The Most Ancient Verse in the World (Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite): Quantitative Analysis
Though there are many hypotheses as to the system of versification for
proto-Indo-European or even all-world verse at its initial stage of development,
the most ancient examples of verse have not yet been thoroughly
studied. In this article we examine Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hittite texts.
(some of which were written in 23rd–13th centuries B.C., before the much
better known Ancient Greek). We discuss methods suitable for analyzing
such verse, which is not strictly organized, as well as the results of quantitative
analysis of verse in these three languages. We studied the number
of syllables, number of stresses, number and distribution of long vowels
(and where relevant the distribution of heavy syllables within a line). The
presence or absence of rhyme, type of rhyme, and the presence or
absence of well-formed stanzaic schemes were also taken into account.
Comparing quantitative data for the three languages enables us to suggest
that both syllabic (Sumerian) and accentual (Akkadian, Hittite) systems
have existed since the first preserved examples of verse and that the
choice for the system of versification was highly dependent on peculiarities
of the particular language.