Ugaritic

Last updated
Ugaritic
Native to Ugarit
Extinct 12th century BC
Ugaritic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2 uga
ISO 639-3 uga
Glottolog ugar1238
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Ugaritic [1] ( /ˌjɡəˈrɪtɪk,ˌ-/ [2] ) is an extinct Northwest Semitic language, classified by some as a dialect of the Amorite language and so the only known Amorite dialect preserved in writing. It is known through the Ugaritic texts discovered by French archaeologists in 1929 at Ugarit, [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] including several major literary texts, notably the Baal cycle. It has been used by scholars of the Hebrew Bible to clarify Biblical Hebrew texts and has revealed ways in which the cultures of ancient Israel and Judah found parallels in the neighboring cultures. [9]

Contents

Ugaritic has been called "the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform". [10]

Corpus

The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BCE. The city of Ugarit was destroyed roughly 1190 BCE. [11]

Literary texts discovered at Ugarit include the Legend of Keret , the legends of Danel, the Myth of Baal-Aliyan, and the Death of Baal—the latter two are also collectively known as the Baal Cycle —all revealing aspects of ancient Northwest Semitic religion.

It has been proposed that Ugaritic texts might help solve such biblical puzzles as the anachronism of Ezekiel mentioning Daniel at Ezekiel 14:13–16. [9]

Writing system

Clay tablet of Ugaritic alphabet 22 alphabet.jpg
Clay tablet of Ugaritic alphabet
Table of Ugaritic alphabet Ugaritic Chart of Letters.svg
Table of Ugaritic alphabet

The Ugaritic alphabet is a cuneiform script used beginning in the 15th century BCE. Like most Semitic scripts, it is an abjad, where each symbol stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel.

Although it appears similar to Mesopotamian cuneiform (whose writing techniques it borrowed), its symbols and symbol meanings are unrelated. It is the oldest example of the family of West Semitic scripts such as the Phoenician, Paleo-Hebrew, and Aramaic alphabets (including the Hebrew alphabet). The so-called "long alphabet" has 30 letters while the "short alphabet" has 22. Other languages (particularly Hurrian) were occasionally written in it in the Ugarit area, although not elsewhere.

Clay tablets written in Ugaritic provide the earliest evidence of both the Levantine ordering of the alphabet, which gave rise to the alphabetic order of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets; and the South Semitic order, which gave rise to the order of the Ge'ez script. The script was written from left to right.

Phonology

Ugaritic had 28 consonantal phonemes (including two semivowels) and eight vowel phonemes (three short vowels and five long vowels): a ā i ī u ū ē ō. The phonemes ē and ō occur only as long vowels and are the result of monophthongization of the diphthongs ey and aw, respectively.

Ugaritic consonantal phonemes[ citation needed ]
Labial Interdental Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emphatic
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless p t k q ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative voiceless θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced ð z ðˤ( ʒ ) [decimal 1] ɣ [decimal 2] ʕ
Approximant l j w
Trill r
  1. The voiced palatal fricative [ʒ] occurs as a late variant of the voiced interdental fricative /ð/.
  2. The voiced velar fricative /ɣ/, while an independent phoneme at all periods, also occurs as a late variant of the emphatic voiced interdental /ðˤ/.

The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Classical Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:

