , who created the Codex Hammurapi , one of the oldest legal texts in the world, named after him today . From the 15th century BC One speaks of "Middle Babylonian". The separation is due to the fact that the Kassites around 1550 BC BC Babylon conquered and ruled for over 300 years. Although they gave up their language in favor of Akkadian, they did influence the language. In the heyday of Central Babylonian it was considered the written language of diplomacy throughout the ancient world of the Orient, including Egypt. During this time, numerous loanwords from Northwest Semitic languages ​​and from Hurricane were also adopted . However, these were only used in the border regions of the Akkadian language area.

Ancient Assyrian also continued to develop in the second millennium BC. However, since it was a pure vernacular - the kings wrote Babylonian - only a few extensive texts from this period have survived. One speaks of "Middle Assyrian" in this language from around 1500 BC. Chr.

In the 1st millennium BC In BC, Akkadian was more and more ousted as the official language. First existed from around 1000 BC. BC Akkadian and Aramaic parallel as official languages. This is evident in many of the illustrations on which a clay tablet writer writes Akkadian and a papyrus or leather writer Aramaic. The contemporary texts also show this. From this time on one speaks of "Neo-Assyrian" or "New Babylonian". The former received in the 8th century BC A great boom through the rise of the Assyrian Empire to a great power. In 612 BC The city of Nineveh and with it the Assyrian Empire was destroyed. From then on, there were only sparse Assyrian texts for about ten years.

After the end of the Mesopotamian empires, which came with the conquest of the area by the Persians , Akkadian, which then only existed in the form of "late Babylonian", was displaced as a vernacular, but still used as a written language. Even after the invasion of the Greeks under Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC The language was able to assert itself as a written language. However, there are many indications that by this time Akkadian had already died out as a spoken language or was at least only used to a very limited extent. The most recent texts in Akkadian are from the late first century AD , but the knowledge of reading Akkadian texts in cuneiform was apparently passed on among scholars into the third century AD .


The Akkadian language was only rediscovered when the German Carsten Niebuhr was able to make extensive copies of cuneiform texts in the Danish service in 1767 and presented them in Denmark. Efforts to decipher the script began immediately. Multilingual texts that included Old Persian and Akkadian parts were particularly helpful . The fact that numerous royal names appeared in these texts made it possible to identify at least some cuneiform characters that were presented to the public by Georg Friedrich Grotefend in 1802 . Even then it was recognized that Akkadian was one of the Semitic languages. The final breakthrough in the decipherment of writing and thus in access to the Akkadian language came in the middle of the 19th century by Edward Hincks and Henry Rawlinson .


The following table summarizes the dialects of Akkadian that have been identified so far.

dialect region
Assyrian Northern Mesopotamia
Babylonian Central and South Mesopotamia
Mariot Middle Euphrates (in and around Mari )
Tell Beydar Northern Syria (in and around Tell Beydar )

Some scholars (for example Sommerfeld (2003)) continue to assume that the "Old Akkadian" used in the oldest texts was not a pre-form of the later dialects Assyrian and Babylonian, but a separate dialect, which, however, was supplanted by these two and died out early.

The Eblaitische in northern Syria (in and around Ebla ) is considered by some researchers as another Akkadian dialect, but mostly ostsemitische as a separate language.

Phonetics and Phonology

Because Akkadian as a spoken language extinct and no contemporary records were made on the debate, the exact phonetics and phonology can no longer explore. However, due to the relationship to the other Semitic languages ​​and also the variants of the spellings within Akkadian, some statements can be made.


The following table shows the differentiated sounds in the Akkadian cuneiform usage. The IPA symbols represent the pronunciation assumed according to Streck 2005. In brackets behind it is the transcription that can be found in the specialist literature for this sound, provided it differs from the phonetic sign. This transcription was proposed for all Semitic languages ​​by the German Oriental Society (DMG) and is therefore called DMG transcription.

bilabial alveolar palatal velar glottal
stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth.
Ejectives     t ' (ṭ), ts' (ṣ)       k ' (q)      
Plosives p b t d     k G ʔ (ʾ)  
Affricates     ts (s), (š) dz (z)            
Fricatives             x (ḫ)      
Nasals   m   n            
Vibrants       r            
lateral  approximants       l            
central approximants   w       j        

For the Lateralaffrikate / š / a fricative pronunciation (used by some scientists [⁠ ɬ ⁠] or [⁠ ʃ ⁠] ) suspects.


  front central back
ung. ger. ung. ger. ung. ger.
closed i         u
medium e / ɛ (e)          
open     a      

In addition, most Akkadologists assume the existence of a back middle vowel (o or ɔ ). However, cuneiform writing offers little evidence for this.

