LINGUIST List 7.1086

Wed Jul 31 1996

FYI: Electronic-interface dictionaries, Sumerian Lexicon

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Sean M. Burke, E-LEX, electronic-interface dictionaries
  2. John A. Halloran, www Sumerian Lexicon & Language Origin

Message 1: E-LEX, electronic-interface dictionaries

Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 15:14:55 MDT
From: Sean M. Burke <>
Subject: E-LEX, electronic-interface dictionaries
E-LEX is a new email list for the discussion of the design of
dictionaries with electronic interfaces.

Topics may include:
	* the possibilities of hypertext/hypermedia for the electronic
	* adaptation of machine-readable dictionaries to user-friendly
		human-usable form
	* issues in conversion and adaptation of paper dictionaries to
		electronic form

The list's new homepage is at

To subscribe to E-LEX, send a message to, containing this line in the message

	subscribe E-LEX Your Name

The list-owner of E-LEX is Sean M. Burke,
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Message 2: www Sumerian Lexicon & Language Origin

Date: Fri, 26 Jul 1996 01:18:43 PDT
From: John A. Halloran <>
Subject: www Sumerian Lexicon & Language Origin
It will interest some members of this group to learn that there is now a
lexicon of 1,119 Sumerian logograms upon my web site.

The address is:

The first page of the lexicon indicates the scholarly sources which I used to
compile it over the twelve years of its development. The range of meanings
given for each logogram tries to be as broad as the information available from
all these sources.

One of this lexicon's limitations is that it does not include any Sumerian
words which consist of more than one logogram. Compiling a lexicon of these
words would be a future project for myself or for another Internet scholar.

The raison d'etre of the lexicon has also given it an idiosyncratic
It is organized primarily by the phonetic structure of the words, and
secondarily in alphabetical order based on the word-final consonants and then
vowels. The reason is because this makes it easier to see cognate words and
to analyze the evolution of the Sumerian vocabulary in diachronic stages.

I take a very analytical approach to the Sumerian vocabulary. It is possible to
break up, analyze, and explain the evolution of many Sumerian words. Good
Sumerian etymologies are given for many of the more complex logograms.

My 12-page article, The Proto-Sumerian Language Invention Process,
accompanies the lexicon. Here I describe how the vocabulary
of the proto-Sumerians can be isolated from words invented later in time. The
words with the simplest phonetic structures correspond to the earliest, most
basic phenomena and concepts. By dividing Sumerian up into diachronic stages
of development on the basis of phonetic structure, it is possible to conduct
linguistic archaeology, deducing from the vocabulary what cultural artifacts
were present at each stage of its development.

One of the discoveries which this lexicon made possible is that of the
proto-Sumerians' dependence on mouth-gestures for the symbolism of their
consonants. I reconstruct this symbolism in detail.

I also conclude that the system of tokens were already in use at a very early
stage in the development of proto-Sumerian. There are some indications as to
when and where the inventors of proto-Sumerian lived. I conclude that they
lived at the start of the Near Eastern Neolithic, probably in villages like
Ganj Dareh in the mountain passes of western Iran.


John Halloran
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