- Akkadian language
or Assyro-Babylonian languageSemitic language spoken in Mesopotamia in the 3rd–1st millennia BC.It is known from a great many inscriptions, seals, and clay tablets in cuneiform writing. Akkadian supplanted Sumerian as the major spoken language of southern Mesopotamia by 2000 BC and about this time split into an Assyrian dialect spoken in the northeast and a Babylonian dialect spoken in the south. Akkadian died out as a vernacular in the first half of the 1st millennium BC, being effectively replaced by Aramaic in Mesopotamia, though it continued to be written until about the 1st century AD.
* * *▪ ancient languageextinct Semitic language of the Northern Peripheral group, spoken in Mesopotamia from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BC.Akkadian spread across an area extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf during the time of Sargon (Akkadian Sharrum-kin) of the Akkad dynasty, who reigned from about 2334 to about 2279 BC. By about 2000 Akkadian had supplanted Sumerian (Sumerian language) as the spoken language of southern Mesopotamia, although Sumerian remained in use as the written language of sacred literature. At about the same time, the Akkadian language divided into the Assyrian dialect, spoken in northern Mesopotamia, and the Babylonian dialect, spoken in southern Mesopotamia. At first the Assyrian dialect was used more extensively, but Babylonian largely supplanted it and became the lingua franca of the Middle East by the 9th century BC. During the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Aramaic gradually began to replace Babylonian as the spoken and written language; after that, Babylonian was still used for writings on mathematics, astronomy, and other learned subjects, but by the 1st century AD it had completely died out. Scholars deciphered the Akkadian language in the 19th century.Akkadian, written in a cuneiform script developed from that of the Sumerians, contained about 600 word and syllable signs. The sound system of the language had 20 consonants and 8 vowels (both long and short a, i, e, and u). Nouns occurred in three cases (nominative, genitive, and accusative), three numbers (singular, dual, and plural), and two genders (masculine and feminine); the feminine was distinguished from the masculine by the addition of the suffix -t or -at to the stem. The verb had two tenses (past and present-future).In 1921 scholars at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago began to compile a standard dictionary of the Akkadian language. By the 1990s most of the 22 planned volumes of this dictionary had been published.
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