All consonants and vowels are short and long. Consonant length is expressed by double spelling the consonant in question, vowel length by a slash above the vowel (ā, ē, ī, ū). This difference is phonemic ; H. differentiating meanings, and is also used in grammar, e.g. B. iprusu (that he decided) vs. iprusū (they decided).


Nothing is known about accentuation in Akkadian. Although there are some clues, such as the vowel deletion rule, which is briefly described below, as well as some cuneiform spellings that could highlight certain vowels, no accentuation rule has yet been proven.

Akkadian has a rule that deletes short (and probably unstressed) vowels. This does not happen with vowels in the last syllable of words, nor even in open syllables that follow another open syllable with a short vowel. Open syllables are those that end in a vowel. For example, the verbal adjective (past participle) of the verb prs (decide, separate) in its feminine form is paris-t-um (-t indicates the feminine gender, -um is the nominative ending). The / i / is not deleted because it is in a closed syllable (/ ris /). In its masculine form, however, it is called pars-um , as in the underlying form /pa.ri.sum/ the / i / is in an open syllable and follows a short open syllable (/ pa /).

In the later language levels of Akkadian, a general deletion of short vowels in the wording can also be observed.




Like all Semitic languages, Akkadian also uses the so-called root inflection . The "root" of a word, which contains its basic meaning, usually consists of three consonants , the so-called radicals . The radicals or root consonants are generally represented in transliteration in capital letters, e.g. B. PRS (decide, separate). Between and around these root consonants various infixes , prefixes and suffixes are placed in Akkadian , which have grammatical and word-forming functions. The consonant-vowel pattern that results differentiates the basic meaning of the root. The middle root consonant (radical) can be single or doubled (elongated). This difference is also differentiating in meaning. Examples of this can be found in the section "Verb morphology".

The consonants ʔ , w , j and n are called "weak radicals". Roots containing these radicals form irregular stem shapes.

This morphological system differs significantly from that of the Indo-European languages . In German , for example, the meaning of the word changes fundamentally when you exchange individual vowels, e.g. B. "lawn" vs. "Roses". However, the ablaut (e.g. present tense "(we) sing" vs. simple past "(we) sang"), which is already ancient Indo-European, is similar to the Semitic system.

Case, number and gender

Akkadian has two grammatical genders , male and female . Female nouns and adjectives usually have a - (a) t at the end of the stem. The case system is simple. It contains three cases in the singular ( nominative , genitive and accusative ), but only two cases in the plural (nominative and oblique ). Adjectives congruent in case, number and gender with the reference word and usually follow it.

Using the example of the nouns šarrum (king) and šarratum (queen) and the adjective dannum (strong), the case system in Old Babylonian is illustrated in the following table:

Case / number male Female
Nominative singular šarr-um šarr-at-um
Genitive singular šarr-im šarr-at-im
Accusative singular šarr-am šarr-at-am
Nominative plural šarr-ū šarr-ātum
Obliquus plural šarr-ī šarr-ātim
Nominative singular then-around then-at-um
Genitive singular then-in then-at-im
Accusative singular then on then-at-am
Nominative plural then-ūtum then-ātum
Obliquus plural then-ūtim then-atim

As you can see, the endings for nouns and adjectives only differ in the masculine plural. Some nouns, especially geographical terms such as “city”, “field”, etc. Ä. Can also form a locative to -um in the singular . However, this is initially not productive and the resulting forms represent frozen adverbial determinations . In the Neo-Babylonian period, the um -locative became more and more common and in many forms replaced the construction with the preposition ina .

In later stages of development of Akkadian, except in the locative, the so-called mimation (analogous to the nunation that occurs in Arabic), i.e. the -m that occurs in most case endings, is omitted. Later the nominative and accusative nouns in the singular fell together to -u . In Neo-Babylonian there was a change in sound through which short vowels disappeared from the final wording. This means that the distinction between cases was no longer necessary, except for the masculine nouns in the plural. In many texts, however, the case vowels were still written, but not consistently and often incorrectly. Since the most important contact language of Akkadian at this time was Aramaic , which also has no case distinction, this development was probably not only due to phonology .