Proto-SemiticUgaritic Classical Arabic Tiberian Hebrew Imperial Aramaic
b[b]𐎁bبb[b]בb/ḇ[b/v]בb/ḇ[b/v]
p[p]𐎔pفf[f]פp/p̄[p/f]פp/p̄[p/f]
[ð]𐎏d;
sometimes [ð]
ذ[ð]זz[z]ד (older ז)d/ḏ[d/ð]
[θ]𐎘[θ]ث[θ]שׁš[ʃ]תt/ṯ[t/θ]
[θʼ]𐎑[ðˤ];
sporadically ġ[ɣ]
ظ[ðˤ]צ[sˤ]ט[tˤ]
d[d]𐎄dدd[d]דd/ḏ[d/ð]דd/ḏ[d/ð]
t[t]𐎚tتt[t]תt/ṯ[t/θ]תt/ṯ[t/θ]
[tʼ]𐎉[tˤ]ط[tˤ]ט[tˤ]ט[tˤ]
š[s]𐎌š[ʃ]سs[s]שׁš[ʃ]שׁš[ʃ]
z[dz]𐎇zزz[z]זz[z]זz[z]
s[ts]𐎒sسs[s]סs[s]סs[s]
[tsʼ]𐎕[sˤ]ص[sˤ]צ[sˤ]צ[sˤ]
l[l]𐎍lلl[l]לl[l]לl[l]
ś[ɬ]𐎌šشš[ʃ]שׂś[ɬ]→[s]שׂ/סs/ś[s]
ṣ́[(t)ɬʼ]𐎕[sˤ]ض[ɮˤ]→[dˤ]צ[sˤ]ע (older ק)ʿ[ʕ]
g[ɡ]𐎂gجǧ[ɡʲ]→[dʒ]גg/ḡ[ɡ/ɣ]גg/ḡ[ɡ/ɣ]
k[k]𐎋kكk[k]כk/ḵ[k/x]כk/ḵ[k/x]
q[kʼ]𐎖qقq[q]קq[q]קq[q]
ġ[ɣ]𐎙ġ[ɣ]غġ[ɣ]עʿ[ʕ]עʿ[ʕ]
[x]𐎃[x]خ[x]ח[ħ]ח[ħ]
ʿ[ʕ]𐎓ʿ[ʕ]عʿ[ʕ]עʿ[ʕ]עʿ[ʕ]
[ħ]𐎈[ħ]ح[ħ]ח[ħ]ח[ħ]
ʾ[ʔ]𐎛ʾ[ʔ]ءʾ[ʔ]אʾ[ʔ]א/∅ʾ/∅[ʔ/∅]
h[h]𐎅hهh[h]הh[h]הh[h]
m[m]𐎎mمm[m]מm[m]מm[m]
n[n]𐎐nنn[n]נn[n];
total assimilation
before a consonant
נn[n]
r[r]𐎗rرr[r]רr[r]רr[r]
w[w]𐎆wوw[w]וw[w];
y[j] initially
וw[w]
y[j]𐎊y[j]يy[j]יy[j]יy[j]
Proto-SemiticUgaritic Classical Arabic Tiberian Hebrew Imperial Aramaic

Grammar

Ugaritic is an inflected language, and its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian. It possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), three grammatical cases for nouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, and genitive), three numbers (singular, dual, and plural), and verb aspects similar to those found in other Northwest Semitic languages. The word order for Ugaritic is verb–subject–object (VSO) and subject–object–verb (SOV), [12] possessed–possessor (NG), and nounadjective (NA). Ugaritic is considered a conservative Semitic language, since it retains most of the phonemes, the case system, and the word order of the ancestral Proto-Semitic language. [13]

See also

Notes

  1. http://bildnercenter.rutgers.edu/docman/rendsburg/59-modern-south-arabian-as-a-source-for-ugaritic-etymologies/file
  2. "Ugaritic". Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  3. Watson, Wilfred G. E.; Wyatt, Nicolas (1999). Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. Brill. p. 91. ISBN   978-90-04-10988-9.
  4. Ugaritic is alternatively classified in a "North Semitic" group Lipiński, Edward (2001). Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar. Peeters Publishers. p. 50. ISBN   978-90-429-0815-4.
  5. Woodard, Roger D. (2008-04-10). The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia. Cambridge University Press. p. 5. ISBN   9781139469340.
  6. Goetze, Albrecht (1941). "Is Ugaritic a Canaanite Dialect?". Language. 17 (2): 127–138. doi:10.2307/409619. JSTOR   409619.
  7. Kaye, Alan S. (2007-06-30). Morphologies of Asia and Africa. Eisenbrauns. p. 49. ISBN   9781575061092.
  8. Schniedewind, William; Hunt, Joel H. (2007). A Primer on Ugaritic: Language, Culture and Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN   978-1-139-46698-1.
  9. 1 2 3 Greenstein, Edward L. (November 2010). "Texts from Ugarit Solve Biblical Puzzles". Biblical Archaeology Review . 36 (6): 48–53, 70. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  10. Gordon, Cyrus H. (1965). The Ancient Near East . Norton. p.  99.
  11. Huehnergard, John (2012). An Introduction to Ugaritic. Hendrickson Publishers. p. 1. ISBN   978-1-59856-820-2.
  12. Wilson, Gerald H. (1982). "Ugaritic Word Order and Sentence Structure in KRT". Journal of Semitic Studies. 27 (1): 17–32. doi:10.1093/jss/27.1.17.
  13. A Basic Grammar of Ugaritic Language by Stanislav Segert - Hardcover - University of California Press.

