chapter  2
Ancient Near Eastern and European Isolates
ByPiotr Michalowski
Pages 40

Information on many ancient languages has been preserved in hundreds of thousands of cuneiform documents recovered from the remains of Near Eastern habitations, spanning a time frame from ca. 3300 bce to at least the first century ce. The quantity and quality of this information varies: some languages are documented by vast amounts of literary, scholarly and administrative texts, some are known only from personal names, and still others merely by name. Sumerian was the first written language in Western Asia, with the longest written history in the area. Sumerian nouns were divided between animate and inanimate gender and two numbers, singular and plural. Soon after Sumerian was first identified as a language in 1853, attempts were made to link it with known languages, including Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian, Basque, Chinese, Tibetan and many more. The Hattic language is documented in almost 360 texts from the Hittite archives in Hattusha and Sapinuwa, both in central Turkey.