Standard language

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lingua standard | langue standard | Standardsprache


A standard language is a language that was highly codified in terms of grammar and lexicon. In some traditions, the term can be used as a quasi-synonym to "literary language" (as proven by the definitions available in Berruto 2002; Cotticelli-Kurras 2007). In general, most modern national languages are standard languages, but in the ancient world the situation with variation and interference was more fluid.


Babylonian is the only language that can be considered standard for the Cuneiform Bronze Age. More precisely, Old Babylonian was certainly a standard language for literature, and due to its strong cultural influence in the surrounding world it evolved in the so called Standard Babylonian variety (Hess 2020), which became the language of Mesopotamian and peri-Mesopotamian literature starting with the Late Bronze Age.

International Akkadian, in spite of the presence of local influences due to substrata, was certainly a technical language, but the shared Middle Babylonian features point to some significant degree of standardization.


Berruto, G. 2002. Fondamenti di sociolinguistica, Roma/Bari. Cotticelli, P. 2007. Lessico di Linguistica, Alessandria. Hess, Ch.W. 2020. Standard Babylonian, in R. Hasselbach-Andee, A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Languages, Hoboken, pp. 471-488.