Akkadian was a semitic language spoken in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria)
between about 2,800 BC and 500 AD. It was named after the city of Akkad
and first appeared in Sumerian texts dating from 2,800 BC in the form
of Akkadian names.
The Akkadian cuneiform script was adapted from Sumerian cuneiform in
about 2,350 BC. At the same time, many Sumerian words were borrowed into Akkadian,
and Sumerian logograms were given both Sumerian and Akkadian readings.
In many ways the process of adapting the Sumerian script to the Akkadian
language resembles the way the Chinese script was adapted to write Japanese.
Akkadian, like Japanese, was polysyllabic and used a range of inflections
while Sumerian, like Chinese, had few inflections.
A large corpus of Akkadian texts and text fragments numbering hundreds
of thousands has been excavated. They include mythology, legal and
scientific texts, correspondence and so on. During the 2nd millenium BC
the Akkadian language developed into two variants, Assyrian and Babylonian,
in Assyria and Babylon.
Akkadian became the lingua franca of the ancient Near East, but started
to be replaced by Aramaic by the 8th century BC. After that it continued
to be used mainly by scholars and priests and the last known example of
written Akkadian dates from the 1st century AD.
Type of writing system: semanto-phonetic - the symbols consist of
phonograms, representing spoken syllables, determinatives, which indicate
the category a word belonged to and logograms, which represent whole words.
Direction of writing: variable
Number of symbols: between 200 and 400 symbols were used to Akkadian,
though in some texts many more appear.