Vocalizing Ugaritic Texts

Why Vocalize?

The primary purpose of vocalizing Ugaritic is to communicate one's interpretation of the grammar. A vocalization can indicate the relationship between nouns, the parsing of verbs, for example. The vocalization does not intend to indicate the sound of spoken Ugaritic.

The Basis for Vocalization

Vocalization is based on a combination of data and theory. The primary data comes from two sources.

First, there are some Ugaritic words written in syllabic cuneiform, a type of cuneiform writing that indicates some vocalic data. The syllabically written Ugaritic comes primarily from long lists of vocabularies. These lists include an Ugaritic noun and its counterpart in Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hurrian. The Ugaritic word actually fall in the fourth column. For example, one vocabulary (RS 20.149 ii 8') records: Sumerian NU, Akkadian a-mi-lu, Hurrian tar-šu-wa-an-ni, and Ugaritic bu-nu-šu. These are the words for 'man' in these languages. The syllabic Ugaritic writing indicates that the Ugaritic word bnš is vocalized with two u-vowels. (This syllabic writing does not indicate if the vowels are short or long.)

Second, the three aleph signs in Ugaritic provide a glimpse into Ugaritic vocalism. For example, when a noun ends in aleph, we can typically discern the case of the noun.

ksủ ṯbth, /kussaʔu ṯubtihu/ ‘the throne of his dwelling’ (the first noun is in the nominative case, ending in -u)
l ksỉ mlkh, /lê kussaʔi mulkihu/, ‘from the throne of his kingship’ (the noun ksỉ is in the genitive because it follows a preposition)

The aleph signs are used as follows:
{ẚ} = ʔa, ʔā, or aʔa (secondary opening)
{ỉ} = ʔi, ʔī, or ʔê (and sometimes -vʔ ). Cf. Tropper (1999, 93): a summary of the views of syllable final aleph.
{ủ} = ʔu, ʔū, or ʔō