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Language formalities
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Akkadian formalities - Textual representation

Alphabetic representation

A sign can be:
  1. A syllable
  2. A (Sumerian) logogram representing a concept
  3. A determinative, preceding or following the referred word and identifying the class to which it belongs - not intended to be read once understood
  4. A phonetic complement - a sign with phonetic value added to a logogram to clarify the reading. One use would be to distinguish between a logogram and other sign - for example AN with no complement would typically represent DINGIR=ilum=god, but AN-û should be read as shamû=sky. Another use would be to clarify grammatical information - for example É-tum=bîtum=house in nominative case, whereas É-tim=bîtim=house in genitive case.
The original signs are written in cuneiform - several signs may represent the same syllable and are distinguished in transliteration as tu, tú, tù, tu4 etc. Conventionally, logograms for Sumerian symbols are written in small caps, possibly with subscripts. Determinatives are shown in raised position, eg uruAshshur (town of) or Ashshurd (god). Phonetic complements are written after a hyphen, as a superscript, or in brackets, eg. É-tum, bîtumtum, bîtum(tum).

There are several ways of writing the same text:

  1. As the text was written, sign by sign and separated by hyphens within a word and spaces between. Determinatives are shown positionally. This is called transliteration.
  2. As spoken, giving the reconstructed linguistic forms. This is called transcription or normalisation.
  3. In a mixed form to assist comprehension of the text.

Phonetic values and conventions

Signs represent one of CV, VC or CVC (ie ba, ab, bab).

In transliteration ba-ab does not indicate a long vowel or two vowels, but rather the syllable bab. Vowel length may be (but is not always) shown by repeating the previous vowel sign, eg tu-ú. Most signs containing the vowels e or i are indeterminate and could represent either (especially of CVC type) - context may help decide.

In normalised text, vowel length must be shown, typically by a circumflex eg â. Vowel lengthening may occur because of morphological changes, consonant loss or vowel contraction.

Syllable length is:

  1. Short if the syllable form is CV and the vowel is short
  2. Long if the syllable form is CV and the vowel is long, or the form is CVC
Doubled consonants are usually (but not always) shown in transliteration but always in normalisation.

Initial aleph ’ is not indicated: however it is thought that the presence in Old Babylonian of initial vowels shows their historical presence.

Signs with a-a indicate either the syllable ay, or else ayyV (V=any vowel).

Two-syllable words are accented on the first syllable. Three-or-more-syllable words are accented on the:

  1. Penultimate syllable if long
  2. Antepenultimate syllable otherwise, except in cases where there is a long final vowel resulting from contraction, or if the result would be to stress the root syllable of medially weak verbs.
Language formalities