Ugaritic language

Ugaritic language

states=ancient Ugarit
extinct=12th century BC
fam3=West Semitic
fam4=Central Semitic
fam5=Northwest Semitic
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 [cite book|author=Gordon, Cyrus Herzl|title=The Ancient Near East|publisher=W.W. Norton & Company Press|year=1965|id=ISBN 0-393-00275-6 at p.99] ". 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 mythology.

The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BC. [ [ Quartz Hill School of Theology, Ugarit and the Bible] ] The city was destroyed in 1180/70 BC.

Writing System

The Ugaritic alphabet is a cuneiform abjad (alphabet without vowels), used from around 15th century BCE. To the casual observer, it appears similar to Mesopotamian cuneiform, but was unrelated (see Ugaritic alphabet). It is the oldest example of the family of West Semitic scripts that were used for Phoenician, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The so-called long alphabet has 31 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 and South Semitic orders of the alphabet, which gave rise to the alphabetic orders of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets. The script was written from left to right.


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).

footnote|* The voiced palato-alveolar fricative ʒ occurs as a late variant of the voiced interdental ð.

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

footnote|* Sometimes Ugaritic ġ [ɣ] corresponds to Proto-Semitic ṣ́ [ɬˁ] .


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 case system and the word order of the Proto-Semitic ancestor.

ee also

*Ugaritic grammar
*Ugaritic alphabet
*Northwest Semitic languages
*Central Semitic languages
*Semitic Languages
*Proto-Semitic language



*cite book|author=Gordon, Cyrus Herzl|title=The Ancient Near East|publisher=W.W. Norton & Company Press|year=1965|id=ISBN 0-393-00275-6.
*cite book|author=Gibson, John C.L.|title=Canaanite Myths and Legends|publisher=T. & T. Clark|year=1977|id=ISBN 0-567-02351-6 This contains Latin-alphabet transliterations of the Ugaritic texts and facing translations in English.
*cite book|author=Parker, Simon B. (editor) |title=Ugaritic Narrative Poetry: Writings from the Ancient World Society of Biblical Literature |location=Atlanta | publisher=Scholars Press|year=1997|id=ISBN 0-7885-0337-5
*cite book|author=del Olmo Lete, Gregorio; & Sanmartín, Joaquín|title=A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition|publisher=Brill Academic Publishers|year=2004|id=ISBN 90-04-13694-0 (2 vols), (originally in Spanish, translated by W.G.E. Watson).
*J. Tropper, Ugartische Grammatik, AOAT 273, Münster, Ugarit Verlag, 2000. [ Online Review] of Tropper 2000 by Dennis Pardee. A more concise grammar: cite book|author=Sivan, Daniel |title=A Grammar of the Ugaritic Language (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik) |publisher=Brill Academic Publishers|year=1997|id=ISBN 90-04-10614-6.
*J-L. Cunchillos and Juan-Pablo Vita, "A Concordance of Ugaritic Words" Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2003. ISBN 1-59333-258-0. Also available from [ Logos Bible Software]
*cite book|author=Stanislav Segert|title=A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language|publisher=University of California Press|year=1997|id=ISBN 0-520-03999-8
*cite book|author=Sabatino Moscati|title=An Introduction to Comparative Grammar of Semitic Languages Phonology and Morphology|publisher=Harrassowitz Verlag|year=1980|id=ISBN 3-447-00689-7

External links

* [ Ugarit and the Bible] (An excerpt from an online introductory course on Ugaritic grammar (the Quartz Hill School of Theology's course noted in the links below); includes a cursory discussion on the relationship between Ugaritic and Old Testament/Hebrew Bible literature.)
* [ BBCi website: "El in the Ugaritic tablets" gives many attributes of the Ugaritic creator and his consort Athirat.]
* [ Abstract of Mark Smith, "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Text".]
* [ Introduction to Ugaritic Grammar] (Quartz Hill School of Theology)
* [ Unicode Chart]
* [ What's Ugaritic Got to Do with Anything?] by Michael Heiser, Ph.D.

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  • Ugaritic grammar — language name=Ugaritic states=ancient Ugarit extinct=12th century BC familycolor=Afro Asiatic fam2=Semitic fam3=West Semitic fam4=Central Semitic fam5=Northwest Semitic iso2=uga|iso3=uga: Note: vowels in this article are reconstructed via… …   Wikipedia

  • UGARITIC — UGARITIC, a Northwest Semitic language spoken and written in northern Syria during the second millennium B.C.E. Documents written in this tongue have been discovered at Ras Shamra, site of the ancient ugarit , and at nearby Ras ibn Hani. The… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Ugaritic alphabet — Infobox Writing system name= Ugaritic type= abjad typedesc= time= from around 1500 BCE languages= Ugaritic, Hurrian sisters= children= sample= imagesize= 200px iso15924= UgarThe Ugaritic alphabet is a cuneiform abjad (alphabet without vowels),… …   Wikipedia

  • Ugaritic — [o͞o΄gə rit′ik, yo͞o΄gə rit′ik] n. an extinct Northern Semitic language closely related to Hebrew: it is known from cuneiform inscriptions of c. 1500 B.C. found in the ruins of Ugarit adj. of this language or the city of Ugarit or its people or… …   English World dictionary

  • Ugaritic — 1936, pertaining to Ugarit, ancient city of northern Syria, and especially to the language first discovered there 1929 by Claude Schaeffer, from Ugarit, which probably is ultimately from Sumerian ugaru field …   Etymology dictionary

  • Ugaritic — /ooh geuh rit ik, yooh /, adj. 1. of or pertaining to Ugarit, its people, or their language. n. 2. Also, Ugaritian /ooh geuh rish euhn, yooh /. the Semitic language of the Ugaritic people, related to Hebrew and Phoenician and written in a… …   Universalium

  • Ugaritic — I. noun Date: 1936 the Semitic language of ancient Ugarit closely related to Phoenician and Hebrew II. adjective Date: 1938 of, relating to, or characteristic of the ancient city of Ugarit, its inhabitants, or Ugaritic …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Ugaritic — [ˌju:gə rɪtɪk] noun a pre Phoenician Semitic language written in a distinctive cuneiform alphabet, spoken by the people of Ugarit, an ancient port and trading city in northern Syria. adjective relating to Ugaritic …   English new terms dictionary

  • Ugaritic — U•ga•rit•ic [[t]ˌu gəˈrɪt ɪk, ˌyu [/t]] adj. 1) ara of or pertaining to Ugarit, its people, or their language 2) peo the western Semitic language of the inhabitants of Ugarit, written in a cuneiform alphabet • Etymology: 1935–40 …   From formal English to slang

  • Ugaritic — /ugəˈrɪtɪk/ (say oohguh ritik) noun 1. an extinct Semitic language of northern Syria. –adjective 2. of or relating to this language. {from Ugarit, an ancient Syrian city state} …   Australian English dictionary

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