The Akkadian noun has three different statuses. They express the syntactic relationship of the noun to other parts of a sentence. The status rectus (governed status) is the basic form. The status absolutus is used when the noun is used as a predicate in a nominal sentence (e.g. A is a B ) .

(1) Awīl-um šū šarrāq.
Human - nominative he Thief (status par.)
'This person is a thief.'

If a noun is followed by a possessive suffix or a noun in the genitive, it must be in the status constructus , which, like the status absolutus, is often formed by separating the case suffix.

(2) mār-šu
Sohn (St.constr.) - 3rd person, singular, male possessive pronouns
'His son', 'his son', 'his son', 'his son'
(3) mār šarr-im
Son (St.constr.) King - Genitive Singular
'The son of the king'

However, a genitive connection can also be made with the particle ša . The noun on which the genitive phrase depends is in the status rectus. The same particle is also used to link relative clauses .

(4) mār-um ša šarr-im
Son - nominative, singular attribute King - Genitive Singular
'The son of the king'
(5) awīl-um ša māt-am i-kšud-Ø-u
Human - nominative, singular attribute Country - Accusative.Singular 3rd person - conquer (simple past) - singular male. - Subordinative
'The man who conquered the land'

Verb morphology

The verbs are divided into four stems. The basic stem (G stem) is the non-derived form. With the doubling stem (D stem) applicative , causative or intensive forms are formed. It got its name from the doubling of the middle radical, which is typical of D-forms. The same doubling occurs, however, in the present tense of the other stem forms. The Š stem (stem formation element š- ) is used for causatives. In the D and Š stem, the conjugation prefixes change their vowel to / u /. The N-stem expresses passive voice . The stem formation element n- is adjusted to the following first consonant of the root, which is lengthened as a result (cf. example 9 in the following table). In some forms, however, it is not directly in front of the consonant, which means that the original form / n / is retained (see Ex. 15).

Each of the four stems can form a reflexive and an iterative stem in addition to normal use . The reflexive stems are formed with an infix -ta- . Therefore they are also called Gt-, Dt-, Št- or Nt-stem, whereby the Nt-stem is only formed from very few verbs. An infix -tan- is used for the iterative stems , but this is only visible in the present tense. The other tenses and derivatives of the so-called tan stems Gtn, Dtn, Štn and Ntn are like the corresponding forms of the reflexive stems.

In this way, many verbs can theoretically form many thousands of forms. This extremely extensive verb morphology is one of the special features of the Semitic languages. The following table shows a small excerpt from the variety of shapes of the root PRS (decide, separate).

No. shape Analysis / Strain (G, D, Š, N) translation
1 i-PaRRaS-Ø 3rd person- present tense .G- singular .male. ,He decides'
2 i-PaRRaS-Ø-u 3rd person present tense G singular male subordinative 'That he decides'
3 i-PRuS-Ø 3rd person past tense .G singular. Male. ,he decided'
4th i-PtaRaS-Ø 3rd person perfect .G singular male. ,he decided'
5 i-PtaRRaS-Ø 3rd person-reflexive. G-singular. Male. ,he decides'
6th i-PtanaRRaS-Ø 3rd person-iterative. G-singular. Male. 'He always decides'
7th u-PaRRiS-Ø 3rd person past tense, D singular, male. 'He finally decided'
8th u-šaPRiS-Ø 3rd person past tense, Š singular, male. 'He let decide'
9 i-PPaRiS-Ø 3rd person past tense, N singular, male. 'He was decided'
10 PuRuS Imperative .G-2nd person. Singular. Male. 'Decide!'
11 PāRiS-um Participle .G- nominative .singular.männl. 'Decisive'
12 PaRiS-Ø Tripod .G-3.Person.Singular.männl. 'He is decided'
13 PaRS-um Verbal adjective, G-nominative, singular, male. ,decided'
14th PaRāS-um Infinitive .G-nominative.Singular.männl. ,decide'
15th naPRuS-um Infinitive, N-nominative, Singular, male. 'To be decided'
16 ta-PaRRaS-ī-niš-šunūti 2nd person-Präsens.G-Sg.weibl.- Ventiv -3.Pers. Plural . accusative 'You (female) decide it (pl.) For me'

A finite verb form of Akkadian obligatorily contains the congruence to the subject of the sentence. This is always implemented with a prefix, in some forms also with a suffix. As already mentioned, the prefixes of the G and N stems differ from those in the D and Š stems by their vowel.

