LINGUIST List 10.961

Fri Jun 18 1999

Books: Sumerian Linguistics

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  1. LINCOM EUROPA, Sumerian grammar

Message 1: Sumerian grammar

Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 10:31:49 +0200
Subject: Sumerian grammar

John Hayes, University of California, Berkeley

Sumerian has the distinction of being the oldest attested language in
the world. Spoken in the southern part of ancient Mesopotamia, the
Iraq of today, its first texts date to about 3100 BCE. Sumerian died
out as a spoken language about 2000 BCE, but it was studied in the
Mesopotamian school system as a language of high culture for almost
two thousand more years. A language-isolate, Sumerian has no
obvious relatives. Typologically, Sumerian is quite different from
the Semitic languages which followed it in Mesopotamia. It is
basically SOV, with core grammatical relationships marked by affixes
on the verb, and with adverbial relationships marked by postpositions,
which are cross-referenced by prefixes on the verb. It is split
ergative; the perfect functions on an ergative basis, but the
imperfect on a nominative-accusative basis.

Because Sumerian is an isolate, and has been dead for thousands of
years, special problems arise in trying to elucidate its
grammar. There are still major challenges in understanding its
morphosyntax, and very little is known about Sumerian at the discourse
level. This volume will describe some of the major questions still to
be resolved.

ISBN 3 929075 39 3. 
Languages of the World/Materials 68. 
46 pp. USD 28 / DM 42 / pound sterling 16.40. 2nd printing June 1999.

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LINCOM EUROPA, Paul-Preuss-Str. 25, D-80995 Muenchen, Germany; FAX +4989
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