SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Introductory Akkadian

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year
An introduction to Akkadian grammar, with special reference to the classical Old Babylonian dialect (19th-17th centuries BC). A substantial portion of the Laws of Hammurapi will be read in class, but students will be required to have read all of it in cuneiform. As the module progresses, the student may also be introduced to other Old Babylonian texts and to texts composed in the later Standard Babylonian literary dialect.


None. The module is compulsory in the first year for students registered for the BA in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, and for students taking the Certificate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, full-time or part-time.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module the student should have acquired knowledge and understanding of basic Akkadian grammar, mastery of essential Akkadian vocabulary, familiarity with the Neo-Assyrian form of the cuneiform script and competence in the reading of easy cuneiform texts in Akkadian; should have acquired competence in the translation and interpretation of texts in the genres studied; should have gained a fundamental understanding of the written legacy of ancient Mesopotamia; and should have acquired appropriate knowledge of the philological and methodological issues with which Assyriologists engage.


A total of 22 weeks teaching with three hours in the classroom contact per week. During the initial instruction in grammar students are expected to complete exercises and learn the basic series of cuneiform signs in their own time. Thereafter preparation for classes will include the study of passages from the set texts for reading in class.

Scope and syllabus

The basic grammar of Akkadian is studied in the first eight weeks of the module. The remainder of the module comprises mainly the reading of a selection of set texts in cuneiform.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); an exercise to be submitted day 5 after reading week, term 1 (5%); an exercise to be submitted day 5, week 1, term 2 (10%); an exercise to be submitted day 5 after reading week, term 2 (5%); an exercise to be submitted day 5, week 1, term 3 (10%).

Suggested reading

Basic bibliography
  • Borger, R.: Assyrisch-babylonische Zeichenliste. Alter Orient und Altes Testament, 33 & 33A. Kevelaer Verlag Butzon & Bercker, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1988 (4th edition) 
  • Caplice, Richard: Introduction to Akkadian. Studia Pohl, Series Maior, 9. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1988 (3rd  edition) 
  • Huehnergard, John: A Grammar of Akkadian. Harvard Semitic Studies, 45.  Winona Lake, Ind.: Harvard Semitic Museum / Eisenbrauns, 2005 (2nd edition)
  • Labat, R.: Manuel d'épigraphie akkadienne. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1988 (6th edition) 
  • Ungnad, A.: Akkadian Grammar, transl. Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. SBL Resources for Biblical Study, 30. Atlanta, Ga: Scholars Press, 1992 
  • A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, ed. J. Black, A. George and J. Postgate. Santag 5. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules