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The Adaptation Of The Cuneiform Script To Foreign Languages

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Chapter Summary

This chapter shows how different languages adopted and adapted the syllabic Mesopotamian cuneiform script to their own needs when they were faced with a significant difference between the Akkadian (usually Babylonian) phoneme inventory and their own. In Mittani this led to a deliberate selection of signs for the syllabary of the Hurrian language. This was achieved by disregarding phoneme oppositions characteristic for Akkadian, both with regard to consonants and to vowels. In Ugarit the substitution of syllabic signs for Ugaritic phonemes that could not be expressed properly is more coincidental and dependent on the scribe who wrote the text; sometimes different spellings are used even within a single text. It is exactly this fluctuation in spelling that gives us some idea of the phonetic differences that must have existed between the Ugaritic sounds and their Akkadian counterparts, at least as the Ugaritic scribes perceived them.

Keywords: Akkadian language; Hurrian orthography; Mesopotamian cuneiform script; Sumerian; Ugarit



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