Akkadian    Akkadian language (lišānum akkadītum)

Akkadian was a semitic language spoken in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria) between about 2,800 BC and 500 AD. It was named after the city of Akkad and first appeared in Sumerian texts dating from 2,800 BC in the form of Akkadian names.

The Akkadian cuneiform script was adapted from Sumerian cuneiform in about 2,350 BC. At the same time, many Sumerian words were borrowed into Akkadian, and Sumerian logograms were given both Sumerian and Akkadian readings. In many ways the process of adapting the Sumerian script to the Akkadian language resembles the way the Chinese script was adapted to write Japanese. Akkadian, like Japanese, was polysyllabic and used a range of inflections while Sumerian, like Chinese, had few inflections.

A large corpus of Akkadian texts and text fragments numbering hundreds of thousands has been excavated. They include mythology, legal and scientific texts, correspondence and so on. During the 2nd millenium BC the Akkadian language developed into two variants, Assyrian and Babylonian, in Assyria and Babylon.

Akkadian became the lingua franca of the ancient Near East, but started to be replaced by Aramaic by the 8th century BC. After that it continued to be used mainly by scholars and priests and the last known example of written Akkadian dates from the 1st century AD.

Notable features

  • Type of writing system: semanto-phonetic - the symbols consist of phonograms, representing spoken syllables, determinatives, which indicate the category a word belonged to and logograms, which represent whole words.
  • Direction of writing: variable
  • Number of symbols: between 200 and 400 symbols were used to Akkadian, though in some texts many more appear.
  • Many of the symbols had multiple pronunciations.
  • Used to write: Akkadian

Some Akkadian Cuneiform glyphs

Some Akkadian Cuneiform glyphs

Sample text

Sample of Akkadian writing


Information about the Akkadian language and writing system:

Akkadian Dictionary

Sources of Early Akkadian Literature - a Text Corpus of Babylonian and Assyrian Literary Texts from the 3rd and 2nd Millennia BC: http://www.seal.uni-leipzig.de/

Free Akkadian fonts

Semitic languages

Akkadian, Amharic, Arabic (Algerian), Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Lebanese), Arabic (Modern Standard), Arabic (Moroccan), Arabic (Syrian), Aramaic, Argobba, Assyrian / Neo-Assyrian, Canaanite, Chaha, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Ge'ez, Hadhramautic, Hebrew, Himyaritic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic, Maltese, Mandaic, Nabataean, Neo-Mandaic, Phoenician, Punic, Qatabanic, Sabaean, Sabaic, Silt'e, Syriac, Tigre, Tigrinya, Turoyo, Ugaritic, Western Neo-Aramaic

Cuneiform scripts

Akkadian, Elamite, Hittite, Old Persian Cuneiform, Sumerian, Ugaritic

Semanto-phonetic writing systems

Akkadian Cuneiform, Ancient Egyptian (Demotic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieratic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieroglyphs), Chinese, Chữ-nôm, Cuneiform, Japanese, Jurchen, Khitan, Linear B, Luwian, Mayan, Naxi, Sumerian Cuneiform, Tangut (Hsihsia)