Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Ugaritic language

The Ugaritic language is known to us only in the form of writings found in the lost city of Ugarit since its discovery by French archaeologists in 1928. It has been extremely important for scholars of the Old Testament in clarifying Hebrew texts and has revealed more of how Judaism used common phrases, literary idioms, and expressions employed by surrounding pagan cultures.

Ancient Near Eastern scholar Cyrus Gordon(The Ancient Near East, p. 99) assesses Ugaritic as "the greatest literary discover from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform." Texts discovered at Ugarit include the "Legend of Keret", the "Aghat Epic" (or "Legend of Danel"), the "Myth of Baal-Aliyan", and the "Death of Baal", all revealing a Canaanite mythology.

Ugaritic is a Semitic language written in cuneiform that was adapted for use as an alphabet. This Ugaritic alphabet, the oldest that has been discovered anywhere, is different from all other cuneiform writings. It has 30 different letters. (See the Ugaritic alphabet for an illustration.) To the casual observer, it appears very similar in appearance to Akkadian or Assyrian writing.

Ugaritic was used by a Canaanite culture, and the use of the term 'Canaanite' to refer to the Ugaritic language is growing. It is generally accepted that comparable dialects were probably used by all Canaanite tribes. However, even though culturally speaking, it would probably best be named the Canaanite language it is not regarded as a Canaanite language but is instead viewed as a unique language. This confusing fact comes from problems related to linguistic taxonomy.

See also: Ugarit, Ugaritic alphabet

External links

Background and the Ugaritic Text''.]