The following table shows the individual congruence forms of the verb PRS (decide, separate) in the past tense of the four stems (see table above for translation). As you can see, the two grammatical genders are only distinguished in the 2nd person singular and in the 3rd person plural.

Person / number / gender G trunk D trunk Š tribe N-stem
1st person singular a-prus-Ø u-parris-Ø u-šapris-Ø a-pparis-Ø
1st person plural ni-prus-Ø nu-parris-Ø nu-šapris-Ø ni-pparis-Ø
2nd person singular male. ta-prus-Ø tu-parris-Ø tu-šapris-Ø ta-pparis-Ø
2nd person singular female ta-prus-ī tu-parris-ī tu-sapris-ī ta-ppars-ī
2nd person plural ta-prus-ā tu-parris-ā tu-šapris-ā ta-ppars-ā
3rd person singular i-prus-Ø u-parris-Ø u-šapris-Ø i-pparis-Ø
3rd person plural masculine. i-prus-ū u-parris-ū u-šapris-ū i-ppars-ū
3rd person plural female i-prus-ā u-parris-ā u-šapris-ā i-ppars-ā

In addition to subject congruence, up to two pronominal suffixes can be added to the verb, which then mark the direct and the indirect object . These pronominal suffixes are the same in all verb stems. In contrast to the congruence morphemes, a distinction is made between the two grammatical genders in the 2nd and 3rd person both in the singular and in the plural.

If both direct and indirect object are marked pronominally, the indirect object (dative) precedes the direct (accusative).

The suffixes for the indirect object of the 1st person singular ('mir', 'for me') correspond to the Ventiv suffixes. Here is -at when the Subjektskongruenz occurs without suffix, -m after the suffix -i and -Nim by the suffixes -a and -u . The Ventive suffixes often appear together with other dative suffixes or with the suffixes of the 1st person singular accusative.

The following table contains the forms of the object suffixes as used in Old Babylonian:

Person / number / gender Direct object
Indirect object
1st person singular -ni -am / -m / -nim
1st person plural -niʾāti -niʾāšim
2nd person singular male. -ka -cum
2nd person singular female -ki -kim
2nd person plural male -kunūti -kunūšim
2nd person plural female -kināti -kināšim
3rd person singular male. -su -sum
3rd person singular female -ši -šim
3rd person plural masculine. -šunūti -šunūšim
3rd person plural female -šināti -šināšim

The -m of the dative suffixes assimilates to the following consonants, cf. Ex. (7) below. The following examples illustrate the use of the morphemes described.

(6) i-ṣbat-Ø-kunūti
3rd person - past tense, seize - singular, male. (Subject) - 2nd person, plural, male, accusative
'He / she / it seized you'
(7) i-šruq-ū-nik-kuš-šu
<* i-šruq-ū-ni m -ku m -šu
3rd person - past tense.stehlen - ventiv - 2nd person.Singular. male dative - 3rd person singular. male accusative
'They stole it from you'


A very common form, which can be formed by nouns, adjectives and verbal adjectives , is the tripod . Appended to predicative nouns (in the status absolutus), this form corresponds to the verb sein in German. Associated with an adjective or verbal adjective, a state is expressed. The tripod has a direct equivalent as a pseudoparticiple in Egyptian . The following table shows the individual forms using the example of the noun šarrum (king), the adjective rapšum (broad) and the verbal adjective parsum (decided).

Person / number / gender šarrum rapšum parsum
1st person singular šarr-āku rapš-āku pars-āku
1st person plural šarr-ānu rapš-ānu pars-ānu
2nd person singular male. šarr-āta rapš-āta pars-āta
2nd person singular female šarr-āti rapš-āti pars-āti
2nd person plural male šarr-ātunu rapš-ātunu pars-ātunu
2nd person plural female šarr-ātina rapš-ātina pars-ātina
3rd person singular male. šar-Ø rapaš-Ø paris-Ø
3rd person singular female šarr-at rapš-at pars-at
3rd person plural masculine. šarr-ū rapš-ū pars-ū
3rd person plural female šarr-ā rapš-ā pars-ā

Here, šarr-āta can mean both “you were king”, “you are king” and “you will be king”, so the tripod is independent of tenses.

