Lesson Two: Orthography

The Ugaritic script is basically the consonantal alphabet rendered in cuneiform. The inventors combined the idea of the alphabet with the Mesopotamian style of inscribing wedges on clay with a stylus.

The Ugaritic script, like its Akkadian cousin, is written left to right. This is like English but the opposite of Hebrew which is written right to left. A few of the Ugaritic texts (57, 74, 500 and 501) are written right to left, but these are “mirror” texts and are unique in the finds at Ugarit.

One peculiarity which the student must be aware of, is that Ugaritic makes use of three Alephs (unlike Hebrew, which has only one). The Alephs represent “a”, “i”, and “u”.

As in Hebrew, there are matres lectionis in Ugaritic as well. These are consonants which have vocalic pronunciation and correspond to the three Alephs mentioned above.

On occasion, the reader of Ugaritic texts will notice that some consonants have extra wedges or omitted wedges. These are what we would consider “typographical” errors and should not cause the student of elementary grammar any difficulties (as we will be reading transliterations of the cuneiform text)(N.B. As noted above- - Because most students will not have a Ugaritic font on their computer, the texts will be transliterated for the exercises).

Scribes at Ugarit were as prone to make mistakes as their Israelite and modern counterparts. Again, the student is simply made aware of this so that when he or she begins to read the tablets for themselves they will not be surprised to find spelling errors!