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Akkadian (with its two major dialects, Babylonian and Assyrian) was spoken in Ancient Mesopotamia, and, at times, also in regions far beyond, as a written language and as a lingua franca. It is the oldest known Semitic language and, at the same time, the best documented language of the Ancient Near East. It was written almost exclusively with cuneiform; the documentation extends from 2,600 BC until the 1st century A.D. The texts in this language, the number of which is steadily increasing due to new finds and publications, contain at the moment about 10,000,000 words, which corresponds roughly to the size of the Latin corpus up until the year 300 A.D.

For Akkadian there are, at the moment, two large dictionaries: W. von Soden's "Akkadisches Handwörterbuch" (AHw, 1958-1981), and the "Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago" (CAD, 1956-2010), edited by A. L. Oppenheim, amongst others. Both lexica are sorely in need of updates, not only because of the great growth in material, but also because of the philological and linguistic progress made in recent decades. For example, the vocabulary from the archive in Ebla (Syria), dated to the 24th century B.C., discovered only in 1974-1975, and containing a hitherto unknown Akkadian dialect (or, according to another interpretation, a language closely related to Akkadian), is missing in both dictionaries. The vocabulary of Akkadian, which contains, in addition to a basic stock of Semitic words, various foreign and loan-words of various origins, represents a linguistic and cultural reservoir which is difficult to overestimate and which has hitherto only been partially tapped. AHw does contain some basic etymological information, but a complete etymological dictionary of Akkadian is a desideratum; especially as Akkadian is the oldest attested Semitic language, and detailed etymological dictionaries, as one can find for the various branches of Indo-European, are still almost completely missing for Semitic languages.