Akkadian Words in Modern Assyrian
The ancient Assyrian language is classified as Akkadian; it was the language of the Assyrians and Babylonians, written in
Cuneiform. To facilitate administrative tasks of the Assyrian Empire Aramaic was made the second official language in 752 B.C.
The Empire chancelleries adopted a simple standard form of the Aramaic for correspondence. In the heart of the Empire
"Aramaic dockets" were attached to the cuneiform tablets. Such dockets gave brief indication of names and dates and a
summary of the contents which were useful to merchants. This is classified as "Official Aramaic". Many Assyrian tablets have
been found with Aramaic inscribed on them. Assyrian scribes are often depicted in pairs. One writing in Akkadian on a
cuneiform tablet, the other writing in Aramaic on a parchment or papyrus sheet.
Among several bronze lion-weights found at Nineveh some had both the Akkadian and Aramaic text inscribed on them . They
bore the names of the Assyrian kings at the time of use, including Shalmansser III (858-824), Sargon (721-705), Sennacherib
(704-681). The Official Aramaic later became accepted as the standard form of literary communication by the Aramaic speaking
people in various part of the Empire. It is called Assyrian Aramaic (or, less commonly, Imperial Aramaic).
According to the Old Testament, in 701 B.C. when officials of Sennacherib appeared before the walls of Jerusalem, and the
Rab-Shakeh spoke in Hebrew to the officers of King Hezekiah, they begged him to speak rather in Aramaic, for they understood
this official tongue and did not want the populace to hear the humiliating demand for submission made in Hebrew. In later
centuries Aramaic replaced Hebrew even in Israel. During their exile years in Babylon the Jews adopted the Square Assyrian
script which was commonly known to them as Ketav Ashuri or the Assyrian text. The law demands that a Torah scroll be written
with the " ketav Ashuri" so called after its place of origin.
In time Aramaic became spoken in Mesopotamia also and gradually replacing the Akkadian language. The transition was made
possible because the two language shared similarities. Also because the 22 letters Aramaic alphabet was much easier to
master than the 600 or so signs of the cuneiform. The evidence of side by side existance of the two langauges in 4th century
B.C. is an Aramaic document from Uruk which has been written in cuneiform. In Babylon The Akkadian writing disappeared by
140 B.C. except amongst a few priests who employed it for religious purposes. However it continued to be used for
astronomical texts down to the time of Christ.
Most old langauges for different reasons have gone through drastic changes from time to time. For example the Old English
language has changed greatly from what it was at 9th century A.D. Present day English reader will have dificaulty reading and
undrestanding the Lord's prayer as written at that time as seen below.
"Feder Ure bu be eart on hefonum, si bin nama gehalgod. To becume bin rice. Gewurbe Oin willa on Eoroan swa swa on
The contemporary Assyrians use thousands of word in their daily conversation which are clearly Akkadian. Syriac, another
name for the Christian Assyrian language, was perhaps in use as a literary language in northern Mesopotamia before the
Christian era but only a few written examples of it have survived from the first century A.D. It developed as a literary language
of some importance in Edessa after a Christian school succeeded a pagan learning center. Gradually it was accepted as the
the ecclesiastical and cultural language of the Aramaic speaking Christians of the region. Currently there are two slightly
different dialects of the Syriac language called Eastern and Western. It should be noted that the spoken Modern Assyrian
(Eastern or Western) is older than the literary liturgical language of the Church (the Edessan dialect). For example, in Akkadian
the word for weapons is keke (literally: teeth, because weapons were cutting instruments), in liturgical Syriac the word for
weapons is zaineh, while in modern Eastern Assyrian it is cheke, the same as in Akkadian.