UGARITIC LANGUAGE

UGARITIC LANGUAGE

The Ugaritic language, discovered by French archaeologists in 1928, is known only in the form of writings found in the lost city of Ugarit, near the modern village of Ras Shamra, Syria. It has been extremely important for scholars of the Old Testament in clarifying Biblical Hebrew texts and has revealed more of the way in which ancient Israelite culture finds parallels in the neighboring cultures.

Ugaritic was “the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform[1]“. Literary texts discovered at Ugarit include the Legend of Keret, the Aqhat Epic (or Legend 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 a Canaanite religion.

The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BC.[2] The city was destroyed in 1180/70 BC.

Ugaritic alphabet

Ugaritic

List of Ugaritic gods
Type abjad
Spoken languages Ugaritic, Hurrian
Time period from around 1500 BCE
ISO 15924 Ugar

The Ugaritic alphabet is a cuneiform (cf. AkkadianSumerian) abjad (alphabet without vowels), used from around 1500 BCE for the Ugaritic language, an extinct Northwest Semitic language discovered in Ugarit, Syria, in 1928. It has 31 letters. 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 and South Semitic orders of the alphabet, which gave rise to the alphabetic orders of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets on the one hand, and of the Ge’ez alphabet on the other.[citation needed]

The script was written from left to right.

Origins

At the time the Ugaritic alphabet was in use (ca. 1500-1300 BCE), Ugarit was in the very center of the literate world, which by then included Egypt, Syria, Anatolia, Cyprus, Crete, and Mesopotamia / Elam. Ugaritic combined the most advanced features of the previously known hieroglyphic and cuneiform systems, both of which had been developing toward more syllabic and less logographic writing systems, into an abjad.[1]

Scholars have searched in vain for graphic prototypes of the Ugaritic letters in Mesopotamian cuneiform. Recently, some have speculated that Ugaritic might represent some form of the Proto-Semitic alphabet,[2] the letter forms distorted as an adaptation to writing on clay with a stylus. There may also have been a degree of influence from the poorly-understood Byblos syllabary that is sometimes called “pseudo-hieroglyphic”.[3]

It has been suggested that the two basic shapes in cuneiform, a linear wedge, as in 𐎂, and a corner wedge, as in 𐎓, may correspond to lines and circles in the linear Semitic alphabets: the three Semitic letters with circles, preserved in the Greek Θ, O and Latin Q, are all made with corner wedges in Ugaritic: 𐎉 Tet, 𐎓 Ain, and 𐎖 Qopa. Other letters look similar as well: 𐎅 Ho resembles its assumed Greek cognate E, while 𐎆 Wo, 𐎔 Pu, and 𐎘 Thanna are similar to Greek Y, Π, and Σ turned on their sides.[4]

Jared Diamond[5] believes the alphabet was consciously designed, citing as evidence the possibility that the letters with the fewest strokes may have been the most frequent.

Abecedaries

Lists of Ugaritic letters have been found in two alphabetic orders: the “Northern Semitic order” more similar to the one found in the Hebrew and Phoenician, and more distantly, the Greek and Latin alphabets; and the “Southern Semitic order” more similar to the one found in the South Arabian, and more distantly, the Ge’ez alphabets. The letters are given in transcription and in their Hebrew cognates; letters missing from Hebrew are left blank.

North Semitic

’a b g x d h w z ħ y k š š’ l m ð n s c p q r θ γ t ś ’i ’u
א ב ג ח׳ ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ

 

 

ל מ ד׳ נ ט׳ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ע׳ ת שׂ

 

 

South Semitic

h l ħ m q w š r t s k n x b ś p c g d γ z ð y θ
ה ל ח מ ק ו

 

ר ת ס כ נ ח׳ ב שׂ פ א ע ט׳ ג ד ע׳ ט ז ד׳ י ש צ

Letters

Ugaritic alphabet

𐎀 ʾa alpa
𐎁 b beta
𐎂 g gamla
𐎃 ẖa
𐎄 d delta
𐎅 h ho
𐎆 w wo
𐎇 z zeta
𐎈 ḥota
𐎉 ṭet
𐎊 y yod
𐎋 k kaf
𐎌 š šin
𐎞 š2 šinš [6]
𐎍 l lamda
𐎎 m mem
𐎏 ḏal
𐎐 n nun
𐎑 ẓu
𐎒 s samka
𐎓 ʿ ʿain
𐎔 p pu
𐎕 ṣade
𐎖 q qopa
𐎗 r raša
𐎘 ṯanna
𐎙 ġ ġain
𐎚 t to
𐎝 s2 śu
𐎛 ʾi i
𐎜 ʾu u

 

Ugaritic Grammar

Note: vowels in this article are reconstructed via comparative Semitics.