Related Research Articles

Alphabet Standard set of letters that represent phonemes of a spoken language

An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols or graphemes that represent the phonemes of certain spoken languages. Not all writing systems represent language in this way; in a syllabary, each character represents a syllable, for instance, and logographic systems use characters to represent words, morphemes, or other semantic units.

The Hebrew alphabet, known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri, Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language and other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, and Judeo-Persian. It is also used informally in Israel to write Levantine Arabic, especially among Druze. It is an offshoot of the Imperial Aramaic alphabet, which flourished during the Achaemenid Empire and which itself derives from the Phoenician alphabet.

Matres lectionis are consonants that are used to indicate a vowel, primarily in the writing down of Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac. The letters that do this in Hebrew are alephא‎, heה‎, wawו‎ and yodי‎, and in Arabic, the matres lectionis are ʾalifا‎, wāwو‎ and yāʾي‎. The 'yod and waw in particular are more often vowels than they are consonants.

Semitic languages Branch of the Afroasiatic languages

The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in West Asia. They are spoken by more than 330 million people across much of West Asia, and latterly also North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Malta, in small pockets in the Caucasus as well as in often large immigrant and expatriate communities in North America, Europe, and Australasia. The terminology was first used in the 1780s by members of the Göttingen School of History, who derived the name from Shem, one of the three sons of Noah in the Book of Genesis.

Akkadian language Extinct Semitic language

Akkadian is an extinct East Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia from the third millennium BC until its gradual replacement by Akkadian-influenced Old Aramaic among Mesopotamians by the 8th century BC.

Baal Ugaritic weather god

Baal, properly Baʽal, was a title and honorific meaning "owner", "lord" in the Northwest Semitic languages spoken in the Levant during antiquity. From its use among people, it came to be applied to gods. Scholars previously associated the theonym with solar cults and with a variety of unrelated patron deities but inscriptions have shown that the name Baʿal was particularly associated with the storm and fertility god Hadad and his local manifestations.

Ugarit Ancient port city in northern Syria

Ugarit was an ancient port city in northern Syria, in the outskirts of modern Latakia, discovered by accident in 1928 together with the Ugaritic texts. Its ruins are often called Ras Shamra after the headland where they lie.

Ugaritic alphabet Cuneiform consonantal alphabet of 30 letters

The Ugaritic writing system is a cuneiform abjad used from around either the fifteenth century BCE or 1300 BCE for Ugaritic, an extinct Northwest Semitic language, and discovered in Ugarit, Syria, in 1928. It has 30 letters. Other languages were occasionally written in the Ugaritic script in the area around Ugarit, although not elsewhere.

Phoenician language

Phoenician is an extinct Canaanite Semitic language originally spoken in the region surrounding the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Extensive Tyro-Sidonian trade and commercial dominance led to Phoenician becoming a lingua-franca of the maritime Mediterranean during the Iron Age. The Phoenician alphabet was spread to Greece during this period, where it became the source of all modern European scripts.

Modern Hebrew Standard form of the Hebrew language spoken today

Modern Hebrew, also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew, is the standard form of the Hebrew language spoken today. Spoken in ancient times, Ancient Hebrew, a member of the Canaanite branch of the Semitic language family, was supplanted as the Jewish vernacular by the western dialect of Aramaic beginning in the third century BCE, though it continued to be used as a liturgical and literary language. It was revived as a spoken language in the 19th and 20th centuries and is the official language of Israel. Of the Canaanite languages, Modern Hebrew is the only language spoken today.

