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Is there a specific time or place where we use Auslauts, and other times we don't? I'd kind of like a definite list of times, endings, etc where Auslauts are used, and aside from that, they aren't.

Like, if I have a transitive sentence, with LUGAL as the agent/subject, would I use Lugal-e or Lugal-le? If I use LUGAL again, but instead of the ergative marker, I use the possessive marker /-ak/, it should be Lugal-la and not Lugal-a, right?

Again, I'm trying to find a rule for when we use Auslauts, and when not to. Obviously in spoken language, Lugal-la and Lugal-a are identical, but I'm hesitant to just always Auslaut a suffix, especially in writing.

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As I understand it, auslauts are written whenever a suffix starting with a vowel is attached to a form ending in a consonant. In other words, you would indeed write lugal-le and lugal-la. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, and there's some variation by time, place, and individual preference (e.g. both tuš-a and tuš-ša₄ are attested), but I don't think it's ever wrong to include the auslaut, and it appears more often than not.

The reason for this, according to Foxvog, is a phonological process that deleted most consonants in final position (or maybe coda position). In other words, aŋrig "steward" represented something like /aŋrig/ [aŋ.ri], while aŋrig-ga "of a steward" represented /aŋrig-ak/ [aŋ.ri.ga]. Since the basic unit of cuneiform was the syllable, rather than the phoneme, it made sense to write the final syllable as ga rather than a, even though the /g/ properly belonged to the previous morpheme. (Likewise, aŋrig-ga-ka "in [something] of a steward" would have been /aŋrig-ak-a/ [aŋ.ri.ga.ka].)

The exceptions, then, generally involve phonemes that weren't deleted in final position, such as š—the sign tuš ("sit") mentioned above, for example, never seems to have been pronounced /tu/. But regularization is a powerful force, and the spelling tuš-ša₄ doesn't seem to have ever been considered incorrect, even if it never lost its final consonant.

Further reading: CDLI transliteration conventions, Foxvog's grammar

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  • I didn't realize that both forms were attested to. Thank you very much! As for the word-final consonants that weren't deleted, it probably follows some sense of hard/soft consonants, if I had to guess. There are plenty of languages that care whether a consonant is hard/soft, voiced/voiceless, or aspirated/non-aspirated, such as the soft p compared to the heavier ph (not f) sounds in Hindi. Sh sounds wouldn't be dropped because you can't do that sound silently. But cap can just be ca', without making much noise on the p. Just a thought, though.
    – Patrick
    Jun 26 at 23:15
  • @Patrick I believe written auslauts are universal for stops, common for nasals, and sporadic for fricatives, especially š. But I'd need to do a corpus search to be sure; that might be an interesting project for the future.
    – Draconis
    Jun 26 at 23:41

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