30 votes

Why are the orthographies of Ancient/Proto Languages so Impractical?

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 ...
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Similarities between Sumerian and Semitic languages

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 ...
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(How) did Hittite borrow words from Sumerian?

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 ...
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When/Where are Auslauts used in Sumerian?

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 ...
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7 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 ...
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5 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 ...
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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, ...
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4 votes

Do we know how to ask yes/no questions in Sumerian?

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 ...
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Do we know how to ask yes/no questions in Sumerian?

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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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4 votes

Why was polyphony a failure for the Sumerians, when English functions with heteronymy?

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 ...
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Why are the orthographies of Ancient/Proto Languages so Impractical?

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, ...
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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 ...
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3 votes

(How) did Hittite borrow words from Sumerian?

dumumeššu and dingirmešša are not Hittite, nor are they Sumerian. They are Sumero-Akkadian heterograms for Hittite words.
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Why is a Compound Ideograph disastrous if the meaning of the characters are relevant, but not their pronunciations?

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 ...
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2 votes

Can you build words by sound in Sumerian Cuneiform?

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 ...
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2 votes

Did Sumerian have /ħ/?

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 ...
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Difference between 𒄣 and 𒄤

gum ( 𒄣) usually means to beat something to pieces, while gaz ( 𒄤) means to crush something. This glossary shows gaz as something similar to gum. They're synonyms.
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2 votes

How do Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs differ?

I don't think much is known about the early stages of Egyptian writing. We get either a few objects with Hieroglyphic labels in the first few centuries or full blown passages in the pyramid texts a ...
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1 vote

What is the consensus on Sumerian auslauts?

[S]hould the lady of heaven be Inanna or Inana? It seems it doesn't matter. As Ilmari Karonen put it in a comment: I don't think consonant gemination was phonemic in Sumerian, at least as far as we ...
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1 vote

When does cuneiform numbering "carry over"?

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 ...
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How should the Sumerian ergative marker be read?

Foxvog has a note on this on page 31: Related to this phenomenon is the matter discussed by Thomsen in §107. As the Table of Syllabic Sign Values (p. 157) shows, the NI and BI signs can also be read ...
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1 vote

Is the Sumerian king list etymologically understood?

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 ...
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1 vote

How can I find the word "behind" a cuneiform logogram?

This is a good list of logograms and their pronunciation and meaning that I have found helpful: https://github.com/asahala/Cuneiformtools/blob/master/logograms-akkadian/logograms-akkadian.txt
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