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23 votes

Was cuneiform ever drawn on a surface, as opposed to carved?

I wonder though, given that it remained in used for thousands of years, was this the only way it was ever utilized? As fdb mentions, it was also sometimes carved or hammered into other materials. ...
Draconis's user avatar
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11 votes
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What's going on with ŠÁR?

TL;DR: The sign ŠAR2 was originally a numeral sign meaning 3600 = 60 × 60. Like all early cuneiform numerals, it was made by pushing the tip of a round stylus into the clay. When these round styli ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
11 votes

Tabannusi in cuneiform script

As noted by Draconis, this is not a Sumerian but an Akkadian word, specifically a form of the verb banû, "to build". Specifically, I would analyze it as the G-durative (for the D-stem, the ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
11 votes
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Representation of /o/ phoneme in Cuneiform

It's likely that Hittite had an /o/ (and represented it in cuneiform!), but most transcriptions still don't reflect this. In Hittite cuneiform, the signs U and Ú were both used frequently for phonetic ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes
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How to find source for cuneiform sign PAN 𒉼?

The first step is finding a good sign list for the period you're interested in. This is where you'll find accurate drawings of the sign for different periods. My specialty is Hittite, so the one I ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes

How to find source for cuneiform sign PAN 𒉼?

As an addendum to Draconis' excellent answer, one source worth trying if you're looking for attestations of a sign in a certain period would be CDLI, whose advanced search form allows searching by ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
9 votes

Tabannusi in cuneiform script

This is an Akkadian word, a form of banû "to build". My grasp of Akkadian conjugation isn't the best, especially for "weak" verbs that lose one of their consonants, but it looks ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
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What is Ugaritic "Ž"?

In the monograph Угаритский язык [1965, Сегерт С.] (“The Ugaritic Language”, 1965, by Stanislav Segert), page 22, section 3.14, the author states that in the latest stages of the existence of Ugaritic ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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8 votes

How do Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs differ?

The biggest difference, as you mention, is that the oldest forms of hieroglyphic writing don't indicate vowels at all and the oldest forms of cuneiform writing do. (By "oldest forms" here I ...
Draconis's user avatar
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7 votes

What is Ś in Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform?

ś is the conventional transliteration for Hebrew שׂ ( śīn ), and is used also for its Semitic source, now more usually transcribed as s₂. It is believed that Old Akkadian (at least) still retained ...
fdb's user avatar
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How are cuneiform glyphs numbered?

In theory, the signs with the lowest index numbers are the most frequent. In practice, the numbers were assigned when the pronunciation of signs were first identified. For example, after u1, u2, u3 ...
fdb's user avatar
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How to find translation for cuneiform script containing "man" and "heaven/god"

It appears to be a made-up combination of signs from different periods, with one of the signs flipped backwards. The first sign appears to be a combination of the Neo-Assyrian forms of LÚ = "man" (...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
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Phonetic reconstruction of "Haremhab"

Egyptian hieroglyphs, in general, only record consonants, not vowels. The hieroglyphic name of the pharaoh Horemheb records the consonants ħr-m-ħb with no indication of the vowels to be used. This, of ...
Draconis's user avatar
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7 votes

Was cuneiform ever drawn on a surface, as opposed to carved?

“5000 years ago the old Sumerians wrote on fistfuls of mud, and we can still read what they wrote. 2000 years ago the Chinese were writing on worm excrement (also called silk) and on bamboo shoots, ...
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6 votes
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Is there a standardized graphical encoding for cuneiform?

I haven't heard about anything like that concerning cuneiform glyphs, but there's a very interesting paper, The Xixia Writing System (Bachelor of Arts Honours Thesis), 2008, by Alan Downes (...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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6 votes

How do we know that Sumerian determinatives were not pronounced?

Another good indication is the use of determinatives in linguistically-unrelated languages that share the same writing system. Classical Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform was used to write Sumerian (a ...
Draconis's user avatar
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5 votes

What is Ugaritic "Ž"?

To add on to Yellow Sky's excellent answer, and based on suggestions by Vladimir F in the comments, here's an excerpt from Segert's later A Basic Grammar of Ugaritic Language (1985): In some late, ...
Draconis's user avatar
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5 votes

How do we know that Sumerian determinatives were not pronounced?

A good argument for determiners being silent can be this: names of different kinds of trees and names of wooden things were preceded by the determiner G̃IŠ (tree, wood, tool), for example: G̃IŠ.nàd, ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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How is Urkesh spelled in cuneiform?

It's not that surprising for the cuneiform spelling of proper names to sometimes vary, as they indeed seem to do here. The first tablet (AO 5678) on the page you linked to is somewhat damaged, but ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
4 votes
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How to decode the Cuneiform ORACC data?

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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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Can you build words by sound in Sumerian Cuneiform?

Yes, Sumerian scribes did sometimes write words entirely or partly phonetically using syllable signs. This could occur for several reasons: As Draconis already noted, grammatical prefixes and ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
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Are there non-binary or gender-neutral cuneiform determinatives?

If I'm not mistaken, the determiner DIŠ (which is literally just the sign for "one", a single cuneiform wedge) can sometimes be found also with female names. The double determiner DIŠ.MUNUS is also ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
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Were long vowels distinguished in cuneiform?

In Akkadian, Ca-a, Cu-u, Ci-i are often used to indicate Semitic long vowels, but this is not consistent. For example, dabābu “word” is usually written as da-ba-bu, but sometimes it appears as da-ba-...
fdb's user avatar
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How many sibilants did Old Akkadian cuneiform distinguish?

Gelb proposes that there were four sibilant series, somewhat confusingly named z, š₁₂, š₃, and š₄. The z series was written with signs ZA, ZÉ, ZI, ZU, and represented the outcome of what Semiticists ...
Draconis's user avatar
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4 votes

How do we name a sign when we don't know any of its readings?

A relatively common convention (see e.g. the ETCSL sign list and Wikipedia) is to notate such "juxtaposed" compound signs by joining the component sign names with a period (.). That is, ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
3 votes
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A question about cuneiform transliteration

Yes, when a sign is transliterated in lowercase, it's being used to indicate the pronunciation of an Akkadian word—but the origin of that pronunciation is not specified. For example, the sign a is ...
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