Article by Alice Mouton, UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée, équipe Mondes sémitiques

Language Families and Linguistic Characteristics

Hittite texts make use of languages belonging to several families:

  1. Hittite
  2. Luwian
  3. Hurrian
  4. Hattic

Akkadian and Sumerian are also used systematically in each text, as a result of the Syro-Mesopotamian tradition which was inherited by the Hittite scribes.

  1. Hittite (Hittite nešili) is the earliest-attested written Indo-European language. The nominal roots are composed of fixed consonants and vowels which are inflected according to their case (six in regular use, and three used more rarely) and number (singular and plural). At the same time, the verbal roots are fixed, with endings which express the mood (indicative or imperative/optative), the voice (active or medio-passive), tense (present and preterite), and person.
  2. Luwian (Hittite luwili) is also an Anatolian Indo-European language. Like Hittite, it is an inflecting language. Luwian nouns have five regularly used cases, two genders (common and neuter), and two numbers (singular and plural). The verb is similar, in terms of its forms, of Hittite.
  3. Hurrian (Hittite hurlili) is neither an Indo-European nor a Semitic language. Certain linguists have attempted to argue that it belongs to the Caucasian language family. It is agglutinative, like Sumerian, although the two are not related. The nominal and verbal roots are generally very short, and have fixed consonants and vowels. A series of suffix elements are agglutinated to express case (for the noun), tense and person (for the verb), as well as to indicate pronouns, and so on.
  4. Hattic (Hittite hattili), like Hurrian, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic, and is also an agglutinating language. The nominal or verbal roots are composed of fixed consonants and vowels which receive prefixes and suffixes to clarify meaning.

Writing System

All the languages of Hittite Anatolia are written in cuneiform. The cuneiform system used comes from the Syro-Mesopotamian tradition, and combines logograms (signs used to express ideas) and syllabograms (signs used to express syllables). Luwian may also be written in a hieroglyphic script, a writing system specific to Hittite Anatolia. This hieroglyphic writing system also combines logograms and syllabograms, although the range of syllables is more reduced than in cuneiform.

Text Corpus for the study of Peace

Two terms clearly express the concept of peace in Hittite texts: Hittite takšul- (and its cognates), with the sense of “peace, peace treaty”, and Hurrian enumašši, traditionally translated as “reconciliation, peace”. Hittite takšul- is generally used in a diplomatic context and has a political connotation, whereas the Hurrian enumašši is employed in religious contexts and alludes to the appeasement of deities. These two terms will be studied in context in the forthcoming research.

Chronological and Geographical Extent

The first cuneiform texts produced under the rule of the Hittite Great King appear in the second half of the seventeenth century BCE. These are in the Babylonian language and were probably composed by Syrian scribes in the service of the Hittite King Hattušili I (c.1650-1620 BCE according to the Middle Chronology). It has recently been suggested that scribes did not attempt to write Hittite until approximately 1500 BCE, having until then faithfully followed the Syro-Mesopotamian tradition which consisted in composing texts in Babylonian. Roughly 30,000 cuneiform texts have been uncovered in the main capital of the Hittite kingdom, Hattuša (modern Boğazkale, in the Turkish province of Çorum). Other Hittite sites have delivered smaller finds of tablets: Šapinuwa (modern Ortaköy, not far from Hattuša: approximately 3,000 tablets), Tapigga (modern Maşat Höyük, in the province of Tokat: roughly one hundred tablets), Šarišša (modern Kuşaklı, in the province of Sivas: roughly 50 tablets), Nerik (modern Oymaağaç, in the province of Samsun: excavations begun recently), Šamuha (modern Kayalıpınar, in the province of Sivas: excavations begun recently), to cite only the most important Anatolian sites. Cuneiform tablets in the Hittite language have also been uncovered in Syrian cities which formed part of the Hittite empire: notably Emar (modern Tell Meskene) and Ugarit (modern Ras-Shamra).

Bibliography

  • Neu, E., 1979, « Hethitisch kurur und taksul in syntaktischer Sicht », in O. Carruba (ed.), Piero Meriggi dicata II, Studia Mediterranea 1, Pavie, Aurora: 407-427.
  • Richter, T., 2012, Bibliographisches Glossar des Hurritischen, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz.
  • Tischler, J., 1991, Hethitisches Etymologisches Glossar (= HEG), Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft 20, Innsbruck, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität: 47-49.

To cite this article

Alice Mouton, "Languages of Hittite Anatolia", Les mots de la paix/Terminology of peace [on-line]. Translated by Korshi Dosoo. Uploaded 24/02/2016, accessed