The Canaanite languages, or Canaanite dialects, are one of the three subgroups of the Northwest Semitic languages, the others being Aramaic and Ugaritic, all originating in the Levant and Mesopotamia. They are attested in Canaanite inscriptions throughout the Levant, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and the East Mediterranean region. Dialects have been labelled primarily with reference to Biblical geography: Hebrew, Phoenician/Carthaginian, Amorite, Ammonite, Ekronite, Moabite and Edomite; the dialects were all mutually intelligible, being no more differentiated than geographical varieties of Modern English. This family of languages has the distinction of being the first historically attested group of languages to use an alphabet, derived from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, to record their writings, as opposed to the far earlier Cuneiform logographic/syllabic writing of the region.

Biblical Hebrew Stage of the Hebrew language written and spoken during the composition of the Tanakh

Biblical Hebrew, also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew, a language in the Canaanite branch of Semitic languages, spoken by the Israelites in the area known as the Land of Israel, roughly west of the Jordan River and east of the Mediterranean Sea. The term "Hebrew" was not used for the language in the Bible, which was referred to as שפת כנען or יהודית, but the name was used in Greek and Mishnaic Hebrew texts.

Proto-Semitic is the hypothetical reconstructed proto-language ancestral to the Semitic languages. There is no consensus regarding the location of the Proto-Semitic Urheimat; scholars hypothesize that it may have originated in the Levant, the Sahara, or the Horn of Africa, and the view that it arose in the Arabian Peninsula has also been common historically.

Ancient Semitic religion encompasses the polytheistic religions of the Semitic peoples from the ancient Near East and Northeast Africa. Since the term Semitic itself represents a rough category when referring to cultures, as opposed to languages, the definitive bounds of the term "ancient Semitic religion" are only approximate.

The history of the alphabet goes back to the consonantal writing system used for Semitic languages in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE. Most or nearly all alphabetic scripts used throughout the world today ultimately go back to this Semitic proto-alphabet. Its first origins can be traced back to a Proto-Sinaitic script developed in Ancient Egypt to represent the language of Semitic-speaking workers and slaves in Egypt. Unskilled in the complex hieroglyphic system used to write the Egyptian language, which required a large number of pictograms, they selected a small number of those commonly seen in their Egyptian surroundings to describe the sounds, as opposed to the semantic values, of their own Canaanite language. This script was partly influenced by the older Egyptian hieratic, a cursive script related to Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Northwest Semitic is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the indigenous languages of the Levant. It emerged from Proto-Semitic in the Early Bronze Age. It is first attested in proper names identified as Amorite in the Middle Bronze Age. The oldest coherent texts are in Ugaritic, dating to the Late Bronze Age, which by the time of the Bronze Age collapse are joined by Old Aramaic, and by the Iron Age by the Canaanite languages.

Mark Stratton John Matthew Smith is an American ancient historian, theologian, biblical scholar, and professor.

Ugaritic is an extinct Northwest Semitic language. This article describes the grammar of the Ugaritic language. For more information regarding the Ugaritic language in general, see Ugaritic language.

Hittite phonology is the description of the reconstructed phonology or pronunciation of the Hittite language. Because Hittite as a spoken language is extinct, thus leaving no living daughter languages, and no contemporary descriptions of the pronunciation are known, little can be said with certainty about the phonetics and the phonology of the language. Some conclusions can be made, however, by noting its relationship to the other Indo-European languages, by studying its orthography and by comparing loanwords from nearby languages.

Ugaritic texts Corpus of ancient cuneiform texts discovered in Syria

The Ugaritic texts are a corpus of ancient cuneiform texts discovered since 1928 in Ugarit and Ras Ibn Hani in Syria, and written in Ugaritic, an otherwise unknown Northwest Semitic language. Approximately 1,500 texts and fragments have been found to date. The texts were written in the 13th and 12th centuries BCE.

References