- Numerous languages were spoken in Mesopotamia throughout the ages, although not all of them are represented on written documents. It appears that the simultaneous presence of several linguistic groups contributed significantly to the success of urbanization and the richness of the intellectual culture.• Nonclassifiable languages are Sumerian, which has an agglutinative structure and was spoken in southern Mesopotamia throughout the third millennium B.C.; Elamite, current in southwest Iran from the Early Dynastic until the Persian period; Hurrian, spoken in Upper Mesopotamia and southern Anatolia; and Kassite, the language of the political elite in the second millennium B.C., which was not rendered in cuneiform except for some technical terms and personal names.• Semitic languages form another important group. Known as Akkadian in cuneiform sources, the language refers to the different historical stages of old Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian. Akkadian contains numerous loan words from Sumerian. Immigration from the west brought in people speaking West Semitic languages, such as the Amorites and Arameans. Semitic languages were widely spoken in the ancient Near East; they also include Hebrew and Ugaritic. The written form of Aramaic, using an alphabetic system, became current side by side with Babylonian and Assyrian in the first millennium B.C.• Indo-European languages had comparatively less currency in Mesopotamia. They were spoken by foreign elites, such as the Mitanni or the Persians. Hittites, Medes, and Parthians also spoke such Indo-European languages.There has been some speculation about the pre-Sumerian and preAkkadian language substratum in southern Mesopotamia, which seems to have left traces in place names, but the evidence is too scant and vague to allow any conclusions as to what type of language it may have been.
Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. EdwART. 2012.
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