Amorite is an early Northwest Semitic language, and more specifically is one of the Canaanite languages, a sub group that also includes Hebrew, Phoenician, Edomite, Moabite, Ammonite, Sutean, Punic/Carthaginian and Amalekite. It was spoken by the Amorite tribes originating in northern and eastern Syria prominent in the ancient Near East between the 24th and 13th centuries BC. It is known exclusively from non-Akkadian proper names recorded by native Akkadian speaking scribes during periods of Amorite rule in parts of Mesopotamia (end of the 3rd and beginning of the 2nd millennium), and in particular from Babylon, which was in fact founded by Amorites in 1894 BC, and ruled by them until 1595 BC. Other examples are found in Mari, and to a lesser extent Alalakh, Tell Harmal, and Khafajah. Occasionally such names are also found in early Egyptian texts; and one place-name — "Sənīr" (שְׂנִיר) for Mount Hermon — is known from the Bible (Deut. 3:9), and oddly enough may be Indo-European in origin (possibly due to Hittite influence) . Notable characteristics include:
- The usual Northwest Semitic imperfective-perfective distinction is found — e.g. Yantin-Dagan, 'Dagon gives' (ntn); Raṣa-Dagan, 'Dagon was pleased' (rṣy). It included a 3rd-person suffix -a (unlike Akkadian or Hebrew), and an imperfect vowel -a-, as in Arabic rather than the Hebrew and Aramaic -i-.
- There was a verb form with a geminate second consonant — e.g. Yabanni-Il, 'God creates' (root bny).
- In several cases where Akkadian has š, Amorite, like Hebrew and Arabic, has h, thus hu 'his', -haa 'her', causative h- or ʼ- (I. Gelb 1958).
- The 1st-person perfect is in -ti (singular), -nu (plural), as in the Canaanite languages.
- D. Cohen, Les langues chamito-semitiques, CNRS: Paris 1985.
- I. Gelb, "La lingua degli amoriti", Academia Nazionale dei Lincei. Rendiconti 1958, no. 8, 13, pp. 143–163.
- H. B. Huffmon. Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts. A Structural and Lexical Study, Baltimore 1965.
- Remo Mugnaioni. "Notes pour servir d’approche à l’amorrite" Travaux 16 – La sémitologie aujourd’hui, Cercle de Linguistique d’Aix-en-Provence, Centre des sciences du language, Aix-en-Provence 2000, p. 57-65.
- M. P. Streck, Das amurritische Onomastikon der altbabylonischen Zeit. Band 1: Die Amurriter, Die onomastische Forschung, Orthographie und Phonologie, Nominalmorphologie. Alter Orient und Altes Testament Band 271/1, Münster 2000.
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