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The Name of Elam in Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hebrew Author(s): Arno Poebel Reviewed work(s): Source: The American

Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Oct., 1931), pp. 20-26 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/529000 . Accessed: 29/12/2012 13:28
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THE NAME OF ELAM IN SUMERIAN, AKKADIAN, AND HEBREW


BY ARNO POEBEL University of Chicago

In his book, Mesopotamian Origins, page 26, note 1, E. A. Speiser writes: Grammatik Poebel (Sumerische 64) wouldderiveElam fromthe Sumerian form (E)NIM. This explanationappears to me very doubtful, particularly too many phoneticchanges. For we should have to assince it presupposes of the final vowel, and lastly, sume the changefrom n to 1, the modification of the initial vowel in the Akkadianform, althoughit apthe preservation pearsto have been lost in Sumerian. Feeling that Speiser's statement does not render what I say in of my Gru.ndziige der sumerischen Grammatik, I avail myself of 86 ? this opportunity to state my real position concerning the problems touched by Speiser. 1. As regards the passage in GSG, ? 64, this reads: "Vgl. ferner Elam, geschr. mit dem Zeichen enim, akk. Elamtu, 'Elam.' " .... Nothing is stated here beyond the fact that-to repeat it in Englishthe Sumerian name of the country of Elam, which, according to me, is Elam, is written with a cuneiform sign that has not only the phonetic value elam but also the phonetic value enim. This fact, furthermore, is mentioned in GSG, ? 64, for the sole purpose of illustrating the rule which forms the subject of this particular paragraph, namely, that in Sumerian the n that is followed by vowel and labial consonant (i.e., b, p, and m) is apt to be changed into 1. As anyone can see, all I say in that paragraph refers to the interchange of n and 1 in the two Sumerian phonetic values of the sign NIM. With no word is it stated, or even hinted, that I hold the opinion that the name Elam was to be derived from the Sumerian word enim or originated from an older name Enim, or even Nim, of the country of Elam. In fact, such a thought has never entered my mind, since the view I hold is that the Sumerian name Elam goes back to a more original *halam, which etymologically is identical with the Elamitic *haltam (later hatam),
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"Elamite," in ialtam-ti (later hatam-ti), "land of the Elamites." It seems that the consonants It in the middle of the old Elamitic *haltam represented a kind of versicolor consonant which in Elamitic writing was sometimes expressed as lt, but later usually was written t, while the Sumerians suppressed the t and retained only the 1-sound of the original lt. As regards the h at the beginning of the Elamitic word, this might very well have been a consonant similar to the Semitic cayin, if we may place any reliance on the Hebrew writing of the country's name as 0?7; but, in the present state of our knowledge of Elamitic, and especially of old Elamitic, phonology, nothing definite can be said on this question. As will be seen from this, the arguments adduced by Speiser in the footnote quoted do not touch my own statements and views, since I do not derive the name of the country of Elam from a Sumerian name Nim, but simply contrast the phonetic values elam and enim with each other. Especially, however, the last of his arguments, namely, that the e of Elam, as compared with Nim, would constitute a third phonetic change, should not have been urged against me, for the simple reason that the phonetic values elam and enim, of which I speak, both have the e.1 2. On the other hand, the very fact that Speiser himself still shares the old assumption that the Sumerian name for Elam was Nim (cf. his express statement at the beginning of his chapter ii) is rather astonishing. For the fact that the sign NIMin the Sumerian writing of the name of the country or people of Elam is to be read elam was indicated by me as early as 1914 in my Historical Texts, pp. 188 f., 193, 198 f., and 201 f., and also later in several other places. Moreover, the very passage in GSG (1923) referred to by Speiser himself makes it completely clear that, according to my view, the Sumerian name of the country is to be read Elam. The phonetic value e-la-am
I I assume, on the other hand, that Speiser does not want to intimate that the doubts he professes to entertain on account of the three sound changes should also apply to the phonetic interrelations between the value elam and the values enim, nim, and num of the sign NIM. As to the most conspicuous change, that of n to i-to mention this point first-there can be no doubt whatever in view of the phonetic law which I have pointed out in GSG, ? 86, and in previous as well as later publications (cf., e.g., ZA, N.F. V, 140). As to the interchange of the vowels i and a, note also the Telloh Emesal form nam for nim, as we find it in a-a-ba-IGI-na-ma-'e (ZA, N.F. III, 162), the equivalent of the well-known a-abba-IGI-nim(-ma)-.R of the main dialect (see ibid., pp. 259 f.). As regards the last of Speiser's points, there cannot be the slightest doubt that, e.g., the values enim and nim are identical with each other, although the one begins with, the other without, an e.

