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Native to ancient Ugarit
Extinct twelfth century BC
Language codes
ISO 639-2 uga
ISO 639-3 uga
Glottolog ugar1238[1]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Ugaritic (/ˌɡəˈrɪtɪk, ˌj-/) is a Northwest Semitic language,[2] discovered by French archaeologists in 1929. It is known almost only in the form of writings found in the ruined city of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra), Syria.[3][4] It has been used by scholars of the Hebrew Bible to clarify Biblical Hebrew texts and has revealed ways in which ancient Israelite culture found parallels in the neighboring cultures.[4]

Ugaritic has been called "the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform".[5]


The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BC.[6] The city was destroyed in 1180–1170 BC.

Literary texts discovered at Ugarit include the Legend of Keret, the Aqhat Epic (or Legend of Danel), the Myth of Baal-Aliyan, and the Death of Baal – the latter two are also collectively known as the Baal cycle – all revealing aspects of a Canaanite religion.

According to one hypothesis, Ugaritic texts might solve the biblical puzzle of the anachronism of Ezekiel mentioning Daniel at Ezekiel 14:13-16; it is because in both Ugaritic and the Ancient Hebrew texts, it is correctly Danel.[4]

Writing system

Clay tablet of Ugaritic alphabet
Table of Ugaritic alphabet

The Ugaritic alphabet is a cuneiform abjad (alphabet without vowels), used from around 15th century BC. Although it appears similar to Mesopotamian cuneiform (whose writing techniques it borrowed), its symbols and symbol meanings are unrelated (see Ugaritic alphabet). It is the oldest example of the family of West Semitic scripts that were used for Phoenician, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The so-called long alphabet has 30 letters, while the short alphabet has 22. Other languages (particularly Hurrian) were occasionally written in it in the Ugarit area, although not elsewhere.

Clay tablets written in Ugaritic provide the earliest evidence of both the Levantine ordering of the alphabet, which gave rise to the alphabetic order of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets; and the South Semitic order, which gave rise to the order of the Ge'ez alphabet. The script was written from left to right.


Ugaritic has 28 consonantal phonemes, including two semivowels, and eight vowel phonemes (three short vowels and five long vowels): a ā i ī u ū ē ō. (The phonemes ē and ō occur only as long vowels and are the result of monophthongization of the diphthongs "ay" and "aw" respectively.)

Ugaritic consonantal phonemes[citation needed]
Labial Inter-
Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn-
plain emphatic
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless p t k q ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative voiceless θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced ð z ðˤ ʒ[decimal 1] ɣ[decimal 2] ʕ
Approximant l j w
Trill r
  1. The voiced palatal fricative /ʒ/ occurs as a late variant of the voiced interdental fricative /ð/.
  2. The voiced velar fricative /ɣ/, while an independent phoneme at all periods, also occurs as a late variant of the emphatic voiced interdental /ðˤ/.

The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:

Proto-Semitic Ugaritic Arabic Tiberian Hebrew
b b ب b בּ b
p p ف f פּ p
[ð] d;
sometimes [ð]
ذ [ð] ז z
[θ] [θ] ث [θ] שׁ š [ʃ]
[θʼ] [ðˤ];
sporadically ġ [ɣ]
ظ [ðˤ] צ [sˤ]
d d د d דּ d
t t ت t תּ t
[tʼ] [tˤ] ط [tˤ] ט [tˤ]
š [s] š [ʃ] س s שׁ š [ʃ]
z [dz] z ز z ז z
s [ts] s س s ס s
[tsʼ] [sˤ] ص [sˤ] צ [sˤ]
l l ل l ל l
ś [ɬ] š [ʃ] ش š [ʃ] שׂ ś/s [ɬ]→[s]
ṣ́ [(t)ɬʼ] [sˤ] ض [ɮˤ]→[dˤ] צ [sˤ]
g [ɡ] g ج ǧ [ɡʲ]→[d͡ʒ] גּ g
k k ك k כּ k
q [kʼ] q [kˤ] ق q [kˤ] ק q [kˤ]
ġ [ɣ] ġ [ɣ] غ ġ [ɣ] ע ʻ [ʕ]
[x] [x] خ [x] ח [ħ]
ʻ [ʕ] ʻ [ʕ] ع ʻ [ʕ] ע ʻ [ʕ]
[ħ] [ħ] ح [ħ] ח [ħ]
ʼ [ʔ] ʼ [ʔ] ء ʼ [ʔ] א ʼ [ʔ]
h h ه h ה h
m m م m מ m
n n;
total assimilation
before a consonant
ن n נ n
r r ر r ר r
w w;
y [j] initially
و w ו w
y [j] y [j] ي y [j] י y [j]
Proto-Semitic Ugaritic Arabic Tiberian Hebrew


