Eblaite language

      archaic Semitic language, probably the most ancient to survive in substantial form, dating from the third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC. As a Northern Central Semitic language, Eblaite (Ebla) is affiliated with the Afro-Asiatic (formerly Hamito-Semitic) family of languages.

      Archaeological excavations in the mid-1970s in Tall Mardīkh, near Aleppo in Syria, yielded substantial written documentation of Eblaite in the form of cuneiform tablets and fragments of tablets that constituted the state archives of the ancient city of Ebla. The writing of the archives is classic Mesopotamian cuneiform using many Sumerian logograms. Linguistically, Eblaite is part of the Northern Central Semitic group of languages, which includes Amorite, and is thus distinct from Northern Peripheral Semitic languages such as Old Akkadian.

      The information that the archives give about the political and cultural activities of Ebla, still in the early stages of investigation, nevertheless shows that Eblaite was the cultural and administrative idiom of the chancellery of one of the most highly developed Northwest Semitic areas. Beyond serving as a local language, Eblaite was probably the dominant educated language of the stable population throughout the region until the destruction of Ebla by Naram-Sin about 2240 BC. The language demonstrates that the geographic influence of Ebla was considerable, extending north to the Hittite region and perhaps as far south as Egypt.

      In addition to revealing the culture of Ebla, the discovery of the Eblaite tablets has aided comparative studies of Semitic languages—including Hebrew—and has also aided modern studies of the unrelated Sumerian language.

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Universalium. 2010.

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