1) a) The Hittite scribes borrowed the cuneiform writing in use in Mesopotamia. The style of the signs (ductus) as well as the way they were used to represent the Hittite language indicates an origin in North Syria, more precisely from the city of Alalakh (Tell Açana).
b) The cuneiform writing was invented by the Sumerians and was originally an ideographic writing. A sign was drawn as a little picture and represented a notion in relation with the pictogram. For example, the sign representing a foot was used to mean "to stand", "to walk", "to run", "to bring", etc... When the drawing of the signs got simplified over the years, the original meaning of the signs became less and less clear, and the writing became logographic : a sign was used to represent a precise word of the language rather than an idea. However, the signs remained polysemous since they kept the several meanings that they had already acquired.
c) Furthermore, a peculiar feature of the Sumerian language is its apparent high level of homophony. A lot of different Sumerian words have the same pronunciation but a different meaning, and are thus written with a different sign. Hence, it is necessary for the modern scholar to distinguish between the shape of the sign and its pronunciations (and meanings). As a result, the signs are numbered according to their shape in various sign lists, independently of their pronunciation. For example, the sign has the number 13 in the list of Labat. It can be read AN "sky" or DINGIR "god".
d) The signs are represented by their Sumerian reading. In order to distinguish between the readings of homophonic signs, these readings are numbered according to the frequency of the signs. Traditionally, the first index is not written, the second and third indices are replaced respectively by an acute and a grave accent on the vowel of monosyllabic words. For example, the signs , , , are transcribed u, ú, ù, u4.
e) The third stage of evolution of the cuneiform writing was the invention of the phonetic use of signs. Another peculiar feature of the Sumerian language is the fact that a great proportion of its words are monosyllabic. As a result, the Sumerian scribes had the idea to use a sign for its phonetic value instead of its logographic value. This phonetic use was somehow restricted to complement the logographic signs, either to select among the various readings of one sign, or to specify grammatical features such as declension or conjugation which could not be written down with a pure ideographic writing. However, non-native speakers of Sumerian such as Akkadians or Hittites were naturally inclined to make a widespread use of the phonetic writing since there was no more relation between the logographic meaning of a sign and its phonetic reading in their respective languages.
2) The Hittite cuneiform writing uses all three modes of cuneiform writing : phonetic, ideographic and determinative.
a) The phonetic signs are syllabic. They can represent a group consonant + vowel (e.g. ba, mi, ru), vowel + consonant (e.g. ab, ir , uk) or consonant + vowel + consonant (e.g. bar, kid, lum). Signs of the third kind can also be expressed by the use of two signs of the first and second kinds : bar can be written ba + ar, kid ki + id and lum lu + um.
b) There exist signs for the lone vowels. There are no sign for lone consonants.
3) Ideograms are non-phonetic signs representing a whole word. They can be read in any language, be it English, French, Russian, etc... For example, the sign for "god" is read dingir in Sumerian, ilum in Akkadian, siuna- in Hittite, eni- in Hurrian, etc... As another example, the sign for "land" is read kur in Sumerian, mātum in Akkadian, utnē- in Hittite, umini- in Hurrian, ebani- in Urartean, etc... It sometimes happens that the Hittite reading is unknown. In this case, the sign is transcribed by its Sumerian reading in capital : DINGIR, KUR, etc... Composite logograms are composed of several signs ; they are transcribed separated by a dot : ANŠE.KUR.RA "horse".
4) a) A word can be written either phonetically or ideographically : the Hittite word for "god" can be written ši-ú-na or DINGIR. The Hittite scribes, like the Akkadian ones, kept on using logograms as short cuts in order to save their energy and space on tablet ; for example, it is faster to write DINGIR instead of ši-ú-ni-iš . It also happens that an ideogram is followed by a phonetic complement, especially in order to exhibit its declension. For example, the verb walh- ("to strike") (ideogram GUL) has a form walhun ("I struck") that can be written phonetically wa-al-hu-un, or half-ideographically GUL-hu-un or GUL-un. The substantive isha- ("lord") (ideogram EN) has a Nom. Sg. ishās that can be written phonetically iš-ha-a-aš or half-ideographically EN-aš, an Acc. Sg ishān written iš-ha-a-an or EN-an, a Dat.-Loc. Sg. ishi written iš-hi-i or EN-i, a Nom. Pl. ishēs written iš-he-e-eš or ENMEŠ-eš (or simply ENMEŠ, cf §6d).
b) Some words were written only as ideograms by Hittites, so that we do not know their pronunciation, for example DUMU-aš "son", MUNUS-za "woman", ÌR-iš "slave", GUD-uš "ox", 1-aš "one".
