Bible Archaeology

Assyrian Language: What Is It?

Assyrian is a dialect of Akkadian, an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia.

The Telegraph has the short piece:

It was in use for 2,500 years but has not been spoken for more than 2,000 years.

The Assyrian dialect of Akkadian was spoken in the Northern areas of Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq. The Babylonian dialect was spoken in central and southern Mesopotamia, Mariotic in the central Euphrates, and Tell Beydar in northern Syria.

There have been different phases in Assyrian’s development. Old Assyrian was spoken between1950–1530 BC, Middle Assyrian between 1530–1000 BC, and Neo-Assyrian between the years 1000–600 BC.

Assyrian served as the lingua franca during much of the Old and Middle times, and was extremely popular.

During the first millennium BC, Akkadian progressively lost its status. Neo-Assyrian received an upswing in popularity in the 8th century BC when the Assyrian kingdom became a major power.

But after the end of the Mesopotamian kingdoms, which fell due to the Persian conquest of the area, Akkadian disappeared as a popular language, however, the language was still used in its written form.

The latest identified Akkadian text comes from the 1st century AD.

Also related to the above is: Scholars complete dictionary of lost language after 90 years. That’s here.

The project to create the Assyrian dictionary, based on words recorded on clay or stone tablets unearthed from ruins in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, began at the University of Chicago in 1921.

The language had not been spoken for more than 2,000 years.

Over several generations scholars from Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Berlin, Helsinki, Baghdad and London travelled to Chicago to work on the endeavour.

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is now officially complete. It contains 21 volumes of Akkadian, a Semitic language, with several dialects, including Assyrian, that was in use for 2,500 years Gil Stein, director of the university’s Oriental Institute, said: “The Assyrian Dictionary gives us the key into the world’s first urban civilisation.

“Virtually everything that we take for granted has its origins in Mesopotamia, whether it’s the origins of cities, of state societies, the invention of the wheel, the way we measure time, and most important the invention of writing.

“If we ever want to understand our roots we have to understand this first great civilisation.” Robert Biggs, professor emeritus at the university, devoted nearly a half-century to the dictionary, uncovering tablets on digs in the Iraq desert.


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