Lesson 01

Gender

Ugaritic nouns occur in one of two grammatical genders: masculine or feminine. Grammatical gender aligns with biological sex in some cases, such as nouns that have both a male and female equivalent (e.g. mlk, ‘king’ and mlkt, ‘queen’; s̀s̀w, ‘horse’ and s̀s̀wt, ‘mare’). Otherwise, the grammatical gender of a noun is not predictable and must be learned for each word.

In general, masculine singular nouns are not marked for gender; and feminine singular nouns are marked with a word-final -t. There were two feminine singular markers, the simple /-tu/ and the longer /-atu/. In the consonantal writing system, both feminine markers appear simply as {t}. Some feminine singular nouns have neither of these markers. The gender is deduced from the plural form (see below), comparison to other languages, and grammatical agreement with adjectives and verbs.

masculine
mlk, /malku/ ‘king’
a͗ḫ, /ʾaḫû/, ‘brother’
ı͗l, /ʾilu/, ‘god’
bnš, /bunušu/, ‘man’
a͗lp, /ʾalpu/, ‘cattle’

feminine
mlkt, /malkatu/, ‘queen’
a͗ḫt, /ʾaḫatu/, ‘sister’
ı͗lt, /ʾilatu/, ‘goddess’
a͗ṯt, /ʾaṯṯatu/, ‘woman, lady’
gt, /gittu/, ‘wine or olive press; estate’ (< /gintu/)

Number

Ugaritic nouns occur in three grammatical numbers (see also): singular, dual, and plural. Unlike Biblical Hebrew where the dual is used for a small set of nouns, the dual in Ugaritic is productive. Any two items are counted in the dual.

singular
bnš, /bunušu/,’a man’
a͗lp, /ʾalpu/, ‘a cow’
ı͗lt, /ʾilatu/, ‘a goddess’
dual
bnšm, /bunušāma/, ‘two men’
a͗lpm, /ʾalpāma/, ‘two cows
ı͗ltm, /ʾilatāma/, ‘two goddesses’
plural
bnšm, /bunušūma/, ‘men’
a͗lpm, /ʾalapūma/, ‘cows
ı͗lt, /ʾilātu/, ‘goddesses’
The masculine dual and plural are marked with a word-final -m. The only difference is in the vocalization: the dual is vocalized as /-āma/ and the plural as /-ūma/. NOTE: some singular nouns of the pattern QvTL- change slightly in their plural form, such as ʾalpu > ʾalapūma (more on this in later lessons). The feminine dual is marked by -tm, /-tāma/. The feminine plural differs from the singular in its vocalization: singular /-(a)tu/, plural /-ātu/.

Definiteness

Ugaritic does not have a fully developed definite article such as Biblical Hebrew ha- (see also). Certain particles such as hl and hn may have been used in a way similar to a definite article. However, this usage is rare. In the vast majority of cases, one must interpret definiteness from context. For example, bnš mlk could mean ‘a man of the king’ or ‘the man of the king.’

Case

Nouns occur in three grammatical cases: nominative, genitive, and accusative (see also). The nominative is the subject of a predicate. The genitive occurs after prepositions (and in other contexts that will be learned in future lessons). The accusative is the direct object of a transitive verb. If the following sentence were Ugaritic, ‘The king sent the man to the queen’, ‘the king’ would be in the nominative case; ‘the man’ would be in the accusative case; and ‘the queen’ would be in the genitive case (following a preposition).

The three cases are distinguished by case vowels that occur at the end of the noun, but before the -ma of the masculine plural noun.

nominative genitive accusative
masc. sing. malku malki malka
fem. sing. malkatu malkati malkata
masc. plural bunušūma bunušīma same as genitive
fem. plural ʾaṯṯātu ʾaṯṯāti ʾaṯṯāta

Note: the masculine plural accusative is the same as the genitive -īma. The genitive and accusative cases have fallen together into a single functional case in the masculine plural, i.e. the ‘oblique case.’

Prepositions (Introduction)

Ugaritic has many prepositions. In general, the Ugaritic preposition indicates position rather than direction. The force of a preposition is clear only when used with a verb. Without verbal context, the meaning of a preposition can be very difficult to determine.

b, /bi/, ‘in, with, from, by means of, in exchange for’
l, /lê/ or /li/, ‘to, for, at’
ʿd, /ʿadê/, ‘near, to, until’
ʿl, /ʿalê/, ‘on, upon, on account’
ʿm, /ʿimma/, ‘with’
tḥt, /taḥta/, ‘under, at’

Nominal Declension – Summary Chart

singular

masculine

feminine

nominative

-u

-(a)tu

genitive

-i

-(a)ti

accusative

-a

-(a)ta

plural

 

 

nominative

-ūma

-ātu

genitive

-īma

-āti

accusative

same as genitive (-īma)

-āta

Adverbial Predicate

Ugaritic can form simple sentences without a verb. One type of these nonverbal predicates is the adverbial predicate: e.g. bnš b bt, ‘the man is in the house’ or klb b šd, ‘the dog is in the field.’

When a noun, in these examples bt and šd, follows a preposition, that noun is in the genitive case. Thus, this sentence would be vocalized bunušu bi bêti. Notice bnš is in the nominative case. It is the subject of the adverbial predicate.

Vocabulary

Nouns:

a͗ḫ, /ʾaḫû/, ‘brother’ (pl. ʾaḫḫūma)

a͗ḫt, /ʾaḫatu/, ‘sister’

ı͗l, /ʾilu/, ‘god’

a͗lp, /ʾalpu/, ‘cattle’ (plural ʾalapūma)

ı͗lt, /ʾilatu/, ‘goddess’

a͗ṯt, /ʾaṯṯatu/, ‘woman, wife, lady’

bnš, /bunušu/, ‘man’

bt, (masc.) /bêtu/, ‘house, palace, temple’ (pl. btm, /bêtūma/ and bhtm, /bahatūma/)

gt, /gittu/, ‘wine or olive press; estate’ (< /gintu/)

šd, /šadû/, ‘field’ (genitive šadî, plural šadûma)

mlk, /malku/, ‘king’ (plural malakūma)

mlkt, /malkatu/, ‘queen’ (plural malakātu)

ʿbd, /ʿabdu/, ‘servant’ (plural ʿabadūma)

Prepositions:

l, /lê/ or /li/, ‘to, for’

ʿl, /ʿalê/, ‘on, upon, on account’

ʿm, /ʿimma/, ‘with’

tḥt, /taḥta/, ‘under, at’

Conjunction:

w, /wa/, ‘and’

Exercises

  1. Vocalize and translate.
  2. l . mlk
  3. l . mlkt
  4. ʿl . bnš
  5. ʿm . a͗ṯt
  6. mlkt . b . bt
  7. a͗lpm . b . šd
  8. mlk . w . mlkt . b . bt
  9. bnšm . w . a͗lpm . b . šd
  10. ı͗lm . w . ı͗lt . b . bt
  11. Write the preceding phrases in alphabetic Ugaritic cuneiform.

C. Transliterate RS 03.320, pictured below. Click HERE for a photograph. Check your work.

Continue to Lesson Two