Ugaritic is an inflected language, and its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian. It possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), three cases for nouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, and genitive), three numbers (singular, dual, and plural), and verb aspects similar to those found in other Northwest Semitic languages. The word order for Ugaritic is verb–subject–object (VSO) and subject-object-verb (SOV),[9] possessed–possessor (NG), and nounadjective (NA). Ugaritic is considered a conservative Semitic language, since it retains most of the Proto-Semitic phonemes, the case system, and the word order of the Proto-Semitic ancestor.

See also


  1. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ugaritic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Though usually classified as Northwest Semitic (Tropper, Josef "Ugaritic grammar", in Handbuch der Orientalistik, Wilfred G. E. Watson, editor (1999). BRILL, ISBN 90-04-10988-9, ISBN 978-90-04-10988-9), Ugaritic is alternatively classified in a "North Semitic" group (Lipiński, Edward (2001). Semitic languages: outline of a comparative grammar. Peeters Publishers, ISBN 90-429-0815-7, ISBN 978-90-429-0815-4, 780 pages. Volume 80 of Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta).
  3. Schniedewind, William M. and Hunt, Joel H. (2007). A primer on Ugaritic: language, culture, and literature (p. 20). Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-87933-7, ISBN 978-0-521-87933-0, 226 pages.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Edward L. Greenstein, "Texts from Ugarit Solve Biblical Puzzles", BAR 36:06, Nov/Dec 2010, pp. 48-53, 70. Found at Biblical Archaeology Review website. Accessed October 29, 2010.
  5. Gordon, Cyrus Herzl (1965). The Ancient Near East. W. W. Norton & Company Press. ISBN 0-393-00275-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> at p. 99
  6. Quartz Hill School of Theology, Ugarit and the Bible
  7. "Ugaritic Word Order and Sentence Structure in KRT" by Gerald H. Wilson, in Journal of Semitic Studies 27 vol.1 (Spring 1982)


  • Bordreuil, Pierre and Pardee, Dennis (2009). A Manual of Ugaritic: Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic 3. Winona Lake, IN 46590: Eisenbraun's, Inc. ISBN 1-57506-153-8. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Cunchillos, J.-L. and Vita, Juan-Pablo (2003). A Concordance of Ugaritic Words. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1-59333-258-0. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • del Olmo Lete, Gregorio; & Sanmartín, Joaquín (2004). A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-13694-0. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (2 vols; originally in Spanish, translated by W. G. E. Watson).
  • Gibson, John C. L. (1977). Canaanite Myths and Legends. T. & T. Clark. ISBN 0-567-02351-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Contains Latin-alphabet transliterations of the Ugaritic texts and facing translations in English.)
  • Gordon, Cyrus Herzl (1965). The Ancient Near East. W. W. Norton & Company Press. ISBN 0-393-00275-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Greenstein, Edward L. (1998). Shlomo Izre'el, Itamar Singer, Ran Zadok, eds. "On a New Grammar of Ugartic" in Past links: studies in the languages and cultures of the ancient near east: Volume 18 of Israel oriental studies. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1-57506-035-4. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Found at Google Scholar.
  • Huehnergard, John (2011). A Grammar of Akkadian, 3rd ed. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 1-5750-6941-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Moscati, Sabatino (1980). An Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of Semitic Languages, Phonology and Morphology. Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 3-447-00689-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Parker, Simon B. (ed.) (1997). Ugaritic Narrative Poetry: Writings from the Ancient World Society of Biblical Literature. Atlanta: Scholars Press. ISBN 0-7885-0337-5. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pardee, Dennis (2003). Rezension von J. Tropper, Ugaritische Grammatik (AOAT 273) Ugarit-Verlag, Münster 2000: Internationale Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft vom Vorderen Orient. Vienna, Austria: Archiv für Orientforschung (AfO).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> P. 1-404.
  • Schniedewind, William M. and Hunt, Joel H. (2007). A Primer on Ugaritic: Language, Culture and Literature. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-5217-0493-6. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Segert, Stanislav (1997). A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03999-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sivan, Daniel (1997). A Grammar of the Ugaritic Language (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik). Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-10614-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> A more concise grammar.
  • Tropper, J. (2000). Ugartische Grammatik, AOAT 273. Münster, Ugarit Verlag.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Woodard, Roger D. (ed.) (2008). The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-68498-6. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links