Word formation

In addition to the already explained possibility of deriving different verb stems, Akkadian has numerous noun formations from the verb roots. A very common nominalization is the so-called ma-PRaS form. It can express the place of an event, the person who performs the action, but also many other meanings. If one of the root consonants (radicals) is a labial sound (p, b, m), the prefix becomes na- . Examples are: maškanum (place, place) from ŠKN (set, place, place), mašraḫum (splendor) from ŠRḪ (to be splendid), maṣṣarum (guardian) from NṢR (guard), napḫarum (sum) from PḪR (summarize) .

A very similar formation is the maPRaSt form. The nouns that come from this nominal formation are grammatically feminine. The same rules apply to education as to the maPRaS form, e.g. B. maškattum (deposit) from ŠKN (sit, stand, lay), narkabtum (wagon) from RKB (ride, drive).

The suffix -ūt is used to derive abstract nouns . The nouns formed with this suffix are grammatically feminine. The suffix can be added to nouns, adjectives and verbs, e.g. B. abūtum (fatherhood) from abum (father), rabûtum (size) from rabûm (large), waṣūtum (departure) from WṢJ (go away).

There are also numerous derivations of verbs from nouns, adjectives and numerals. Usually a D-stem is formed from the root of the noun or adjective, which then has the meaning "become X" or "make something X", e.g. B. duššûm (to sprout) from dišu (grass), šullušum (to do something for the third time) from šalāš (three).


Akkadian has prepositions that consist of a single word (e.g. ina (in, an, from, through, under), ana (to, for, after, against), adi (bis), aššu (because of) , eli (on, over), ištu / ultu (from, since), mala (according to), itti (with, at)). However, there are also some prepositions combined with ina and ana (e.g. ina maḫar (before), ina balu (without), ana ṣēr (towards…), ana maḫar (before…)). Regardless of their complexity, all prepositions come with the genitive .

Examples: ina bītim (in the house, out of the house), ana… dummuqim (to do… well), itti šarrim (with the king), ana ṣēr mārīšu (to his son).


Since the numbers in cuneiform are mostly written as numerals, the sound of many numerals has not yet been clarified. In combination with something counted, the cardinal numerals have the status absolutus. Since other cases are very rare, the forms of the status rectus are known only from a few number words. The numerals 1 and 2 as well as 21–29, 31–39, 41–49 etc. congruent with the counted in grammatical gender. Numbers 3-20, 30, 40, and 50 indicate gender polarity ; H. The feminine form of the numeral precedes male nouns and vice versa. This polarity is typical of the Semitic languages ​​and occurs e.g. B. also in classical Arabic . The numerals 60, 100 and 1000 are the same in both sexes. With the number words from two onwards, the count is in the plural. In the case of body parts in pairs, a dual form (two number) can be observed, which, however, can no longer be formed productively, e.g. B. šepum (foot) becomes šepān (two feet).

The ordinal numbers are only a few exceptions by attaching a case ending at the nominal form Parus formed, wherein P, R and S must be replaced by the corresponding number of the consonants of the word. It is particularly noticeable that in the case of one, the ordinal number and the cardinal number are identical. In the case of four, a metathesis (sound interchange) occurs . The following table contains the masculine and feminine forms of the status absolutus of some Akkadian cardinal numbers, as well as the corresponding ordinal numbers.

number male
cardinal number
cardinal number
Congruence behavior of
the cardinal number
ordinal number
ordinal number
1 ištēn išteʾat ,
congruence ištēn išteʾat
2 šinā šittā congruence šanûm šanītum
3 šalāš šalāšat polarity šalšum šaluštum
4th heritage requested polarity rebûm rebutum
5 ḫamiš ḫamšat polarity ḫamšum ḫamuštum
6th šediš šiššet polarity šeššum šeduštum
7th sebē šebēt polarity sebûm sebutum
8th samānē samānat polarity samnum ,
9 tešē tišīt polarity tišûm ,
tišūtum ,
10 it he ešeret polarity ešrum ešurtum
60 šūš no gender distinction not used
100 meʾat , mât no gender distinction not used
1000 līm no gender distinction not used

Examples: erbē aššātum (four wives) (masculine number!), Meʾat ālānū (one hundred cities).


