Akkadian (lišānum akkadītum, 𒀝𒂵𒌈 ak.kADû) (also Accadian, Assyro-Babylonian) is an extinct Semitic language (part of the greater Afroasiatic language family) that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate. The name of the language is derived from the city of Akkad, a major center of Mesopotamian civilization.
During the third millennium BC, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund.
Akkadian was first attested in Sumerian texts in proper names from around 2800 BCE. From the second half of the third millennium BCE, texts fully written in Akkadian begin to appear. Hundreds of thousands of texts and text fragments have been excavated up to date; covering a vast textual tradition of mythological narrative, legal texts, scientific works, correspondences and many other aspects. By the second millennium BCE, two variant forms of the language were in use in Assyria and Babylonia (known as Assyrian and Babylonian respectively).
Akkadian had been for centuries the lingua franca in the Ancient Near East. However, it began to decline around the 8th century BCE, being marginalized by Aramaic. By the Hellenistic period, the language was largely confined to scholars and priests working in temples. The last Akkadian cuneiform document dates to the 1st century CE.
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