I have not yet seen this double-hyphen explained, which is written eg. in An Etymological Dictionary Of The Hittite Inherited Lexicon (Kloekhorsts 2007)

-a (3rd.sg.pres.midd.-ending): see -a(ri)

=a 'and, too': see *=(i̯)a

=a 'but': see =(m)a

=a- (enclitic pronoun) 'he, she, it': […; pg. 196-198]

What's the difference from = to the usual hyphenation marking morpheme boundaries?

[…] The forms [n]=e-e=n (KBo 17.1 KBo 25.3 i 20 (OS)) and [n=e-e=]n (StBoT 25.4 i 15 (OS)) seem to show that […; pg. 208-209]

Wow, that's most cryptic. The question should be however easy to answer without detours into grammar (otherwise, pending own research, I would revise the question). Is the difference just ending versus enclitic?

How specialized is this, certainly not exclusive to Hittite studies?!

  • 2
    Note that Kloekhorst (p. xiii) glosses = as "morpheme boundary", which is rather misleading.
    – TKR
    Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


Your guess is correct; the equals sign/double hyphen separates clitics from the words they attach to.

For example, from the Ten-Year Annals (KBo 3.4 ii 65):

nu=us=si=kan widār arha dahhun
Then I took away the waters there.

nu  =us     =si     =kan widār        arha da  -hhun  
then=3PL.ACC=3SG.LOC=MOD water.ACC.PL away take-1.SG.PAST

This isn't exclusive to Hittite; it's actually part of the Leipzig glossing conventions (rule 2). It's just very prevalent in Hittite because Hittite uses a lot of enclitics—most sentences will have at least one, and four or five isn't unusual.

(Some sources, including the Chicago Hittite Dictionary, use a double oblique hyphen (⸗) instead; this has the drawback of being annoyingly difficult to type, so Leipzig recommends a plain ASCII equals sign.)


Your question applies to languages written in cuneiform.
Sumerian "blocks" are separated by points => su.zi.an.na
Cuneiform "blocks" are separated by hyphens => wa-a-ar-ta-an
Morphemic analyses are (usually) written with = signs.
Personally I find these = signs ugly and useless. Hyphens are just ok.

  • Not only languages written in cuneiform. Ainu uses = too to separate morphemes. Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 11:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.