Noun phrase

Except for the numerals, all additions that are added to a noun come after this noun. This applies to both adjectives , relative clauses and appositions . Numbers, on the other hand, precede what is counted. In the following table the noun phrase erbēt šarrū dannūtum ša ālam īpušū abūja (the four mighty kings who built the city, my fathers) is analyzed.

word analysis Part of the noun phrase
requested four-female (gender polarity!) Numeral
šarr-ū King nominative, plural Noun
(head of phrase)
then-ūtum strongly nominative, plural, male adjective
ša Attribute marker Relative clause
āl-am City accusative, singular
īpuš-ū 3.Person.build plural.male
from-ū-yes Father plural, male 1st person, possessive pronouns apposition

Sentence syntax

The preferred sentence order in Akkadian is subject-object-predicate . The blindness, which is unusual for Semitic languages, is the result of centuries of language contact with Sumerian , which also has this sentence position. In Akkadian, however, other sequences also occur, especially in literary texts. Especially chiasms , i.e. H. Reversals of the sentence structure are very common. An example from the clay cylinder of Nabonidus (2: 20-2: 21) illustrates this:

nīq tašriḫt-i ebb-i maḫar-sunu aqqi-ma ušamḫir kadrā-ja
Victim (St.constr.) Splendid genitive pure genitive in front of them I sacrificed and I received my welcome present. Accusative
object Local information Verb form Verb form object
first sentence second sentence
'A sacrifice of pure splendor I offered before them, and let (them) receive my gift of welcome.'

Verb forms of subordinate clauses , with a conjunction are introduced, wearing Subordinativ - suffix -u , which, however, is omitted when another with a vowel incipient suffix compete. The only conjunction that always occurs in the verb form without a subordinative is šumma (if, if). The reasons for this have not yet been clarified. Some other conjunctions are ša (for relative clauses ), kī (ma) (that, so that, after, as, as soon as, how), ūm (as, as soon as, during), adi (until), aššum (because).

In Akkadian no copula is used in nominal clauses ; H. not a verb like the German sein . Instead, the predicative noun or adjective is used in the tripod, such as in Awīlum šū šarrāq. ('This man is a thief.').


The Akkadian vocabulary is largely of Semitic origin. Due to the special status of the language in terms of linguistic history, which is why it is also classified in its own subgroup "Eastern Semitic", there are relatively many elements even in the basic vocabulary without obvious parallels in the related languages, e.g. B. māru "son" (Semitic otherwise * bn ), qātu "hand" (Semit. Otherwise * jd ), šēpu "foot" (Semit. Otherwise * rgl ), qabû "say" (Semit. Otherwise * qwl ), izuzzu "Stand" (semit. Otherwise * qwm ), ana "to, for" (semit. Otherwise * li ) etc.

Due to the intensive language contact, first to Sumerian and later to Aramaic , the Akkadian vocabulary consists partly of loan words from these languages. The Aramaic loanwords were used in the first centuries of the 1st millennium BC. Mainly limited to northern and central Mesopotamia, while Sumerian loanwords were common throughout the language area. In addition to the languages ​​mentioned, some nouns from equestrian and household affairs were borrowed from Hurrian and Kassite . A few loan words come from Ugaritic .

Due to the very different word structure compared to non-Semitic languages, it was not possible for the Akkadians to adopt Sumerian or Hurrian verbs in the Semitic root inflection. For this reason, only nouns and some adjectives have been borrowed from these languages. However, since Aramaic and Ugaritic also belong to the Semitic languages ​​and therefore also have a root inflection, some verbs, but also many nouns, could be taken from these languages.

The following table contains examples of loanwords in Akkadian.

Akkadian translation origin Word in the
original language
you hill Sumerian you 6
erēqu flee Aramaic Root ʿRQ
gadalû dressed in linen Sumerian gada lá
ḫabad (u) a car part Kassitisch ḫabad
isinnu Firmly Sumerian ezen
kasulatḫu a device made of copper Hurrian kasulatḫ-
kisallu court Sumerian kisal
laqāḫu to take Ugaritic Root LQH
paraššannu Part of the horse harness Hurrian paraššann-
purkullu Stone cutter Sumerian bur-gul
qaṭālu kill Aramaic Root QṬL
uriḫullu Contractual penalty Hurrian uriḫull-

But Akkadian was also a source of loans, especially into Sumerian. Some examples are: sum. da-rí (continuous, from akk . dāru ), sum. ra-gaba (mounted man, messenger, from akk . rākibu ).

Example text

The following small text is paragraph 7 of the Codex Hammurapi , which was written around the 18th century BC. Was written. The abbreviations St.cs. and St.abs. stand for "Status constructus" or "Status absolutus".

šumma awīl-um kasp-am ḫurāṣ-am ward-on amt-am
if Citizen nominative either Silver accusative or Gold accusative or Slave accusative or Slave accusative
alp-am always imēr-am ū lū mimma šumšu ina
or Cattle accusative or Sheep accusative or Donkey accusative or but anything out
qāt mār awīl-im ū lū warad awīl-im balum šīb-ī u
Hand (St.cs.) Son (St.cs.) Citizen genitive or but Slave (St.cs.) Citizen genitive without Witness plural. Obliquus and
riks-atim i-štâm-Ø ū lū ana maṣṣārūt-im i-mḫur-Ø
Contract plural. Obliquus 3.Person-buy. Perfect singular or but to Safekeeping genitive 3. Person-received. Simple past singular
awīl-um šū šarrāq i-ddâk
Citizen nominative this Thief (stab.) 3rd person-kill. Passive. Present singular

Translation: 'When a citizen buys or takes into custody silver, gold, a slave, a cow, a sheep, a donkey or anything else from the hand of the son of another citizen or a slave of a citizen without a witness or contract, this citizen is a thief and is killed. '

Akkadian literature

See also


General descriptions and grammars


  • Rykle Borger : Babylonian Assyrian Readings. Analecta Orientalia 54. Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, Rome 1963, 2006 (3rd edition of parts I, II).
    • Part I: Elements of grammar and writing. Exercise examples. Glossary.
    • Part II: The texts in transcription.
    • Part III: Commentary. The texts in cuneiform.
  • Richard Caplice : Introduction to Akkadian. Studia Pohl, Series Maior 9. 4th edition. Biblical Institute Press, Rome 1988, 2002, ISBN 88-7653-566-7
  • John Huehnergard : A Grammar of Akkadian. Harvard Semitic Studies 45. Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake 1997, 2011 (3rd ed.). ISBN 978-1-57506-922-7
  • Kaspar K. Riemschneider : Textbook of Akkadian. Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1969. 6th edition, Langenscheidt Verlag Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1992, ISBN 3-324-00364-4
  • Michael P. Streck: Old Babylonian Textbook. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-447-06456-9
  • Josef Tropper : Akkadian for Hebraists and Semitists. Hartmut Spenner, Kamen 2011, ISBN 978-3-89991-118-3


Character lists

Technical literature on specific topics

Web links

Wiktionary: Akkadian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jeremy A. Black, Andrew George, JN Postgate: A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian. Otto Harrassowitz, 2000, ISBN 978-3-447-04264-2 , p. 10 ( online ).
  2. John Huehnergard, Christopher Woods: Akkadian and Eblaite. In: Roger D. Woodard (Ed.): The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages . Cambridge 2004, pp. 218-280.
  3. ^ Paul Garelli: "Akkad", en El Próximo Oriente asiático. Labor, Barcelona 1974, ISBN 84-335-9310-2 .
  4. Aramaic , written in a letter script , is better suited to be applied with ink to a smooth surface than to be scratched into stone, clay, or wax tablets. Karen Radner: Scribing Conventions in the Assyrian Empire. Languages ​​and writing systems. In: Johannes Renger (Ed.): Assur - God, City and Country. 5th International Colloquium of the German Orient Society 18. – 21. February 2004 in Berlin . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, pp. 385–403, here p. 387, ub.uni-muenchen.de (PDF).
  5. ^ Markham J. Geller: The Last Wedge . In: Journal for Assyriology and Near Eastern Archeology . 87, No. 1, 1997, pp. 43-95. doi : 10.1515 / zava.1997.87.1.43 .
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on June 26, 2006 in this version .