A general term for the eastern Semitic language of ancient Mesopotamia, named after the city-state of Akkad. The earliest attested dialect is termed Old Akkadian, and was used as the official language of the Akkadian empire in the second half of the 3rd millenium B.C.
The second and third branches of the language are Babylonian and Assyrian, roughly corresponding to a geographical division between southern and northern. These two branches also develop separately in several stages. Babylonian:
(All dates are approximate, B.C., and represent only the attested phases) It should be stressed that neither Assyrian nor Babylonian can be derived from Old Akkadian, but consitute separate derivations of Proto-Akkadian. The script is cuneiform, adapted from the Sumerian signs, using both phonetic and logographic symbols. It is thus an oddity in the Semitic family in that the writing system includes weak as well as strong vowels.
The language thrived as an administrative and literary vehicle. It began to die around the 600's with the advent of the Persian empire, but continued as an academic language for some time afterwards - the last known cuneiform text dates to the 1st century A.D. As a vulgar tongue, it was eventually supplanted by Aramaic.