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.

Overview

Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian. It possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), three cases for nouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, and genitive); three numbers: (singular, dual, and plural); and verb aspects similar to those found in Western Semitic languages. The word order for Ugaritic is Verb Subject Object (VSO), possessed–possessor (NG), and nounadjective (NA). Ugaritic is considered a conservative Semitic language, since it retains most of the Proto-Semitic phonemes, the basic qualities of the vowel, the case system, the word order of the Proto-Semitic ancestor, and the lack of the definite article.

Phonology

Ugaritic has 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. (ē and ō only occur as long vowels and are the result of monophthongization of the diphthongs “ay” and “aw” respectively).

Ugaritic consonantal phonemes
Labial Interdental Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal

 

Plain Emphatic Plain Emphatic

 

Nasal m

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plosive voiced b

 

 

 

 

ɡ

 

 

 

 

voiceless p

 

 

t̪ˁ

 

k q

 

ʔ

 

Fricative voiced

 

ð̟ ð̟ˁ z

 

ʝ1 ɣ2

 

ʕ

 

 

voiceless

 

θ̟

 

s ç x

 

ħ h

 

Trill

 

 

 

r

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approximant w

 

 

l

 

j

 

 

 

 

 

1 The voiced palatal fricative /ʝ/ occurs as a late variant of the voiced interdental fricative /ð/.

2 The voiced velar fricative /ɣ/ occurs as a late variant of the emphatic voiced interdental /ðˤ/.

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

Proto-Semitic Ugaritic Arabic Tiberian Hebrew
b [b] b [b] ب b [b] בּ b [b]
p [p] p [p] ف f [f] פּ p [p]
̟] ḏ [ð̟] ذ ḏ [ð] ז z [z]
̟] ṯ [θ̟] ث ṯ [θ] שׁ š [ʃ]
̛̟] ḓ [ð̟ˁ] ظ ẓ [ðˁ] צ ṣ [sˁ]
d [d̪] d [d̪] د d [d̪] דּ d [d̪]
t [t̪] t [t̪] ت t [t̪] תּ t [t̪]
[t̛̪] ṭ [t̪ˁ] ط ṭ [t̪ˁ] ט ṭ [t̪ˁ]
š [s] š [ç] س s [s] שׁ š [ʃ]
z [dz] z [z] ز z [z] ז z [z]
s [ts] s [s] س s [s] ס s [s]
[ts̛] ṣ [sˁ] ص ṣ [sˁ] צ ṣ [sˁ]
l [l] l [l] ل l [l] ל l [l]
ś [ɬ] š [ç] ش š [ʃ] שׂ ś [ɬ]→[s]
́ [tɬ̛] ṣ [sˁ] ض ḍ [ɮˁ]→[dˁ] צ ṣ [sˁ]
g [ɡ] g [ɡ] ج ǧ [ɡʲ]→[dʒ] גּ g [ɡ]
k [k] k [k] ك k [k] כּ k [k]
q [k̛] q [q] ق q [q] ק q [q]
ġ [ɣ] ġ [ɣ]1 غ ġ [ɣ] ע ʻ [ʕ]
[x] ḫ [x] خ ḫ [x] ח ḥ [ħ]
ʻ [ʕ] ʻ [ʕ] ع ʻ [ʕ] ע ʻ [ʕ]
[ħ] ḥ [ħ] ح ḥ [ħ] ח ḥ [ħ]
ʼ [ʔ] ʼ [ʔ] ء ʼ [ʔ] א ʼ [ʔ]
h [h] h [h] ه h [h] ה h [h]
m [m] m [m] م m [m] מ m [m]
n [n̪] n [n̪] ن n [n̪] נ n [n̪]
r [r] r [r] ر r [r] ר r [ʀ]
w [w] w [w] و w [w] ו w [v]
y [j] y [j] ي y [j] י y [j]
Proto-Semitic Ugaritic Arabic Tiberian Hebrew

1 Sometimes Ugaritic ġ /ɣ/ corresponds to Proto-Semitic ṣ́ /tɬ̛/.

Grammar

Ugaritic possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), three cases for nouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, and genitive); three numbers: (singular, dual, and plural); and verb aspects similar to those found in Western Semitic languages.

