First of all, sorry for the small delay, but I was on skiing holiday. Anyway, I'm back now, and I'll continue with my weekly updates.
Today I wanted to discuss the Hittite language, and in particular, it's rather odd script.
The first Hittite texts are attested around 1600 BC, making it the earliest attested Indo-European language. It was spoken in Anatolia, what we today would call Turkey. The capital of the Hittite state was Ḫattuša which is situated in the place today known as Boğazkale.
Hittite was written in a cuneiform script similar to that the Akkadians used. This script is not exactly well suited for Hittite, since it write in syllables of the type CV, CVC (only a few) and VC. It is not uncommon for Hittite to have consonant clusters bigger than 3 consonants, since it's an Indo-European language. As one may have noticed, it is actually impossible to write a cluster of more than 2 consonants, And it's even impossible to make an initial cluster of more than one consonant. Besides that one could only write 4 vowels; a, e, i and u. While even some syllable signs did not distinguish between e and i. The vowel system of Hettite was much bigger than this.
Besides using their own script, the also used Akkadian and Sumerian words (called Akkadograms and Sumerograms respectively).
An Akkadogram that is commonly used is for example Ú-UL a word that means `not'. Although they'd write Ú-UL, it was meant to be read as the Hittite word 'natta'. The reason why they used the Akkadian word was probably because natta needs to be written with 3 cuneiform symbols (na-at-ta).
Akkadograms would also commonly be given the Akkadian markers of case and number, rather than the Hittite words.
Besides that they also use Sumerograms. Sumerian had a cuneiform script derived from a hieroglyphic script. Thus one symbol would mean one word. A commonly used word is LUGAL which is the Sumerian word for 'King'. This word is used more often than not as a replacement for the Hittite word for king; ḫaššuš. These Sumerograms would often be suffixed with the Hittite case endings rather than Sumerian.
Besides all this, they'd use Determinatives (which are usually Sumerograms). These were cuneiform symbols prefixed to a word. They were not meant to be read, but rather inform the reader what kind of word would follow. The Sumerogram for 'God' was put in front of the name of a god for example.
I-NA: In, on, to Akkadogram
UD.15.KAM: The 15th day Sumerogram
dSÎN-aš : d= deity Sumerogram SÎN is Akkadian god name -aš is nominative singular case
a-ki : aki : `To die' 3rd person singular present Native Hittite
LUGAL : King Sumerogram
GAL : Great Sumerogram
a-ki :aki : `To die' 3rd person singular present Native Hittite
`As the deity Sîn died on the 15th day, so did the great king die.'
I am not 100% sure of this translation, I have just started my colelges. But it gives a nice illustration of the incredibly strange script which Hittite uses.