5) a) Hittites also used to insert Akkadian words amid Hittite texts. These words are often called akkadograms as they seem to be used logographically. In transcriptions, those words will be written in italic capital, with the signs separated by a dash. Thus, one can find for Hittite isha- "lord" the Akkadian bēlu(m) "lord" written : Nom. Sg. BE-LU (older: BE-LUM), Acc. Sg. BE-LAM, Nom. Pl. BE-LU MEŠ, etc... For the Hittite Dat.-Loc. Sg. atti-mi "to my father", one can find an Akkadian word preceded by the Akkadian preposition ana "to" : A-NA A-BI-IA "to my father".
b) Hittite phonetic complements are seldom found after akkadograms : for example, ĜIŠKÀ-AN-NU-UM-it "by means of a jar-stand", EL-LAM-aš Gen. Sg. "of a free". As an other example, the Akkadian monosyllabic word in construct state ŠUM "name" was used as an ideogram with a Hittite phonetic complement : Nom.-Acc. Sg. ŠUM-an for Hittite lāman "name".
c) An ideogram can be followed by a Hittite phonetic complement, but also by an Akkadian one : for example DUMURU "son" (Akkad. māru), 1EN "one" (Akkad. ištēn), DINGIRLUM or DINGIRLIM "god" (Akkad. Nom. Sg. ilum, Gen. Sg. ilim), dUTUŠI "my Sun" (title of the Hittite kings ; Akkad. Šamšī).
d) Sumerian conjugated forms such as BA.UG7 "he is dead" (root UG7 + prefix BA), KI.LAL.BI "its weight" are rare in the Hittite context.
e) Akkadian declensions are not always respected : LÚ.ULU3.LU-an ELLUM next to correct LÚ.ULU3.LU-an ELLAM.
6) a) Determinatives are ideograms used to define the category of a word to which they are attached. They are not pronounced. Most of the determinatives are placed before the word they complement. The ideogram DINGIR "god" is also used as a determinative for all divine names (it is transcribed d for DINGIR): dTelepinu, dU or dIŠKUR "storm-god", dIŠTAR, etc... The logogram DIŠ points out a proper name (it is transcribed m for male or I since DIŠ also represents the number 1) : mMursili, mSuppiluliuma. LÚ "man" points out a profession or an inhabitant : LÚwestara- "shepherd", LÚanniniyami- "cousin (m.)", LÚKÚR "enemy", LÚŠU.GI "elder". MUNUS "woman" points out a woman's profession or a woman's name (it is transcribed f for female) : fanniniyami- "cousin (f.)", fŠU.GI "the Elder" (a priestess), fPutuhepa. URU "town" points the name of a town : URUHattusa, URUHalpa "Alep", ĜIŠ "wood" points out the name of a tree or objects made of wood and by extension of other materials : ĜIŠHAŠHUR "apple tree", ĜIŠhattalu- "lock".
b) KUR "land" for country names is not considered as a determinative, but rather as a substantive. Thus, for example KUR URUHatti "the land Hatti", KUR URUArzawa "the land Arzawa" should be understood as an Akkadian genitive "the land of Hatti".
c) Determinatives following their noun are fewer : MUŠEN "bird" for names of birds : hara-MUŠEN "eagle", or KI "place" (as well as URU.KI "place of the town") for names of place : URUHalpa KI "Alep", KUR A.GA.DÈKI "land of Akkad".
d) An important subclass of determinatives following their noun is composed of the plural markers MEŠ and HI.A, more rarely DIDLI (i.e. AŠ.AŠ) or MEŠ.HI.A or DIDLI.HI.A : ENMEŠ or BE-LU MEŠ "lords", ERIN2MEŠ ANŠU.KUR.RAHI.A "foot-soldiers and charioteers", URUDIDLI.HI.A "towns", ERIN2MEŠ.HI.A "foot-soldiers".
7) a) When writing out Hittite texts, phonetic signs are transcribed by their Akkadian values.
b) However, the Hittite reading is in fact different and it should be remembered that the cuneiform signs ša, še, ši, šu are used for the Hittite syllables sa, se, si, su. While za, ze, zi, zu are used to denote the voiced spirant z in Akkadian, they are used to denote the affricate ts in Hittite. The Akkadian sign ṣi (with emphatic ṣ) is also read zé, whereas the only reading in Hittite, which has no emphatics, is zé. The Akkadian sign sul, šul is read zul in Hittite (also written zu-ul).
c) Transliteration simply consists in writing out the cuneiform signs making up the text. The transcription on the other side tries to represent faithfully the pronunciation of the text. Given the uncertainties in Hittite phonology, an intermediate representation is traditionally used: the broad transcription. This transcription does not try to reflect the precise pronunciation of the text but it is more readable than transliteration. In broad transcription, the transliterated signs of a same word are bound while simplifying identical adjacent vowels. Identical adjacent consonants are written as geminate but voiced and unvoiced consonants are regularized. Word-final consonants are spelled as unvoiced: a-ša-an-zi > ašanzi "they are", ši-uš > šiuš "god", AD-ta-aš > attaš "father", e-ša-AD > e-ša-at "he sat down".
8) a) Some signs have values specific to Hittite. The Akkadian sign áš can be read táš in Hittite texts. The Akkadian meš is also read eš in Hittite (transcribed eš17). ĜEŠTIN is used in Akkadian only as an ideogram for "wine" (Akk. karānu, Hit. wiyana-), whereas it is read wi in Hittite (transcribed wi5). This is a nice example of derivation of a phonetic value from the first syllable of the reading of a logographic sign.
b) Some readings come from an ideographic game, especially for proper nouns. The ending -ili of royal names such as mMursili, mHattusili, etc... can be written with the sign DINGIR (Akk. ilu(m) "god", Gen. Sing. ili(m)) ; thus, one can find inscriptions such that mMu-ur-ši-DINGIRLIM = mMu-ur-ši-ILI(M), mHa-at-tu-ši-DINGIRLIM = mHa-at-tu-ši-ILI(M). The name of the country Hatti sounds like the Akkad. haṭṭu "sceptre" (ideogram ĜIŠGIDRU), thus, the royal name mHattusili is sometimes written m.ĜIŠGIDRU-ši-DINGIRLIM.