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is attested by CT, XI, 5: 41512 (Syll. A), rev. 9,1 of the sign and is also given on an unpublished Nippur tablet which contains part of the Nippur Syllabary. This value elam, moreover, results also from the Akkadian name of the sign NIM,namely, e-la-mu (CT, XI, 5: 41512, rev. 9, and duplicate CT, XI, 5, top of the page), which on the analogy of other Akkadian sign names is made up of the Sumerian value elam and the Akkadian nominative ending -u. The value follows likewise from the sign's Sumerian name elam-which is identical with the phonetic value of the sign-as we find it, e.g., in the name

~ci

of the sign

<

, namely, Ad-e-lam-ma-ku-ga-na(-t[e]-n[u]-[u])2-i-du

(= s'(g)-elam-ak-a gana(-ten2)2 i-du(r)), "into (the sign) elam (the sign) gana(-ten^) has been inserted," CT, XI, 5: 41512, rev. 10 (and variant, CT, XI, 5, top of the page, col. 614). Since thus the fact that the sign NIMhad the Sumerian value elam is established beyond any doubt, it is, of course, clear that this phonetic value, not the value nim, of the sign NIMwas read by the Sumerians in the name of the country which the Akkadians called Elam-tu and the Hebrews cRlam. With the country's Sumerian name being Elam and not, as Speiser assumes, Nim, Speiser's and his predecessors' interpretation of the name as "Highland" may be regarded as refuted, this assumption being based on the fact that the syllabaries equate Sumerian nim with Akkadian saq'C,"high," and elu, "upper." At least, it would now, if this explanation should stand, be necessary to prove that the Sumerian word elam likewise has the meaning of the Akkadian saq' and el ; and even if this in the future should turn out to be the case, even then the conformity of the name of the country of Elam with the possible Sumerian word elam, "high," might be but a coincidence. All thoughts of connecting Elam with a Sumerian root meaning "high," however, are disposed of by the fact that the derivation of the name Elam from the Elamitic *haltam, as I pointed out above, is the far more natural one. Besides, it would be rather difficult to imagine why the Sumerians should have designated as "Highland" Kar' oxNv just the country of Elam; for, although Elam is certainly a mountainous country lying higher than the alluvial plain of Baby1 The duplicate, CT, XI, 5, top of the page, col. 613, gives the value less correctly as e-la-mu, apparently under the influence of the Akkadian name of the sign. 2 Or did the variant have ga-gu-nu =gagunnft?

