Ugaritic[2] (/ˌɡəˈrɪtɪk, ˌj-/) is an extinct Northwest Semitic language[3][4] 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).[5][6][7] 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.[6]

Ugaritic has been called "the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform".[8]


The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BC. The city of Ugarit was destroyed roughly 1190 BC.[9]

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 collectively known as the Baal Cycle—all revealing aspects of ancient 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 Hebrew texts, it is correctly Danel.[6]

Writing system

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


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 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),[12] 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.

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ugaritic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ http://bildnercenter.rutgers.edu/docman/rendsburg/59-modern-south-arabian-as-a-source-for-ugaritic-etymologies/file
  3. ^ Watson, Wilfred G. E.; Wyatt, Nicolas (1999). Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. Brill. p. 91. ISBN 90-04-10988-9. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ a b c Greenstein, Edward L. (November 2010). "Texts from Ugarit Solve Biblical Puzzles". The BAS Library. 36 (6): 48. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  7. ^ Edward L. Greenstein, "Texts from Ugarit Solve Biblical Puzzles", Biblical Archaeology Review 36:06, Nov/Dec 2010, pp. 48-53, 70. Found at Biblical Archaeology Review website. Accessed October 29, 2010.
  8. ^ Gordon, Cyrus H. (1965). The Ancient Near East. Norton. p. 99. 
  9. ^ Huehnergard, John (2012). An Introduction to Ugaritic. Hendrickson Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-59856-820-2. 
  10. ^ 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. 


  • Bordreuil, Pierre & 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. 
  • Cunchillos, J.-L. & Vita, Juan-Pablo (2003). A Concordance of Ugaritic Words. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1-59333-258-0. 
  • 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.  (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.  (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. 
  • 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.  Found at Google Scholar.
  • Huehnergard, John (2011). A Grammar of Akkadian, 3rd ed. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 1-5750-6941-5. 
  • Moscati, Sabatino (1980). An Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of Semitic Languages, Phonology and Morphology. Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 3-447-00689-7. 
  • 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. 
  • 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).  P. 1-404.
  • Schniedewind, William M. & Hunt, Joel H. (2007). A Primer on Ugaritic: Language, Culture and Literature. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-5217-0493-6. 
  • Segert, Stanislav (1997). A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03999-8. 
  • Sivan, Daniel (1997). A Grammar of the Ugaritic Language (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik). Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-10614-6.  A more concise grammar.
  • Tropper, J. (2000). Ugartische Grammatik, AOAT 273. Münster, Ugarit Verlag. 
  • Woodard, Roger D. (ed.) (2008). The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-68498-6. 

External links