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  • Cuneiform Digital Library Preprints

    Hosted by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative ()

    Editor: Bertrand Lafont (CNRS, Nanterre)

    Number 2

    Title: Introduction to Sumerian Grammar

    Author: Daniel A. Foxvog

    Posted to web: 4 January 2016

  • INTRODUCTION TO SUMERIAN GRAMMAR

    DANIEL A FOXVOG

    LECTURER IN ASSYRIOLOGY (RETIRED)

    UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY

    Revised January 2016

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    CONTENTS PREFACE 4 THE SUMERIAN WRITING SYSTEM 5 PHONOLOGY 17 NOUNS AND ADJECTIVES 22 THE NOMINAL CHAIN 27 PRONOUNS AND DEMONSTRATIVES 30 SUMMARY OF PERSONAL PRONOUN FORMS 37 THE ADNOMINAL CASES: GENITIVE AND EQUATIVE 38 THE COPULA 44 ADVERBS AND NUMERALS 49 THE ADVERBAL CASES 53 INTRODUCTION TO THE VERB 60 DIMENSIONAL PREFIXES 1: INTRODUCTION 68 DIMENSIONAL PREFIXES 2: DATIVE 73 DIMENSIONAL PREFIXES 3: COMITATIVE, ABLATIVE-INSTRUMENTAL, TERMINATIVE 78 CORE PREFIXES: ERGATIVE, LOCATIVE-TERMINATIVE, LOCATIVE 84 THE VENTIVE ELEMENT 91 RELATIVE CLAUSES: THE NOMINALIZING SUFFIX -a 97 PREFORMATIVES (MODAL PREFIXES) 104 THE IMPERATIVE 111 IMPERFECTIVE FINITE VERBS 119 PARTICIPLES AND THE INFINITIVE 130 APPENDIX 1: CHART OF VERBAL PREFIX CHAIN ELEMENTS 155 TABLE OF SYLLABIC SIGN VALUES 156 APPENDIX 2: THE EMESAL DIALECT 158 INDEX 159 EXERCISES 161

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    PREFACE

    Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem William of Ockham This grammar is intended primarily for use in the first year of university study under the guidance of a teacher who can describe the classic problems in greater detail, add current alternative explanations for phenomena, help the student parse and understand the many textual illustrations found throughout, and provide supplementary information about the history of the language and the culture of early Mesopotamia. A few exercises have been provided to accompany study of the lessons, some artificial, others drawn from actual texts. Both require vocabulary lookup from the com-panion Elementary Sumerian Glossary or a modern substitute such as the online Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary. Upon completing this introduction, the student will be well prepared to progress to sign learning and reading of texts. Konrad Volk's A Sumerian Reader (Studia Pohl Series Maior 18, Rome, 1997-) is a good beginning. This introduction may also be of benefit to those who have already learned some Sumerian more or less inductively through the reading of simple royal inscriptions and who would now like a more structured review of its grammar, with the help of abundant textual illustrations, from something a bit more practical and pedagogically oriented than the available reference grammars. Cross-references have often been provided throughout to sections () in Marie-Louise Thomsen's earlier standard The Sumerian Langauge (Copenhagen, 19872), where additional information and further examples can often be found for individual topics. A newer restatement of the grammatical system is Dietz Otto Edzard's Sumerian Grammar (Leiden, 2003). An up to date quick overview is Gonzalo Rubio's "Sumerian Morphology," in Alan S. Kaye (ed.), Morpho-logies of Asia and Africa II (2007) 1327-1379. Pascal Attinger's encyclopedic Elments de linguistique sumrienne (Fribourg, 1993) is a tremendously helpful reference but beyond the reach of the beginner. Abraham H. Jagersma's revolutionary new and monumental Descriptive Grammar of Sumerian (2010) is now available for download on the Web and will eventually be published by Oxford University Press. For standard Assyriological abbreviations used in this introduction see the Abbreviations for Assyriology of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) on the Web. The standard academic online dictionary is the Electronic Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (ePSD). The chronological abbeviations used here are: OS Old Sumerian period (2500-2350 BC) OAkk Old Akkadian (Sargonic) period (2350-2150 BC) Ur III 3rd Ur Dynasty (Neo-Sumerian) period (2150-2000 BC) OB Old Babylonian period (1900-1600 BC) For those who may own a version of my less polished UC Berkeley teaching grammar from 1990 or earlier, the present version will be seen to be finally comprehensive, greatly expanded, hopefully much improved, and perhaps worth a serious second look. My description of the morphology and historical morphophonemics of the verbal prefix system remains an idiosyncratic, somewhat unconventional minority position. Jagersma's new description, based in many respects upon a new system of orthographic and morphophonological rules, is now popular especially in Europe, and it may well eventually become the accepted description among many current students of Sumerian grammar. This will be the last updated, final, edition of this grammar. Guerneville, California USA January 2016

