A descriptive grammar of Sumerian - download pdf or read online

By Bram Jagersma

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In order to lessen ambiguity, auxiliary signs were introduced. Certain logograms came to be used as semantic or as phonemic indicators. 2 above) gave a clue as to the pronunciation of the preceding or following logogram. Thus, used as a determinative the sign for diĝir ‘god’ expressed merely the concept ‘god’, while the sound part diĝir of its original value played no role. LÍLki (with the logogram ki ‘place’ used as a determinative) came to represent nibru, the name of a city. While determinatives were in origin word signs stripped of a pronunciation, phonetic complements were logograms stripped of a meaning.

Dialects were primarily a feature of the spoken language, whereas the written language tended to be quite uniform. Yet, in the earlier periods, when political unification was still the exception, local scribal traditions were stronger and those usually reflected traits of the local dialects. Legal and illegal excavations have yielded texts from a limited number of larger towns. Many regions are poorly documented. On the available evidence we can identify two main dialects during the second half of the third millennium BCE.

Moreover, a sound sign usually represents a sound sequence which is derived from the pronunciation of a word represented by that same sign as a logogram. Thus, the word sign for dam ‘husband, wife’ can be used as the sound sign for dam. The word sign for ga ‘milk’ is the sound sign for ga. And so on. Many phonograms represent a sound sequence which is only a partial derivation from a logographic value. Often they stand only for the sound sequence corresponding to the initial part of a word's pronunciation.

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A descriptive grammar of Sumerian by Bram Jagersma


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