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Native to Ugarit
Extinct 12th century BC
Ugaritic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2 uga
ISO 639-3 uga
Glottolog ugar1238
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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]


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


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.


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
sometimes [ð]
ذ[ð]זz[z]ד (older ז)d/ḏ[d/ð]
sporadically ġ[ɣ]
ṣ́[(t)ɬʼ]𐎕[sˤ]ض[ɮˤ]→[dˤ]צ[sˤ]ע (older ק)ʿ[ʕ]
total assimilation
before a consonant
y[j] initially
Proto-SemiticUgaritic Classical Arabic Tiberian Hebrew Imperial Aramaic


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


  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.

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