30

First, it's worth noting that these are transcriptions, used by linguists, not actual orthographies used by native speakers. The ancient Sumerians didn't write their word for "god" as diĝir; they wrote it as 𒀭. And the people who spoke something like Proto-Indo-European never wrote it down at all. It's only modern scholars who use the Latin alphabet for ...


9

First off, it's worth noting that the main contact between Semitic and Sumerian involved Akkadian, not Hebrew, and the Akkadian words are a bit different—"mother" is ummu, and "father" is abu. And there was another Sumerian word for "father", ad(a); ab(a) probably originally meant "elder" (it's sometimes translated into Akkadian as šību, "elder" or "witness")...


8

Firstly, even though Sumerian had died out by the time Hittite was spoken, the Akkadian priesthood kept using it for religious purposes, and so they would have preserved some knowledge of its pronunciation. The answer to your question lies elsewhere, however. The words represented in the Olympiad questions as »dumumeššu« and »dingirmešša« are not "proper" ...


7

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 ...


5

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 language isolate), Akkadian (Semitic), Hittite (Indo-European), and a handful of others from various families. As far as we know, these languages don't have a common ...


5

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, G̃IŠ.ná: bed, couch (ná = nú-a, 'to lie down' + nominative G̃IŠ.kun4: ladder, stairs, threshold G̃IŠ.kiri6: orchard, garden, palm grove (ki, 'place', + ru5, 'to ...


4

In his award-winning doctoral thesis A descriptive grammar of Sumerian, 2010, Bram Jagersma devotes 2 sections to questions: 8.5 Interrogative pronouns (page 228) and 30.3 Interrogative clauses (page 716). To sum it up, interrogative pronouns are not put as the first word in a sentence, like in English, but instead they take the place of the part of the ...


4

Surprisingly, Foxvog (my usual go-to for Sumerian grammar) doesn't seem to touch on this. But according to ETCSL's grammatical overview: Most Sumerian clauses simply make a statement and, like the English indicative, are zero-marked. However, the same applies to closed questions, that is ones requiring only a yes or no answer, the implication being that ...


4

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 ...


4

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 suffixes (which Sumerian used a lot, especially with verbs) were always written phonetically, since that was really the only way they could be written. (Admittedly, ...


4

There are numerous reasons specific to the language in question. Semitic transcription practices were established a long time ago before the IPA swept the field of linguistics (likewise Finno-Ugric, Bantu, and so on). The letters used are often deliberately vague because there is uncertainty as to the phonetic property of the sound in question (thus Bantu "c"...


3

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 sometimes attested* for females, further suggesting that DIŠ was not always regarded as strongly male-specific. Also, personal names were frequently written ...


3

dumumeššu and dingirmešša are not Hittite, nor are they Sumerian. They are Sumero-Akkadian heterograms for Hittite words.


3

In my opinon, English heteronymy is not the same thing. English words are not a single sign; each word is made up of multiple signs (letters) and even heteronyms have a phonetic basis for their pronunciation. A better comparison might be Chinese languages though. Chinese characters include about 800 polyphonic characters which can make up 25% of a typical ...


3

I don't feel we have enough context to judge the full argument, but going by what you've quoted, it seems that his line of argument is indeed that composing a symbol such that it has a compound meaning but no relationship to a compound pronunciation is problematic, because you dissociate the symbol from the pronunciation. You make it arbitrary and ...


2

To some extent, yes! Sumerian did use some of its characters phonetically to spell out inflections. For example, dumu-tur-bi-ne-da son-small-DEM-PL-COMIT "with those small sons" would be written with the logograms DUMU and TUR, followed by the phonetic characters bi, ne, and da. Sure, the DA sign could also be a logogram for the side of an object or a type ...


2

Jagersma agrees with Gelb that Sumerian had "hidden" phonemes /h/ and /ʔ/, but disagrees about /ħ/. He points out that transcriptions of É (or É.GAL) generally use /h/, even in languages where /ħ/ was available: see the Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic loans mentioned in the question, but also Hurrian haikalli (mentioned by Fournet) and Ugaritic hkl. ...


1

I haven't found any authoritative source backing this up, but as best I can tell from perusing the ePSD: the numbering "carries over" from a reading using only Akkadian phonemes to a reading that contains non-Akkadian ones (particularly Sumerian ĝ/ŋ and ř/dr). Akkadian has always been the best-understood of the languages using syllabic cuneiform, ...


1

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Sumerian roots have no etymological explanation, and it's unlikely there will ever be one. Sumerian is a language isolate: no language related to it has ever been found. So while we can break things down into their constituent parts ("Lugalbanda" contains lugal "king" which contains lu "man" and gal "big"), we can't go ...


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