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lonia, yet there were northwest and southeast of Elam other countries in mountainous regions, each of which might have been called a "Highland"; indeed, even Arabia, west of Babylonia, could have been designated as such. For what reason, then, should Elam have been called "the Highland" in preference to all the other countries? In reality, furthermore, the Sumerians expressed the idea "Highland" by means of kur, "mountain," for which reason every country outside of Babylonia (even Arabia) was called a kur. Thus it would not be necessary at all to use an adjective nim or elam meaning "high" to express the idea "highland," and, in fact, in the whole Sumerian literature the use of the word nim, as denoting a highland, is nowhere found. What we really find are geographical expressions like kalamIGI-nim, which, however, means "the upper country" (= mdtum alitum), HGT, No. 34, cols. 5 and 6 (see HT, p. 177), a-ab-ba-sin-ga-ta a-ab-ba-IGI-nim-ma-~ , "from the lower sea to the upper sea," Lugalor zaggisi 25.81, sig-ta nim(a)-s, "from below to above," Gudea, Cyl. B, 242, etc. Moreover, in the old inscriptions NIM,i.e., elam, alone usually designates the people of Elam or even the Elamite as a single person, while the country usually is elamkior kur-elam(ki). Even if, for the moment, we should concede that kur-elam might mean "Highland," nevertheless elam alone would not mean "Highlander," but only "a high one" or "the upper one." Finally, the idea that Elam was the "Highland" Kar' oxvY would tend to conflict with the general Babylonian idea that southeast is "below" and northwest "above," on which basis Elam is considered as being situated "below"; cf., e.g., sinl(g)-v elam-ma (variant: elamki-ma),HGT, 20, rev. 7 (variant: 21, obv. 3), and siin(g)-sv elamki-ma,HGT, 20, rev. 10, "toward below, Elam (or the Elamites)," as compared with nim-seta-al-ma, HGT, 20, rev. 8, and 21, obv. 4, "toward above, lalma"; nim-v IN?-RI, and HGT, 20, rev. 11, and 21, obv. 8, "toward above, IN(?)-RI"; ti-id-nu-umk"-e u4-4s-se, HGT, 20, rev. 9, "Tidnum toward the west." As one sees, the difficulties connected with the assumption that Elam was designated by the Sumerians as the "Highland" are much greater and more numerous than they might seem at first sight. No lesser difficulties present themselves with Speiser's and his predecessors' assumption that the Akkadian Elamtum is a translation of the Sumerian Nim. It is certainly true that Sumerian nim is

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THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SEMITIC LANGUAGES

equated by the syllabaries with Akkadian eluC, "upper"; but "Highor "the more is in Akkadian mdtum correctly upper land," land," alitum, later mdtu elenitu, and not (mdtum) elamtu, which is no form of el~ at all, since the m of elamtu would be entirely inexplicable if the word were to be derived from that Akkadian root. For this latter has as third radical a (b~'), which never could become an m, at least not in Akkadian. Therefore, if Elamtu should really have a Semitic derivation, it would at least be necessary to assume that the idiom concerned was some completely unknown branch of the Semitic languages; moreover, it would be an idiom with consonantal developments that seem to be rather queer in the light of what else we know about the consonants of the Semitic languages. Although the assumption of such an idiom might be used as an argument in defense of a preconceived theory, yet it could in no way furnish us a decisive proof that there really was a root M?7= ~Y in such a pre-Akkadian Semitic idiom in Babylonia. Speiser, too, notices the difficulty presented by the m of elamtu; he believes that the m is an ending, and contents himself with the assumption that this ending "may be due to some analogy which has so far escaped us." But this means, of course, that there is left a serious gap in Speiser's arguments for his explanation of Elamtu. On the other hand, no such difficulty would confront us, if we assume that the Akkadian Elamtum is the Sumerian name Elam with the ending -(a)tum; for we have for this assumption an exact parallel in the Akkadian name Subartu, which shows in its first part the country's Sumerian name Subir (here Subar) and in the last part of the word again the ending -(a)tum. As regards this ending -tum, it is, to be sure, by no means likely that it really represents, or originally represented, the feminine ending for which it was taken by the Akkadians. For the adding of the feminine ending to the name of a foreign country is a phenomenon otherwise strange to Akkadian. But a satisfactory explanation is right at hand, at least in the case of Elamtum. For there is no doubt that the -tu was added by the Akkadians under the influence of the Elamitic ha(l)tam-ti, "Ja(l)tamland," which in Elamitic is the regular name for Elam, formed by adding the country suffix -ti, which originally, of course, was a regular word for "land," to the ethnic name ha(1)tam, "Elamite." The Ak-

