Northwest Semitic languages

The Northwest Semitic languages ​​form a branch of the Semitic language family. These include, amongst others, the Hebrew, Aramaic and Ugaritic.


Will according to your name or the North West Semitic languages ​​were spoken in the north- west of the Semitic -speaking world, especially in Syria and Palestine. To the north- west Semitic branch includes the following languages:

  • Ugaritic †
  • Canaanite Hebrew
  • Phoenician- Punic †
  • Moabite †
  • Ammonitisch †
  • Edomite †

There are also some forms of speech that are handed down only very fragmentary. In the Amarna letters, there are about Canaanite glosses, the Akkadian language of the letter itself has, because it was written by Canaanite scribes numerous Canaanite influences on.


While it is undisputed that the Northwest Semitic languages ​​form a common sub-branch, there is no final agreement on how this branch is classified within the Semitic languages ​​. The traditional, rather founded on geographical criteria model to the classification of the Semitic languages ​​(eg Moscati 1969) summarized the Northwest Semitic next to the Ostsemitischen (or West Semitic ) and Südsemitischen (or West Semitic ) as one of three main branches of the Semitic languages ​​. Later, the Northwest Semitic was with the South ( western ) Semitic combined into a West Semitic branch. This would correspond to the following model:

  • Semitic Ostsemitisch
  • West Semitic Northwest Semitic
  • Südsemitisch

Recent findings of Semitists Robert Hetzron back the previously classified as Arab südsemitisch the Northwest Semitic closer. Accordingly, the Northwest Semitic formed together with the Arab and possibly also the South Arabian a centrally -Semitic branch of West Semitic languages. This would be obtained for Northwest Semitic following classification:

  • Semitic Ostsemitisch
  • West Semitic Central Semitic Northwest Semitic
  • Arabic
  • Altsüdarabisch (?)

Linguistic features

The two major innovations which have in common the North West Semitic languages:

  • Change of anlautendem * w to y ( cf. Akkadian waladu, Arabic Walada yālaḏ with Hebrew, Syriac iled, Ugaritic yld " give birth "). Exceptions are the conjunction w - ( "and") and a few single words ( eg Hebrew walad " child ").
  • Double plural marking by inserting a between the last two consonants and plural ending (eg Hebrew dəɣɔlim of dɛɣɛl (< * digl ) " flags ").
  • The assimilation of l to q in the forms of the verb * LQH "take" (eg Hebrew yiqqaḥ < * yilqaḥ ).
  • The metathesis of t in the reflexive prefix ( h) it- at the initial vowel roots with a sibilant (eg Hebrew hištammer < * hit- Sammer ).


  • Jacob Hoftijzer; Karel Jonge Ling: Dictionary of North - West Semitic Inscriptions ( Vol. 2 ). Handbook of Oriental Studies I, 21 among others suffering In 1995.