Native toUgarit
Extinct12th century BC[1]
Ugaritic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2uga
ISO 639-3uga
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Ugaritic[2][3] (/ˌjɡəˈrɪtɪk, ˌ-/[4]) is an extinct Northwest Semitic language, classified by some as a dialect of the Amorite language. It is known through the Ugaritic texts discovered by French archaeologists in 1928 at Ugarit,[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] including several major literary texts, notably the Baal cycle. It has been used by scholars of the Hebrew Bible to clarify Biblical Hebrew texts and has revealed ways in which the cultures of ancient Israel and Judah found parallels in the neighboring cultures.[11][12]

Ugaritic has been called "the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform".[13]


The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BC. The city of Ugarit was destroyed roughly 1190 BC.[14]

Literary texts discovered at Ugarit include the Legend of Keret, the legends of Danel, the Myth of Baal-Aliyan, and the Death of Baal. The latter two are also known collectively as the Baal Cycle. All reveal aspects of ancient Northwest Semitic religion.

Edward Greenstein has proposed that Ugaritic texts might help solve biblical puzzles such as the anachronism of Ezekiel mentioning Daniel in Ezekiel 14:13–16.[11]

Writing system

Main article: Ugaritic alphabet

Clay tablet of Ugaritic alphabet
Table of Ugaritic alphabet

The Ugaritic alphabet is a cuneiform script used beginning in the 15th century BC. Like most Semitic scripts, it is an abjad, where each symbol stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel.

Although it appears similar to Mesopotamian cuneiform (whose writing techniques it borrowed), its symbols and symbol meanings are unrelated. It is the oldest example of the family of West Semitic scripts such as the Phoenician, Paleo-Hebrew, and Aramaic alphabets (including the Hebrew alphabet). The so-called "long alphabet" has 30 letters while the "short alphabet" has 22. Other languages (particularly Hurrian) were occasionally written 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 script. The script was written from left to right.


Ugaritic had 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 аy and aw, respectively.

Ugaritic consonantal phonemes[citation needed]
Labial Interdental Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
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)[1] ɣ[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, Classical Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:

Proto-Semitic Ugaritic Classical Arabic Tiberian Hebrew Imperial Aramaic
b [b] 𐎁 b ب b [b] ב b/ḇ [b/v] ב b/ḇ [b/v]
p [p] 𐎔 p ف f [f] פ p/p̄ [p/f] פ p/p̄ [p/f]
[ð] 𐎏 d;
sometimes [ð]
ذ [ð] ז z [z] ד (older ז) d/ḏ [d/ð]
[θ] 𐎘 [θ] ث [θ] שׁ š [ʃ] ת t/ṯ [t/θ]
[θʼ] 𐎑 [ðˤ];
sporadically ġ [ɣ]
ظ [ðˤ] צ [sˤ] ט [tˤ]
d [d] 𐎄 d د d [d] ד d/ḏ [d/ð] ד d/ḏ [d/ð]
t [t] 𐎚 t ت t [t] ת t/ṯ [t/θ] ת t/ṯ [t/θ]
[tʼ] 𐎉 [tˤ] ط [tˤ] ט [tˤ] ט [tˤ]
š [s] 𐎌 š [ʃ] س s [s] שׁ š [ʃ] שׁ š [ʃ]
z [dz] 𐎇 z ز z [z] ז z [z] ז z [z]
s [ts] 𐎒 s س s [s] ס s [s] ס s [s]
[tsʼ] 𐎕 [sˤ] ص [sˤ] צ [sˤ] צ [sˤ]
l [l] 𐎍 l ل l [l] ל l [l] ל l [l]
ś [ɬ] 𐎌 š ش š [ʃ] שׂ ś [ɬ]→[s] שׂ/ס s/ś [s]
ṣ́ [(t)ɬʼ] 𐎕 [sˤ] ض [ɮˤ]→[dˤ] צ [sˤ] ע (older ק) ʿ [ʕ]
g [ɡ] 𐎂 g ج ǧ [ɡʲ]→[dʒ] ג g/ḡ [ɡ/ɣ] ג g/ḡ [ɡ/ɣ]
k [k] 𐎋 k ك k [k] כ k/ḵ [k/x] כ k/ḵ [k/x]
q [kʼ] 𐎖 q ق q [q] ק q [q] ק q [q]
ġ [ɣ] 𐎙 ġ [ɣ] غ ġ [ɣ] ע ʿ [ʕ] ע ʿ [ʕ]
[x] 𐎃 [x] خ [x] ח [ħ] ח [ħ]
ʿ [ʕ] 𐎓 ʿ [ʕ] ع ʿ [ʕ] ע ʿ [ʕ] ע ʿ [ʕ]
[ħ] 𐎈 [ħ] ح [ħ] ח [ħ] ח [ħ]
ʾ [ʔ] 𐎛 ʾ [ʔ] ء ʾ [ʔ] א ʾ [ʔ] א/∅ ʾ/∅ [ʔ/∅]
h [h] 𐎅 h ه h [h] ה h [h] ה h [h]
m [m] 𐎎 m م m [m] מ m [m] מ m [m]
n [n] 𐎐 n ن n [n] נ n [n];
total assimilation
before a consonant
נ n [n]
r [r] 𐎗 r ر r [r] ר r [r] ר r [r]
w [w] 𐎆 w و w [w] ו w [w];
y [j] initially
ו w [w]
y [j] 𐎊 y [j] ي y [j] י y [j] י y [j]
Proto-Semitic Ugaritic Classical Arabic Tiberian Hebrew Imperial Aramaic


