Kassite (also Cassite) was a language spoken by the Kassites in Mesopotamia from approximately the 18th to the 7th century BC. From the 16th to 12th centuries BC, kings of Kassite origin ruled in Babylon until they were overthrown by the Elamites. As only a few dozen words are known, none of which have been demonstrably linked to any living or dead language family, Kassite is considered an unclassified language at present, possibly an isolate or belonging to the Hurro-Urartian languages.
|Era||18th–4th century BC|
|ISO 639-3||None (|
Based on the patchy distribution of extant cuneiform texts, the Semitic Akkadian language of the native Babylonians was mostly used for economic transactions during the Kassite period, with Sumerian used for monumental inscriptions. Traces of the Kassite language are few:
- a Kassite-Babylonian vocabulary with 48 entries, listing bilingual equivalents of god names, common nouns, verbs, and adjective(s), such as dakaš "star", hašmar "falcon", iašu "country", janzi "king", mašḫu "deity", miriaš "nether world", simbar "young", and šimdi "to give";
- the translations of 19 Kassite personal names on the fourth column of a neo-Assyrian era name list, which occasionally contradicts information given in the Kassite-Babylonian vocabulary);
- scattered references in Akkadian Lexical lists to Kassite equivalents of divine names, plants, etc., for example the plant names included in the 4-tablet Babylonian Pharmacopoeia, uru.an.na = maštakal, such as ḫašimbur, kuruš, pirizaḫ and šagabigalzu, and terms in the 8-tablet synonym list Malku = šarru, such as allak "rim" (of a wheel), and ḫameru "foot";
- many proper names in a variety of Akkadian language documents, principally from Babylonia (especially in the period 1360–850 BC), from Nuzi and from Iran; giving names of deities, people, places and equids;
- technical terms relating to animal husbandry, including marks and color designations of horses and asses, found in Akkadian documents, such as those found on a list of Kassite horse names, sambiḫaruk, meaning unknown, and alzibadar, ḫulalam, lagaštakkaš, pirmaḫ, šimriš, and timiraš, color and marking designations of equids; iškamdi, "bit" for a horse; akkandaš, "spoke" of a wheel; kamūsaš and šaḫumaš for bronze parts of a chariot, in contemporary texts;
- scattered Kassite words, such as the title bugaš; dardaraḫ, "small metal ornament"; and baziḫarzi, a leather object, in an Akkadian context.
A lack of Kassite texts makes the reconstruction of Kassite grammar impossible at present.
Relationship with or membership in the Hurro-Urartian family has been suggested, based on a number of words. It is not clear whether Kassite was a distinct language in the Hurro-Urartian phylum, or simply a Southern dialect of Hurrian. If it was the latter rather than the former, it could be surmised that the Kassites were merely a tribe of Hurrians that expanded from the north into the south and settled in Mesopotamia. On the other hand, if Kassite is the former rather than the latter, this suggests that Hurro-Urartian was an even larger language group and more significant to the region than historical experts have observed, and was perhaps spoken by far more people than previously thought.
Morphemes are not known; the words buri (ruler) and burna (protected) probably have the same root.
- Theophilus G. Pinches (1917). "The Language of the Kassites". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: 102–105. JSTOR 25189508. on Archiv Tablet BM 93005.
- Tablet K. 4426 + Rm 617 (II R 65, No. 2; V R 44, treated in Balkan, Kassitenstudien, pp. 1–3)
- Tablet CBS 12617.
- Schneider, Thomas (2003). "Kassitisch und Hurro-Urartäisch. Ein Diskussionsbeitrag zu möglichen lexikalischen Isoglossen". Altorientalische Forschungen (in German) (30): 372–381.
- Ancilotti, A. La lingua dei Cassiti. Milan, 1980.
- Balkan, K. Kassitenstudien. I. Die Sprache der Kassiten. New Haven, 1954.
- Jaritz, K. Die kassitischen Sprachreste // Anthropos, vol. 52, 1957.