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Sumerian - UniLang

Sumerian

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Lauren
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Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 10:01

Is there anyone here that is truly interested in studying Sumerian?

I am, and am seriously thinking about studying it. I have loved it for several years, but have been putting it off because I knew it would take a lot of work. Now I think it's finally time that I begin studying it. I know a lot is still undecided on Sumerian linguistics, but I think enough is known where I could write my own original sentences in the language.

What do you guys think about Sumerian?
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lur » 2012-09-19, 10:09

Yeah!!

If you do anything about Sumerian I'll be there to learn a bit too, although I don't have much time :D

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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 10:28

Great. :D I may take you up on that offer; I've always wanted to speak Sumerian. 8-)
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lur » 2012-09-19, 11:08

There's a part in the comic book I'm writing that goes in an ancient language and so far one of my favourites for the role is Sumerian due to it's isolated nature and aesthetics.

I like Akkadian too, but when it comes to Semitic languages I'm most likely starting with the Arabic ones.

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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 11:12

Cool! A comic with Sumerian would be awesome. You should learn it with me! :mrgreen:
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Re: Sumerian

Postby księżycowy » 2012-09-19, 11:17

Oh hell yeah, I have an interest in Sumerian. I used to have Hayes' A Manual of Sumerian, but ended up having to return it at the time. I've always kicked myself for not keeping it. :evil:
I don't really have room for another language right now, but if you guys post anything I'll follow it. :yep:
þūhte mē þæt ic gesāwe syllicre trēow on lyft lædan lēohte bewunden bēama beorhtost.

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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 11:22

Yep, I'm thinking about starting a Sumerian log. I have some ideas of what I could post. :)

I have that book too (PDF), and that's going to be my main book. I think I really will study Sumerian. Maybe if I commit myself to Sumerian like I did Prussian then the admins will stop ignoring my request to be a moderator for this forum. :ohwell:

A Manual of Sumerian is really good in my opinion. While it doesn't teach a whole lot it seems, it gets into the basics, and the descriptions of the texts' translations and the vocab descriptions are very interesting to me. :)
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lur » 2012-09-19, 13:25

It's seems I'll be mixing Latin with Basque with Sumerian this course then :D

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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 13:32

Awesome! If you do decide to learn it intensively, I'd be happy to see you try posting in it here. :) I certainly am going to try. Also, I speak Basque quite well, and can help (teach) you if you'd like.

I'm on lesson 11 of A Manual of Sumerian, and have most of the content memorized. Like I said, that's not much of an achievement, because the texts are mostly the same. The texts start out as royal building declarations, and just get more complex little by little. It's a good book, but I wouldn't pay much for it. $20 at most. :P
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Karavinka » 2012-09-19, 14:39

I actually have read Hayes to the last lesson... and I can't say I know much Sumerian. Hayes presents Sumerian with very simple texts, while explaining different interpretations on the grammar of the language. And while I don't mean to discourage you, but I wouldn't ever want to dare composing anything in the language after reading Hayes since most of the texts are rather repetitive and formulaic. What Hayes teaches is how to read the most commonly found royal inscriptions, not the language (as it is known) in a comprehensive manner. In other words, it's simply not a complete course in itself. (To be fair, Hayes himself admits this and says he's going to publish the second volume with a focus on literary Sumerian, but so far it hasn't come out yet)
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 14:57

Karavinka wrote:I actually have read Hayes to the last lesson... and I can't say I know much Sumerian. Hayes presents Sumerian with very simple texts, while explaining different interpretations on the grammar of the language. And while I don't mean to discourage you, but I wouldn't ever want to dare composing anything in the language after reading Hayes since most of the texts are rather repetitive and formulaic. What Hayes teaches is how to read the most commonly found royal inscriptions, not the language (as it is known) in a comprehensive manner. In other words, it's simply not a complete course in itself. (To be fair, Hayes himself admits this and says he's going to publish the second volume with a focus on literary Sumerian, but so far it hasn't come out yet)

So far I am not being discouraged. I have other grammars, including A Descriptive Grammar of Sumerian, and plan on reading Sumerian literature when I get to the desired level.

I am well aware that so many things are not understood about Sumerian, but I believe a revival is possible. It may be a standardized language, with borrowed words and neologisms, but like Hebrew, Cornish, and Prussian, it wouldn't be a conlang.
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lur » 2012-09-19, 15:13

If you need words you can borrow from Akkadian. :lol:

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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 15:19

Luke wrote:If you need words you can borrow from Akkadian. :lol:

True. :P But I mean words for things well beyond their time, like "computer" and "atom" and the like. Neologisms are preferred, but they can often be unwieldy.

Zuzen dago. :P Baina nik esan nahi dut ongi bere aldiz kanpoan dagoen hitzak, "ordenagailua" eta "atomo" bezela. Neologismoak nahiago ditu, baina sarritan erabilgaitzak dira.
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Karavinka » 2012-09-19, 15:32

No, it will be a conlang.
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 15:40

Karavinka wrote:No, it will be a conlang.

So you consider revived Cornish, Hebrew, and Prussian conlangs too?
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lur » 2012-09-19, 15:43

I think he means that we understand these far better than Sumerian. There's no living or dead language to compare Sumerian to.