Word order

The word order for Ugaritic is Verb Subject Object (VSO), possessed–possessor (NG), and nounadjective (NA).

Morphology

Ugaritic, like all Semitic languages, exhibits a unique pattern of stems consisting typically of “triliteral“, or 3-consonant consonantal roots (2- and 4-consonant roots also exist), from which nouns, adjectives, and verbs are formed in various ways: e.g. by inserting vowels, doubling consonants, and/or adding prefixes, suffixes, or infixes.

Verbs

Aspects

Verbs in Ugaritic have 2 aspects: perfect for completed action (with pronominal suffixes) and imperfect for uncompleted action (with pronominal prefixes and suffixes). Verb formation in Ugaritic is based on (like all Semitic languages) triconsonantal roots. Affixes inserted into the root form different meanings. Taking the root RGM (which means “to say”) for example:

Morphology of Ugaritic verbs (in the simple active pattern (G stem))

 

Perfect Imperfect

 

Singular
1st STEM-tu or STEM-tī ʼa-STEM

 

RaGaMtu or RaGaM َʼaRGuMu

 

2nd masculine STEM-ta ta-STEM

 

RaGaMta taRGuMu

 

feminine STEM-ti ta-STEM-īna

 

RaGaMti taRGuMīna

 

3rd masculine STEM-a ya-STEM

 

RaGaMa yaRGuMu

 

feminine STEM-at ta-STEM

 

RaGaMat taRGuMu

 

Dual
1st STEM-nayā na-STEMā

 

RaGaMnayā naRGuMā

 

2nd masculine
& feminine
STEM-tumā ta-STEM-ā(ni)

 

RaGaMtumā taRGuMā(ni)

 

3rd masculine STEM ya-STEM-ā(ni)

 

RaGaMā yaRGuMā(ni)

 

feminine STEM-atā ta-STEM-ā(ni)

 

RaGaMatā taRGuMā(ni)

 

Plural
1st STEM-nū na-STEM

 

RaGaM naRGuMu

 

2nd masculine STEM-tum(u) ta-STEM-ū(na)

 

RaGaMtum(u) taRGuMū(na)

 

feminine STEM-tin(n)a ta-STEM-na

 

RaGaMtin(n)a taRGuMna

 

3rd masculine STEM ya-STEM-ū(na)

 

RaGaMū yaRGuMū(na)

 

feminine STEM ta-STEM-na

 

RaGaMā taRGuMna

 

Moods

Ugaritic verbs occur in 5 moods:

Mood Verb1
Indicative yargumu
Jussive yargum
Volitive2 yarguma
Energic 1 yargum(a)n
Energic 2 yargumanna

1 These are reconstructed for the imperfect simple active pattern (G stem).

2 Also considered a subjunctive.

Patterns

Ugaritic verbs occur in 10 reconstructed patterns or Binyan:

Verb Patterns
Active voice Passive voice

 

 

Perfect (3rd sg. masc.) Imperfect (3rd sg. masc.) Perfect (3rd sg. masc.) Imperfect (3rd sg. masc.)

 

 

G stem (simple) paʻala yapʻalu puʻila yupʻalu

 

 

Gt stem (simple reflexive) ʼiptaʻala yaptaʻalu (?) (?)

 

 

D stem (factitive) paʻʻala yapaʻʻilu puʻʻila yupaʻʻalu

 

 

tD stem (factitive reflexive) tapaʻʻala yatapaʻʻalu (?) (?)

 

 

N stem (reciprocal passive) nap(a)ʻala yappaʻilu <<(*yanpaʻilu) n/a

 

 

L stem (intensive or factitive) pāʻala yupāʻilu (?) (?)

 

 

Š stem (causative) šapʻala yapaʻilu šupʻila yupaʻilu

 

 

Št stem (causative reflexive) ʼištapʻala yaštapʻilu (?) (?)

 

 

C stem (causative internal pattern) (?) yapʻilu n/a

 

 

R stem (factitive) (biconsonantal roots) paʻlala (e.g. karkara) yapaʻlalu (e.g. yakarkaru) (?) (?)

