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I just found this, the "OGSL Signlist" for Cuneiform. Remove the frame to get here. I click on a sign like A.EDIN and see this:

Values:eribₓ; eru₄; erua; erum₄; ummuₓ; ummudₓ.

for |A.EDIN| as ED form of ummu₃ see Civil ARES 4, 120

What does that mean?

I've looked around for the conventions around Cuneiform but don't know where the README is.

A more complex example is A...

What do we see here?

Looking at the raw ORACC JSON, I see this (2 examples out of a lot):

"A": {
  "values": [
    "ʾu₄",
    "a",
    "aia₂",
    "aya₂",
    "barₓ",
    "buniŋₓ",
    "burₓ",
    "dur₅",
    "duru₅",
    "e₄",
    "ea",
    "ebir₃",
    "emₓ",
    "epir₃",
    "eš₁₀",
    "ŋa₁₀",
    "ia₁₀",
    "id₅",
    "me₅",
    "mu₁₄",
    "sedₓ",
    "šegₓ",
    "ṭur₅",
    "ya₁₀"
  ],
  "gdl": [
    {
      "s": "A"
    }
  ],
  "uphase": "1",
  "uname": "CUNEIFORM SIGN A",
  "utf8": "𒀀",
  "hex": "x12000"
},
...
"|GA.NI|": {
  "values": [
    "gar₁₀",
    "gara₁₀"
  ],
  "gdl": [
    {
      "c": "|GA.NI|",
      "seq": [
        {
          "s": "GA"
        },
        {
          "o": "beside"
        },
        {
          "s": "NI"
        }
      ]
    }
  ],
  "utf8": "𒂵𒉌",
  "hex": "x120B5.x1224C"
},

Notice that for A, the sign is 𒀀. If I then search one of the values like dur5 using the Cuneify tool, I get the same sign, 𒀀.

Looking at |GA.NI|, I see there are two signs, 𒂵 and 𒉌 making 𒂵𒉌. Does this mean the "key" in the JSON (or the name in the dictionary) is referencing each isolated glyph? And then the "values" array are all the different pronunciations that evaluate to these glyphs?

Or what does the key and value mean?

Another more complex example is:

"|A.GAN₂@t|": {
  "deprecated": "1",
  "gdl": [
    {
      "c": "|A.GAN₂@t|",
      "seq": [
        {
          "s": "A"
        },
        {
          "o": "beside"
        },
        {
          "form": "GAN₂@t",
          "mods": [
            {
              "b": "GAN₂"
            },
            {
              "m": "t"
            }
          ]
        }
      ]
    }
  ]
},

Notice the @ in the key. And there is no Cuneiform glyph in here. What does this one mean?

Basically I'm trying to figure out how they are encoding the glyphs into pronunciations and other things, but I don't see what they mean, and don't know where the docs are.

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    I'd recommend reading a good introductory textbook on Sumerian (or Akkadian or Hittite, depending what type of cuneiform you're interested in). It's hard to explain an entire writing system used for multiple languages across thousands of years in a single SE answer. – Draconis Mar 15 at 17:24
  • There's gotta be a quick answer to this, otherwise how am I supposed to use their data? I'm just looking for the meaning of these fields, that's it. They can't mean that much. – Lance Pollard Mar 15 at 18:04
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A is the conventional name for a particular cuneiform glyph, typically its most common or best-known pronunciation. But the sign A can be read as a, aya₂, e₄, ea, ŋa₁₀, or many others. The JSON is mapping the name to a list of all these possible readings.

Sometimes, though, a cuneiform glyph is made from other glyphs joined together. There are a variety of different ways to join them; a dot between the sign names, for example, means that they're written one after another (for example the sign IŠTAR = |U.DAR|, U followed by DAR), while a cross means that the second is inside the first (SISKUR = |AMAR׊E|, ŠE enclosed by AMAR), and so on. In ORACC, compound glyphs are transcribed with bars on either side.

This can be used to build up more complicated glyphs, like the |A.GAN₂@t| you mentioned: this means A next to GAN₂, slanted at 45 degrees (tenû in Akkadian). But this particular transcription is deprecated; the preferred name for GAN₂ tenû is KAR₂. And this particular combination, |A.KAR₂|, I haven't been able to find in my usual sign lists, so it's probably not in Unicode either.

You can find a basic overview of the transcription conventions ORACC uses on their website, but I'd recommend finding a good textbook for whichever language you're interested in (probably Sumerian or Akkadian), which will go into more detail on how exactly cuneiform writing works.

| improve this answer | |
  • Excellent! Thank you. Would have taken forever to figure this out. So the CAPS is just a common name, but the lowercase are all the keys to the unicode cuneiform glyph? And it sounds like the CAPS also adds some extra metadata (nesting, next-to, or slanting, etc.)? This isn't included in the lowercase "keys" then... – Lance Pollard Mar 15 at 19:38
  • Ah that link is great, just what I was looking for! – Lance Pollard Mar 15 at 19:39
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    @LancePollard In Sumerian studies, all-caps is conventionally used for sign names and lowercase for pronunciation. But this varies across languages; in Akkadian, for example, all-caps is also used to transcribe logograms. – Draconis Mar 15 at 19:42
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    @LancePollard: For Akkadian, Huehnergard's classic A Grammar Of Akkadian is nowadays available as a free PDF on academia.edu. For Sumerian, Foxvog's Introduction to Sumerian Grammar is available as a PDF from CDLI and gives a quite modern view of the language (in some respects departing a bit from earlier interpretations e.g. regarding verbal conjugation — not necessarily a bad thing, but worth keeping in mind). – Ilmari Karonen Mar 15 at 20:56
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    @LancePollard: Well, it helps to take a course or two (or three or four or five) at the university. :) Online self-learning is all well and fine, but it IME it really helps to have someone familiar with this stuff to teach you the basics of the language, point you at the most useful sources and explain the context and the relevant historical (both ancient and modern) background behind them. – Ilmari Karonen Mar 16 at 1:52

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