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Grammar

# Grammar

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09/14/2014

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INTRODUCTION TO SUMERIAN GRAMMAR
DANIEL A FOXVOGLECTURER IN ASSYRIOLOGY (RETIRED)UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEYRevised June 2011

2 CONTENTSPREFACE 3THE SUMERIAN WRITING SYSTEM 4TABLE OF SYLLABIC SIGN VALUES 16PHONOLOGY 18NOUNS AND ADJECTIVES 23THE NOMINAL CHAIN 28PRONOUNS AND DEMONSTRATIVES 31SUMMARY OF PERSONAL PRONOUN FORMS 38THE ADNOMINAL CASES: GENITIVE AND EQUATIVE 39THE COPULA 46ADVERBS AND NUMERALS 51THE ADVERBAL CASES 54INTRODUCTION TO THE VERB 61DIMENSIONAL PREFIXES 1: INTRODUCTION 69DIMENSIONAL PREFIXES 2: DATIVE 73DIMENSIONAL PREFIXES 3: COMITATIVE, ABLATIVE-INSTRUMENTAL, TERMINATIVE 78CORE PREFIXES: ERGATIVE, LOCATIVE-TERMINATIVE, LOCATIVE 83THE VENTIVE ELEMENT 90RELATIVE CLAUSES: THE NOMINALIZING SUFFIX -a 95PREFORMATIVES (MODAL PREFIXES) 102THE IMPERATIVE 109IMPERFECTIVE FINITE VERBS 117PARTICIPLES AND THE INFINITIVE 127APPENDIX: CHART OF VERBAL PREFIX CHAIN ELEMENTS 150APPENDIX: THE EMESAL DIALECT 151INDEX 152EXERCISES 153

3PREFACEE
ntia non sunt multiplicandapraeter necessitatemWilliam of Ockham
This grammar is intended primarily for use in the first year of university study underthe guidance of a teacher who can describe the classic problems in greater detail, addcurrent alternative explanations for phenomena, help the student parse and understandthe many textual illustrations found throughout, and provide supplementary informationabout the history of the language and the culture of early Mesopotamia. A few exerciseshave been provided to accompany study of the lessons, some artificial, others drawn fromactual texts. Both require vocabulary lookup from the companion Elementary SumerianGlossary or its equivalent. Upon completing this introduction, the student will be wellprepared to progress to sign learning and reading of texts. Konrad Volk's A SumerianReader (Studia Pohl Series Maior 18, Rome, 1997-) is a good beginning.This introduction may also be of benefit to those who have already learned some Sumerianmore or less inductively through the reading of simple royal inscriptions and who wouldnow like a more structured review of its grammar, with the help of abundant textualillustrations, from something a bit more practical and pedagogically oriented than theavailable reference grammars.Cross-references have often been provided throughout to sections in Marie-Louise Thom-sen's standard The Sumerian Langauge (Copenhagen, 1987
2
), where additional informationand further examples can often be found for individual topics. A more modern andconcise restatement of the entire grammatical system is Dietz Otto Edzard's SumerianGrammar (Leiden, 2003). An up to date quick overview is Gonzalo Rubio's "SumerianMorphology," in Alan S. Kaye (ed.), Morphologies of Asia and Africa II (2007) 1327-1379.Pascal Attinger's encyclopedic Eléments de linguistique sumérienne (Fribourg, 1993) is atremendously helpful reference but beyond the reach of the beginner. Abraham Jagersma'snew Descriptive Grammar of Sumerian will soon be published by Oxford University Press.For standard Assyriological abbreviations used in this introduction see the Abbreviationsfor Assyriology of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) on the Web. Thechronological abbreviations used here are:OS Old Sumerian period (2500-2350 BC)Sarg. Sargonic period (2350-2150 BC)Ur III Third Dynasty of Ur (2100-2000 BC)OB Old Babylonian period (1900-1600 BC)For those who may own a version of my less polished UC Berkeley teaching grammar from1990 or earlier the present version will be seen to be finally comprehensive, greatlyexpanded, hopefully much improved, and perhaps worth a serious second look. My descrip-tion of the morphology and historical morphophonemics of the verbal prefix system remainsan idiosyncratic, somewhat unconventional minority position, but even after nearly threedecades of concentrated effort there is still no full concensus on the subject amongother scholars specializing in Sumerian grammar.The annual revisions of this grammar have corrected errors, added references to newstudies, occasionaly deleted poor textual illustrations, improved translations, andprovided slightly fuller descriptions of phenomena. Changes can therefore be consideredminor. I have preserved the pagination almost exactly despite these revisions.D.A.F.Guerneville, California USAJune 2011