 

 


Nouns

Nouns in Ugaritic can be categorized according to their inflection into: cases (nominative, genitive and accusative), state (absolute and construct), gender (masculine and feminine) and number( singular, dual and plural).

Case

Ugaritic has three grammatical cases corresponding to: nominative, genitive and accusative. Normally, singular nouns take the ending –u in the nominative, -i in the genitive and –a in the accusative. Using the word Malk- (king) and Malkat- (queen) for example:

Nominative Genitive Accusative
Masuline Malku Malki Malka
Feminine Malkatu Malkati Malkata

As in Arabic, some exceptional nouns (known as diptotes) have the suffix -a in the genitive. There is no Ugaritic equivalent for Classical Arabic nunation or Akkadian mimation.

State

Nouns in Ugaritic occur in 2 states. Absolute and construct. If a noun is followed by a genitival attribute (noun in the genitive or suffixed pronoun) it becomes a construct (denoting possession). Otherwise, it is in the absolute state. Ugaritic, unlike Arabic and Hebrew, has no definite article.

Gender

Nouns which have no gender marker are for the most part masculine, although some feminine nouns do not have a feminine marker. However, these denote feminine beings such as ʼumm- (mother). /-t/ is the feminine marker which is directly attached to the base of the noun.

Number

Ugaritic distinguishes between nouns based on quantity. All nouns are either singular when there is one, dual when there are two, and plural if there are three or more.

Singular

The singular has no marker. And is inflected according to its case.

Dual

The marker for the dual in the absolute state appears as /-m/. However, the vocalization may be reconstructed as /- āmi/ in the nominative (such as malkāmi “two kings”) and /-ēmi/ for the genitive and accusative (e.g. malkēmi). For the construct state, it is /-ā/ and /-ē / respectively.

Plural

Ugaritic has only regular plurals (i.e. no broken plurals). Masculine absolute state plurals take the forms /-ūma/ in the nominative and /-īma/ in the genitive and accusative. In the construct state they are /-ū/ and /-ī/ respectively. The female afformative plural is /-āt/ with a case marker probably following the /-t/. Giving /- ātu/ for the nominative and /-āti/ for the genitive and accusative in both Absolute and construct state.

Adjectives

Adjectives follow the noun and are declined exactly like the preceding noun.

Personal pronouns

Independent personal pronouns

Independent personal pronouns in Ugaritic are as follows:

Person singular dual Plural
1st ʼanā, ʼanāku “I”

 

 

2nd masculine ʼatta “you”

 

ʼattum- “you”
feminine ʼatti “you”

 

 

3rd masculine huwa1 “he” humā “they” hum-1 “they”
feminine hiya1 “she”

 

1 3rd person independent pronouns can occur in the genitive or accusative but are suffixed with a /-t/.

Suffixed (or enclitic) pronouns

Suffixed (or enclitic) pronouns (mainly denoting the genitive and accusative) are as follows:

Person Singular Dual Plural
1st -ya1 “my” -nayā “our” -na, -nu “our”
2nd masculine -ka “your” -kumā “your” -kum- “your”
feminine -ki “your” -kin(n)a “your”
3rd masculine -hu “his” -humā “their” -hum- “their”
feminine -ha “hers” -hin(n)a “their”

1 -nī is used for the nominative, i.e. following a verb denoting the subject.

Numerals

The following is a table of Ugaritic numerals:

Number Masculine Feminine
1 ʼaḥad-
2 ṯināmi1 ṯitāmi1
3 ṯalāṯ- ṯalāṯat-
4 ʼarbaʻ- ʼarbaʻat-
5 ḫam(i)š- ḫam(i)šat-
6 ṯiṯṯ- ṯiṯṯat-
7 šabʻ- šabʻat-
8 ṯamān- ṯamānīt-
9 tišʻ- tišʻat-
10 ʻaš(a)r- ʻaš(a)r(a)t-
20 ʻišrūma 2
30 ṯalāṯūma 2
100 miʼat-
1000 ʼalp-

1 ṯināmi and ṯitāmi are the nominative form. The genitiveaccusative form would be ṯinēmi and ṯitēmi respectively.

2 ʻišrūma and ṯalāṯūma are in the nominative form. The genitiveaccusative form would be ʻišrīma and ṯalāṯīma respectively.

 

 

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