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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 15:47

I'm sure (I hope) I'm not the first person to make original sentences in Sumerian. I personally hate the fact that historically people only taught and learned how to read a dead language, and not to compose in it or speak it. I particularly hate people that think languages are dead for a reason, and they think that they deserve to be dead.

Ziur nago (espero dut) berezko esaldiak sumerieraz lehen laguna ez naizela. Nik neuk pertsonek historikoki hildako hizkuntzak ikasten eta irakasten zutela bakarrik gorroto dut, eta inoiz ez idazten edo esaten zuten. Batez ere zenbaitengaitik hizkuntza hil egin duen pertsonak gorroto ditut, eta heriotza merezi dutela pentsatzen duen pertsonak gorroto ere
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Karavinka » 2012-09-19, 17:20

Whether you want to speak a dead language or not is your preference and I see no reason not to do so if you can. But one thing that I hope you understand is that sometimes, we just don't understand the language very well. Biblical Hebrew, with its entire Biblical corpus, is still too meagre to exhaust everything we want to know to use the language for everything.

You want to converse in Sumerian? What would be your model for conversation? You're not going to build a conversation based on royal inscriptions or economic texts, which comprise the majority of the texts, nor from highly stylized poetry. There are surviving philosophical dialogues, but this too is far too idealized and stylized. (Not to mention being few in number) If nobody left us records of a conversational language, then it's just obvious that we can't reconstruct that aspect of the language. Even the languages with extensive literature like Latin have the same problem.

Not only was Sumerian written for thousands of years after it no longer the vernacular, but what was written has preserved only a part of the language. The surviving texts consiist primarily of highly conventionalized administrative documents, academic word lists, and poetic compositions; there is very little literary prose. As a result, one mus talways keep in mind that we are dealing with highly formalized forms of verbal art far removed from any putative language of the streets, constrained by certain conventions with restricted rhetorical scope.

Piotr Michalowski, "Sumerian", in The Ancient Languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Aksum


But let's say we ignore all the pragmatics of the language. It's the modern incarnation, so the language's style can certainly change. Let's call it language evolution and we could speak neo-Latin, Modern Hebrew, or whatever....assuming that we at least understand the basic structure of the language fairly well. The problem with Sumerian is that we don't. It's not just "some grammar", it's a lot of the grammar. Much of the verbal system remains a mystery. From the same book, let me just cite a few sentences.

Phonology: "The phonology of the language is not well understood, and it is fair to say that it will never be fully recoverred."

Pronouns: "Nothing is known about inanimate third person, although it is possible that this function was fulfilled by ur5 (or ur5-bi). As already noted, not all forms are attested."

Adjectives: "No proper study of adjectives exists; recent grammars contain limited information on this category."

Valence: "Matters of valence in Sumerian have been disputed, but no concensus has been reached."

Tense and aspect: "Opinion is divided on whether the two forms of the Sumerian verb differ in tense or in aspect. ... There has been much discussion of the exact meaning of these words [hamtu and maru] as well as of whether these technical terms describe the Sumerian verbal forms or their Akkadian translations."

Mood: "The traditional description of modes distinguishes between pairs of homophonous prefixes that differ in meaning depending on the mood. ... There are reasons to reject this interpretation; certain modal prefixes are indeed usually associated with one aspect or the other, but this results from the semantics of the mode and not from any formal constraints."

Conjugation prefixes: "The prefixes that fall in this position constitute the most controversial part of Sumerian grammar. No two Sumerologists appear to agree fully on their form, meaning, etymology, and identity; the number of ranks that they occupy is equally disputed."

Syntax: "The syntax of Sumerian is perhaps the most neglected part of the grammar."

I could go on more, because almost every aspect of Sumerian grammar is disputable. I know of Edzard's grammar which you mentioned, and I have read quite a bit of it myself, and while I do think it's a great work, it's not conclusive. (The chapter which I cited, "Sumerian", in The Ancient Languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Aksum, was written after Edzard.)

So, this is my take on it. If you want to speak Latin, ignoring ancient pragmatics because now it's spoken in modern settings, go for it. No problem, you could still speak grammatically correct Latin even if your phrasings might look awkward to the Romans, but they're dead and you're not. Modern Hebrew already became a new language on its own, and people distinguish the two for a good reason. If you want to speak Gothic, it's going to have to be extremely cautious project because, as far as I know, we still don't fully understand the aspectual (imperfective-perfective) distinctions of Gothic, which is something you really need to understand to speak a language that makes such a disttinction.

If you want to speak Sumerian, I'd say it's damn impossible unless you want to re-create a Sumerian-based conlang from scratch because as you saw above, almost every aspect of Sumerian will need to be reconstructed. So, my bottom line is this: some ancient langauges cannot yet be revived for a good reason, they're still in the stage of decipherment, and we don't understand them as fully as we'd like to.
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Re: Sumerian

Postby Lauren » 2012-09-19, 17:22

Maybe you're right. Maybe Akkadian would be a better candidate. It's too bad, I like Sumerian a lot.

Agian zuzen zaude. Agian akadiera hautagai hobea luke. Pena da, sumeriera oso gogoko dut.
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Lur
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Joined: 2012-04-15, 23:22
Real Name: V.
Location: Al-Andalus

Re: Sumerian

Postby Lur » 2012-09-20, 22:58

Looking at the state of Sumerian and Early Egyptian, if you're looking for "old" Akkadian seems to be the next best option.

But I agree, I think Sumerian must have been a fascinating language.


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