x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Last spoken 1,900 years ago, Akkadian is published in Arabic

A dead language that thrived 5,000 years ago has been brought back to life with the publishing of an Akkadian-Arabic dictionary.

ABU DHABI // A dead language that thrived 5,000 years ago has been brought back to life in Arabic. An Akkadian-Arabic dictionary was published yesterday by the National Library at the Abu Dhabi Authority of Culture and Heritage (Adach). It is intended to aid researchers of ancient regional culture and is part of a series of books published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Sheikh Zayed the First.

Mohammed al Shehhi, publishing manager at Adach, said the Akkadian-Arabic dictionary is meant to "encourage more Arabic research in this field and celebrate the ancient civilizations" as "part of the strategy to promote heritage and culture". The dictionary also teaches pronunciations of Akkadian, last spoken around 1,900 years ago. The dictionary was compiled by an Iraqi researcher of ancient civilizations, Ali al Juboori, dean of the college of archaeology at Mosul University. He described Akkadian as a forerunner to Arabic. "I have found that over 1,800 Akkadian words exist in Arabic," he said.

Earlier dictionaries of Akkadian were in English or German, he said. He needed 14 months to compile the Akkadian-Arabic dictionary. "A dictionary is the guard that protects a language," Mr al Shehhi said, "the source that people seek when searching for word definitions and the window to explore the mysteries of the language." Akkadian appeared in Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of civilization. It was widely spoken in the Near East between the third and first millennia BC, according to scholars.

The Akkadian language is derived from the name of the city Akkad, the capital of a dynasty founded by Sargon, who reigned around 2300BC. Evidence suggests Akkad was built on the Tigris River near the outskirts of what is now Baghdad, according to Adach. The script was originally written in wedge-shaped characters, or cuneiform, on clay tablets. Later, it was written on metal and stone. The language was divided into two major dialects: Babylonian and Assyrian. It was lingua franca in the region until being superseded by Aramaic in the first millennium BC. In its last days it was used mostly in religious ceremonies, according to Adach.