Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 3 (2000-2001) - Review

Jeremy Black, Andrew George, and Nicholas Postgate, eds., A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian (SANTAG, 5; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1999), xxiv, 450 pp. ISBN 3-447-04225-7.

This book is an amazing achievement. The CDA, as the editors have dubbed it, represents more than ten years of collating and refining the lexigraphical entries found in Wolfgram von Soden's, Akkadisches Handwörterbuch (= AHw), the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (= CAD), and critical reviews on the volumes of the AHw and the CAD. R. Borger's Assyrisch-babylonische Zeichenliste also was consulted in order to standardize all logograms. As such, it constitutes the most up to date and accessible lexigraphical resource on the Akkadian language.

Since the CDA editors intend the volume for beginning students of Akkadian, and thus, not as a replacement for the AHw or CAD, its entries are brief and sparing of many of the details one finds in the two major dictionaries. Thus, for example, the CDA does not provide textual references, options for the normalized transcription of lemmata even when ambiguity exists, nor does it usually give information concerning a word's determinative(s), if it has any.

Nevertheless, in addition to a word's principle attested meanings, students will be able to determine a word's periods of attestation, as well as some information about its dialectical distribution, grammatical usage, and language of origin (e.g., Sumerian, Hurrian, West Semitic, etc.). For verbs, attested conjugations also are listed.

There are a few areas where the CDA will adopt the standards of the AHw but not those of the CAD. So, for example, users will need to recognize that lemmata appear in their Old Babylonian forms, and not in their Standard Babylonian ones (as in the CAD). Similarly, words starting with intial /w/ will be found under W (all entries appear in the order of the English alphabet), and verbs that possess long /i/ (i.e., with a macron) as their middle root letter will appear as they do in Old Babylonian, i.e., biatum (with a macron over the /a/), "spend the night." This, however, is to be expected, since the primary model for the dictionary is the AHw. One might also argue that once a student becomes advanced enough to use the AHw, the practice adopted here will be second nature.

The book is extremely student friendly. It contains a helpful list of roots as well as a clear description on how to use the dictionary- including a trouble-shooting section that aims to assist students who have difficulties trying to locate particular words. Lexical entries also are crossed referenced (though less often than the AHw) to facilitate further research.

If there is anywhere that the CDA differs significantly from its larger lexical predecessors, it is in its abandonment of the grouping "spatbabylonische" (SpB) as found in the AHw and "Late Babylonian, as inconsistently used in the CAD. Instead, the CDA combines both categories under the rubric "Neo-Babylonian." Thus, as the editors note, this label " includes both the later vernacular (after 625 BC on) and other texts of the Persian and Seleucid periods not written in jB or Standard Babylonian" (p. xiii).

This is an excellent dictionary which first and second year students of Akkadian will undoubtedly welcome with open arms. Scholars of other Semitic languages whose knowledge of, or interest in Akkadian is cursory, also will benefit a great deal from it. What makes the book especially useful for students is the price, a mere 58,00 DM. Let us hope that this signals a new direction for the publisher!

Scott B. Noegel
University of Washington