Classifying The Language

Pardee, Dennis (1997) Ugaritic. In Meyers, OEANE.

•Probably a Northwest Semitic language; possibly a late manifestation of an Amorite dialect
•The phonetic inventory is similar to Old Arabic and the Arabian languages
•The only known West Semitic language written in cuneiform
•Ugaritic has close literary ties with Biblical Hebrew
•Ugaritic is an alphabetic language

Tropper, Joseph (1994) Is Ugaritic a Canaanite Language?

“Given that Ugaritic is a North West Semitic language -and there is little dispute about that fact-it can therefore be only (1) a Canaanite dialect, (2) an Aramaic dialect, or (3) a dialect of another hitherto unknown North West Semitic language group. That it should be considered the remnants of not yet differentiated Proto-North West Semitic is highly improbable in light of the arguments mentioned above. Since, as far as I can see, nobody has so far successfully proved that Ugaritic presents significant Aramaic innovations, solution (2) is out of the question. Solution (3) is also improbable because we do not have any firm traces of a third North West Semitic language group besides Canaanite and Aramaic. Both solutions, (2) as well as (3), would be entirely untenable if it could be proved that the Ugaritic languages shares specific Canaanite features. Since, in this case, Ugaritic would have to be considered per definitionem a Canaanite language” (344-5).
“In my opinion the following important phonological, morphological, and morphosyntactical features are characteristic not only of Proto-Canaanite but also of Ugaritic” (347ff.)
Phonological Features:
• Absence of the emphatic lateral (Arabic /ḍ/)
• The monophthongization of the dipthongs /aw/ and /ay/
• The validity of the Barth-Ginsberg law: yaqtal > yiqtal
• Shared primae aleph verbs that share the prefix conjugation patter y-u-C1-C2
• The loss of h in the prefix conjugation of the of the verb hlk/ylk, “to go”
Morphological and Morphosyntactical Features
• Personal interrogative pronoun *miya
• Canaanite, as well as Ugaritic, is characterized by mimation in the dual and plural of the noun and the absence of any mimation and nunation respectively in the singular. No other Semitic language shows this evidence.
• Terminative-adverbialis ending –āh.
• In Canaanite, as well as in Ugaritic, the prefIx of the 3. person plural feminine in the prefIx conjugation is/t/, whereas all other Semitic languages have /y/-prefixes.
• Old Canaanite and Ugaritic are characterized by an identical system of moods consisting of a pair of imperatives and jussives.
• Use of “the infinitive absolute as a narrative form.”
“Under this presumption, Ugaritic would be the only representative of North Canaanite known so far, whereas the so-called Canaanite dialects in the narrower sense would have to be combined under the heading ‘South Canaanite’” (352).
“Firstly, as has already been indicated, the linguistic correspondences between Ugaritic and the coastal dialects of South Canaanite are closer than the correspondences between Ugaritic and the inland dialects of South Canaanite” (352).
“Secondly it should be noted that the so-called Amurrite language which might, perhaps, also be classified within the Canaanite branch of languages, according to the definition given above, is not considered in our diagram because of its poor and scattered attestation. Given that Amurrite as a whole or at least some of the socalled Amurrite dialects are Canaanite, it should be classified in our diagram as a seperate East Canaanite branch besides North and South Canaanite” (353).
“To sum up: the arguments put foreward in this article lead to the conclusion that Ugaritic has to be considered a Canaanite language from the linguistic point of view. In consequence, the label "Canaanite" must be taken in a wider sense than has been done in the past. Proto-Canaanite (as well as Proto-Aramaic) must be dated earlier and cannot be char-aeterized in a satisfactory manner without including the main aspects of Ugaritic grammar. If our conclusions are correct, then one of the most important keys for a better understanding of Ugaritic grammar should be seen in the Canaanite substratum of the Amarna letters of Syria-Palestine. For these letters, so far, present the only more or less certain insights into Canaanite grammar contemporary with Ugaritic” (353).