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    THE SUMERIAN WRITING SYSTEM I. TRANSLITERATION CONVENTIONS A. Sign Diacritics and Index Numbers Sumerian features a large number of homonyms words that were pronounced similarly but had different meanings and were written with different signs, for example:

    /du/ 'to come, go'

    /du/ 'to build'

    /du/ 'to release' A system of numerical subscripts, and diacritics over vowels representing subscripts, serves to identify precisely which sign appears in the actual text. The standard reference for sign identification remains R. Labat's Manuel d'Epigraphie akkadienne (1948-), which has seen numerous editions and reprintings. Y. Rosengarten's Rpertoire comment des signes prsargoniques sumriens de Laga (1967) is indispensible for reading Old Sumerian texts. R. Borger's Assyrisch-babylonische Zeichenliste (AOAT 33/33a, 1978-) is now the modern reference for sign readings and index numbers, although the best new signlist for OB Sumerian literary texts is the Altbabylonische Zeichenliste der sumerisch-literarischen Texte by C. Mitter- mayer & P. Attinger (Fribourg, 2006). Borger's AbZ index system which is used here is as follows: Single-syllable signs Multiple-syllable signs du (= du1) muru Note that the diacritic d (= du2) mru always falls on the FIRST VOWEL of the word! d (= du3) mru du4 etc. muru4 There is variation in the systems employed in older signlists for multiple- syllable signs, especially in Labat. In the earliest editions of his signlist which may still be encountered in libraries, Labat carried the use of diacritics through index numbers 4-5 by shifting the acute and grave accents onto the first syllable of multiple- syllable signs: mur (= muru2) mur (= muru3) mru (= muru4) mru (= muru5)

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    This would not be a problem except for a number of signs which have long and short values. For example, the sign tk can be read /tuk/ or /tuku/. Labat reads the latter as tku, which then does not represent tuku4, but rather tuku2, i.e. tk(u)! Borger's system, used here and in later editions of Labat, is more consistent, placing the diacritics on the first syllable of multi-syllable signs, but using them only for index numbers 2 and 3. New values of signs, pronunciations for which no generally accepted index numbers yet exist, are given an "x" subscript, e.g. dax 'side'. Note, finally, that more and more frequently the acute and grave accents are being totally abandoned in favor of numeric subscripts throughout. This, for example, is the current convention of the new Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary, e.g. du, du2, du3, du4, etc. Since the system of accents is still current in Sumerological literature, however, it is vital that the beginner become familiar with it, and so it has been maintained here. B. Upper and Lower Case, Italics, and Brackets In unilingual Sumerian contexts, Sumerian words are normally written in lower case roman letters. Upper case (capital) letters (CAPS) are used: 1) When the exact meaning of a sign is unknown or unclear. Many signs are polyvalent, that is, they have more than one value or reading. When the particular reading of a sign is in doubt, one may indicate this doubt by choosing its most common value and writing this in CAPS. For example, in the sentence KA-u10 ma-gig 'My KA hurts me' a body part is intended. But the KA sign can be read ka 'mouth', kri 'nose' or z 'tooth', and the exact part of the face might not be clear from the context. By writing KA one clearly identifies the sign to the reader without committing oneself to any of its specific readings. 2) When the exact pronunciation of a sign is unknown or unclear. For example, in the phrase a-SIS 'brackish water', the pronunciation of the second sign is still not completely clear: ses, or sis? Rather than commit oneself to a possibly incorrect choice, CAPS can be used to tell the reader that the choice is being left open. 3) When one wishes to identify a non-standard or "x"-value of a sign. In this case, the x-value is immediately followed by a known standard value of the sign in CAPS placed within parentheses, for example dax() side. 4) When one wishes to spell out the components of a compound logogram, for example nsi(PA.TE.SI) 'governor' or ugnim(KI.KU.LU.B.AR) 'army'. 5) When referring to a sign in the abstract, as in the U sign is the picture of a hand.