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kadian Elamtu was, therefore, not simply derived from Sumerian, but contains also an Elamitic element, unless, after all, the old Akkadian language adopted the whole name directly from Elamitic; that is to say, just as Sumerian derived its Elam from the Elamitic *ha(l)tam, the oldest Akkadians may have derived their Elamtu from the Elamitic ha(l)tam-ti. It will be noticed that with this explanation the Akkadian Elamtu no longer presents any difficulty. a considerable difficulty in If, lastly, we turn to the Hebrew 0, explaining this name, too, would result, if Speiser's and his predecessors' assumption were right that the Sumerian name of Elam was Nim. For in this case, the Hebrew c~ldm could be derived only from the Akkadian Elamtu, since under Speiser's assumptions this alone, at least in its main part, would contain a form of the name similar to that in Hebrew. But then, of course, arises the question why the Hebrews did not, in conformity with the Akkadian, call the country or 't and called it 0$7, but dropped the ending %I nu'S? or i:, a difficulty which Speiser apparently overlooks. If, however, the Sumerian form of the name was Elam and not Nim, then the Hebrew form =017 is easily explained: it was the Sumerian name of the eastern country that the Hebrews adopted. There is nothing surprising in that. For, as late as the 3d dynasty of Ur, at least the official language of the Babylonian Empire was Sumerian; and since the kings of Ur held sway over the Martu-country, i.e., over Arabia, and at least sometimes their dominion probably extended even over Palestine, the adoption of the Sumerian name for Elam by the then inhabitants of Arabia and Palestine might even be considered as what one should expect. Nor is "Y;the only case in the Old Testament of a geographical or ethnological name in characteristically Sumerian form. who is the repreFor example, the name of Noah's eldest son, Sm, sentative of the people and the country of Sumer, clearly shows the name in the Sumerian form-more specifically in its Emesal formSumi, that is, without the final r of the name's stem Sumer, which r, as an amissible consonant, is dropped in Sumerian whenever it stands at the end of a word or a syllable. It will be remembered that the Akkadians, on the other hand, called the country of Sumer mdt Sumeri, "land of the Sumerian." For the vocalization S&min Hebrew and for the dropping of the final vowel of Sumi note that Akkadian

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sumu/i/a, "name," likewise appears as sem in Hebrew. Then, also, Hebrew "7j, "Babylonia," is taken from Sumerian; for it represents Singi-Uri, the half-dialectical(?) form' of the well-known term Kengi-Uri, "Sumer and Akkad," with which the Sumerians used to express the idea of Babylonia as a whole, whereas the Semitic Akkadians called it mdt Sumert u Akkadt, "land of the Sumerian and the Akkadian." It will be observed that the Hebrew Sinc-()dr--as I believe we have to analyze it2-shows in its first part Sinc, "Sumer," again the name without the final r of the original S/Kengir, exactly as do the Sumerian forms Kengi or Sengi. As in &Sm(<Sumi), also in Sinc-(D)ar (<Singi-Uri), the final vowels are dropped. The Hebrew 'IptJ, to mention that here expressly, is, of course, not identical with Sumer, which is the name for Southern Babylonia only. Note that, according to Gen. 10: 10, the cities of Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and Kalneh(=?) are situated in Sincar; Babylon and Akkad, however, are cities of Northern Babylonia. According to Gen. 11:2, the tower of Babel is built in the country of Sincar. If DAmraphel,king of Sincar, in Genesis, chapter 14, really is identical with Hammurabi, he could, of course, not be called a king of Sumer, since this alone never formed the kingdom of Hammurabi; but Hammurabi was a king of Sumer and Akkad, i.e., of the whole of Babylonia, and indeed bears that title in all of his later inscriptions. Summing up the results of our discussion, we may say that the Sumerian and Akkadian names of the country of Elam, as well as, indirectly, also the Hebrew name, go back to the name of people and country of Elam in Elamitic. The relations among the various names may be illustrated by the following table:
ELAM.

*Hla(1)tam

ELAM. Ha(1)tam-ti

*Halam SUM. Elam


HEBR.

*Halam-ti
AKK.

Elamtu
(conceived as

,amm

Elam-(a)t-u)

1 Or did the sign KI in KI-en-gi, etc., have a value Bi? In this case Sengi(r) would, of course, be the correct form of the main dialect. 2Another possibility is that we have to divide Sin-cdr < im-cdr or Sing-~ar.

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