In Akkadian context, there are basically two ways to “read” a given sign:

(I): a logographic reading; the values are inherited from the Sumerian period. In this case, the sign will be transliterated in capital letters.

(II): a phonographic (or syllabographic) reading; the sign represents the pronunciation of a syllable in either the Sumerian or Akkadian languages. In this case, the (phonemic value of the) sign will be transliterated with small letters.

It seems that in the phonetic reading case, the transliteration system does not distinguish between the Sumerian and Akkadian origin. That is, no matter the sign is representing a Sumerian or Akkadian pronunciation, it depicts its value using small letters. If this is the case, for example, the reading tu_6 can basically represent either an Akkadian or a Sumerian syllable. Am I right?

1 Answer 1


Yes, when a sign is transliterated in lowercase, it's being used to indicate the pronunciation of an Akkadian word—but the origin of that pronunciation is not specified. For example, the sign a is used for /a/ because of its pronunciation in Sumerian (originally a logogram for "water", Sumerian a, Akkadian ), but the sign iṣ is used for /iṣ/ because of its pronunciation in Akkadian (originally a logogram for "wood", Sumerian ŋiš, Akkadian iṣum).

This extends to other languages as well. Hittite transliteration distinguishes between Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hittite words in a text (DIŊIR, ILUM, or sius for "god") but does not distinguish the origin of the signs: a, iṣ, and wi₅ (originally a logogram for "wine", Sumerian geštin, Akkadian karānum, Hittite wiyanas) can all be used to write the sounds of Hittite words, and will all be written in lowercase italics when they do so.

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    Hi, thanks very much for your answer. I now understand it. I had this question for years! I appreciate for your attention. I have another question that will ask subsequently. Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 11:02

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