Main article: Ugaritic grammar

Ugaritic is an inflected language, and its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Akkadian, Classical Arabic and, to a lesser extent, Biblical Hebrew. It possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), three grammatical 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),[15] possessed–possessor (NG), and nounadjective (NA). Ugaritic is considered a conservative Semitic language, since it retains most of the phonemes, the case system, and the word order of the ancestral Proto-Semitic language.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Ugaritic". Archived from the original on 22 March 2021. Retrieved 2024-04-07.
  2. ^ Rendsburg, Gary A. (1987). "Modern South Arabian as a Source for Ugaritic Etymologies". Journal of the American Oriental Society.
  3. ^ Rendsburg, Gary A. “Modern South Arabian as a Source for Ugaritic Etymologies”. In: Journal of the American Oriental Society 107, no. 4 (1987): 623–28.
  4. ^ "Ugaritic". Dictionary.
  5. ^ Watson, Wilfred G. E.; Wyatt, Nicolas (1999). Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. Brill. p. 91. ISBN 978-90-04-10988-9.
  6. ^ Ugaritic is alternatively classified in a "North Semitic" group Lipiński, Edward (2001). Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar. Peeters Publishers. p. 50. ISBN 978-90-429-0815-4.
  7. ^ Woodard, Roger D. (2008-04-10). The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia. Cambridge University Press. p. 5. ISBN 9781139469340.
  8. ^ Goetze, Albrecht (1941). "Is Ugaritic a Canaanite Dialect?". Language. 17 (2): 127–138. doi:10.2307/409619. JSTOR 409619.
  9. ^ Kaye, Alan S. (2007-06-30). Morphologies of Asia and Africa. Eisenbrauns. p. 49. ISBN 9781575061092.
  10. ^ Schniedewind, William; Hunt, Joel H. (2007). A Primer on Ugaritic: Language, Culture and Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-139-46698-1.
  11. ^ a b c Greenstein, Edward L. (November 2010). "Texts from Ugarit Solve Biblical Puzzles". Biblical Archaeology Review. 36 (6): 48–53, 70. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  12. ^ Ford, J. N. (2013). "Ugaritic and Biblical Hebrew". In Khan, Geoffrey; Bolozky, Shmuel; Fassberg, Steven; Rendsburg, Gary A.; Rubin, Aaron D.; Schwarzwald, Ora R.; Zewi, Tamar (eds.). Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. doi:10.1163/2212-4241_ehll_EHLL_COM_00000287. ISBN 978-90-04-17642-3.
  13. ^ Gordon, Cyrus H. (1965). The Ancient Near East. Norton. p. 99.
  14. ^ Huehnergard, John (2012). An Introduction to Ugaritic. Hendrickson Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-59856-820-2.
  15. ^ Wilson, Gerald H. (1982). "Ugaritic Word Order and Sentence Structure in KRT". Journal of Semitic Studies. 27 (1): 17–32. doi:10.1093/jss/27.1.17.
  16. ^ Segert, Stanislav (March 1985). A Basic Grammar of Ugaritic Language by Stanislav Segert – Hardcover – University of California Press. ISBN 9780520039995.


Further reading