    In bilingual or Akkadian contexts, a variety of conventions exist. Very commonly Akkadian words are written in lower case roman or italic letters with Sumerian logograms in CAPS: a-na .GAL-u 'to his palace'. In some publications one also sees Sumerian words written in s p a c e d r o m a n letters, with Akkadian in either

    lower case roman letters or italics. In other newer publications Sumerian is even printed in boldface type. Determinatives, unpronounced indicators of meaning, are written with superscripts in Sumerological literature, or, often, in CAPS on the line in Akkadian contexts: gihahur or I.HAHUR. They are also sometimes seen written lower case on the line separated by periods: i.hahur. Partly or wholly missing or broken signs can be indicated using square brackets, e.g. lu[gal] or [lugal] king. Partly broken signs can also be indicated using half-brackets. A sign presumed to have been omitted by the ancient scribe is indicated by the use of brackets, while an erroneously repeated sign deleted by a modern editor is indicated by the use of double angle brackets.

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    C. Conventions for Linking Signs and Words Hyphens and Periods In Akkadian contexts, hyphens are always used to transliterate Akkadian, while periods separate the elements of Sumerian words or logograms. In Sumerian contexts, periods link the parts of compound signs written in CAPS, and hyphens are used elsewhere, e.g.: nsi(PA.TE.SI) 'governor' kugur21(.B)r 'shield' an- 'towards heaven' Problems can arise, however, when one attempts to formulate rules for the linking of the elements in the chain formations characteristic of Sumerian. The formal definition of a Sumerian word remains problematic (see J. Black, "Sumerian Lexical Categories," Zeitschrift fr Assyriologie 92 [2002] 60ff. and G. Cunningham, "Sumerian Word Classes Reconsidered," in Your Praise is Sweet. A Memorial Volume for Jeremy Black [London, 2010] 41-52.) Consequently, we only transliterate Sumerian sign by sign; we do not usually transcribe "words." Verbal chains consist of stems and affixes always linked together into one unit. But nominal chains (phrases) often consist of adjectives, appositions, dependent genitive constructions, and relative clauses beside head nouns and suffixes, and the linking or separation of various parts of nominal chains in unilingual Sumerian contexts is subject to the train- ing and habits of individual scholars. One rule of thumb is: the longer the the chain, the less likely its parts will be linked with hyphens. The main criterion at work is usually clarity of presentation. Components of standard nominal compounds and proper nouns are normally linked: dub-sar tablet writer = scribe an-ki heaven and earth en-mete-na (the king) Enmetena Adjectives were always in the past joined to the words they modify, but most scholars now write an adjective as a separate word: dumu-tur or dumu tur 'child small' = the small child Verbal adjectives (past participles) are now also less often linked: -d-a or d-a house that was built = the built house The two parts of a genitive construction are today never linked unless they are components of a compound noun: lugal-la the house of the king { lugal+ak} z-mu edge of the year = New Year {z mu+ak} ` In the absence of a universally accepted methodology, one must attempt to develop one's own sensi- tivity to how Sumerian forms units of meaning. Our conventions for linking signs and words are intended only to help clarify the relationships between them and to aid in the visual presentation of the language. The writing system itself makes no such linkages and does not employ any sort of punctua- tion. One should take as models the usual practices of established scholars. One should also try to be consistent.

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    Plus (+) and Times (x) in Sign Descriptions When one sign is written inside (or, especially in older texts, above or below) another sign, the resulting new sign may be described by writing both components in CAPS, with the base sign and added sign separated by an "x":

    KAxA MOUTH times WATER = na 'to drink' If the reading/pronunciation of such a sign also happens to be unknown, this, by necessity, will actually be the standard way to transliterate it until a new reading is proposed:

    IRIxA CITY times WATER = 'the city IRIxA' Two signs joined closely together, especially when they share one or more wedges in common or have lost some feature as a result of the close placement, are called ligatures. Signs featuring an archaic reversal of the order of their components can also be called ligatures. The parts of ligatures are tradi- tionally linked with a "plus" character, although some scholars will also use a period:

    GAL+L BIG plus MAN = lugal 'king'

    GAL+UUM BIG plus SERPENT = uumgal 'dragon'

    SG+UZU HIT plus FLESH = td 'to beat, wh...

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