The Akkadian Expression lā watar
The Akkadian expression lā watar (lā matar) appears in two dozen Old Babylonian letters, in Standard Babylonian lexical lists and, arguably, in an Old Babylonian mathematical text and in an Old Assyrian letter. Though the expression has been known since the early twentieth century, it has never been an object of a special study. Commentaries in the editions and the dictionaries posit for lā watar four meanings: ‘that's enough’, ‘no longer’, ‘really’ and ‘finally’. These quite different meanings can hardly be expressed by one and the same word. The question is therefore: Which of the four are correct, if any? This study attempts to answer this question by analysing all available examples of lā watar and using cross-linguistic evidence. The inquiry shows that lā watar means ‘now, but not before’. Contextual English translations are ‘finally’, ‘at last’, ‘only now’, ‘(only) just’ and ‘from now on’.