LINGUIST List 7.1222

Mon Sep 2 1996

Disc: Sumerian and PIE

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. miguel, Sumerian and PIE

Message 1: Sumerian and PIE

Date: Sun, 01 Sep 1996 18:47:06 PDT
From: miguel <>
Subject: Sumerian and PIE
I posted the following to the USENET sci.lang newsgroup.
I thought it might be of interest to any Sumerologists and
Indo-Europeanists subscribed to LINGUIST.

<< begin quoted message [slightly edited] >> (Miguel Carrasquer Vidal) wrote:

> (John A. Halloran) wrote:

>> There is simply no point
>>of contact between what may be basic roots in Eurasiatic languages and the
>>Sumerian vocabulary.

>That might be a bit exaggerated. Browsing through your wordlist, and
>freely associating with Pokorny, I found the following possible
>cognates between Sumerian and PIE (I suspect Kartvelian and
>Afro-Asiatic are likely to turn up even more).

I take that back. I now suspect that no other language can be closer
to Sumerian than Indo-European.

[original list snipped]

This started out as a joke, but it's not funny anymore. It scares the
hell out of me: every other Sumerian word I check fits the pattern.
Am I just deluding myself or is there really something to it?

Here's what I've got so far:

Preliminary rules for converting from Indo-European C(c)VC(c) roots to
Sumerian words:

Initial consonants are mostly preserved, except that the voiced
aspirates merge with the voiced unaspirates. The laryngeal situation
seems to be more or less like in Hittite: some H1 (and H3?) are
preserved, H2 seemingly not. M, n, l, r and s are preserved (except
that s sometimes goes to s^ if there's a laryngeal in the word?).
Consonantal u (w) is Sumerian g~ [sometimes also labiovelars?], i (y)
seems to disappear. Initial clusters: sk-, sH- > s^, st-, tH-? > z-.
Others seem to be simplified by dropping the second element. The
final consonantal segment is dropped if it consists of a voiced stop
or <s>, and becomes voiced if it is unvoiced. The labiovelars and
-w(H)- tend to show up as g~ (=w) or m. Liquids and nasals are mostly
preserved [some confusion between final -n and -m], as are the s^ and
z clusters.

Some examples:

*ab- "water" a "water"
*apo- (Lat. opacus "shady") ab "window" ?
*andh- "flower, plant" an "grain ear"
*ais- "desire" as^ "desire"
*auH- "say" (Toch. "command") ag~(a) "command"
*auH- "love" ag~(a) "love"
*Hkeu- "hear" aka, ag, a "listen"
*ag- "act, do" aka, ag, a "make, do"
*ukw(e)sen "ox" ama, am "aurochs" ?
*ar(e)g- "bright" ara, ar, ra "bright"
*ar- (Skrt. arati "servant") arad "slave, servant"
*apsaH "ash (tree)" asa-l "Euphrates poplar tree"
*agr- "field" agar "field" ?

*bhaH "say" bi, be "say"
*bhel- "blow" bul, bu "to blow,
*bhel- "grow" to sprout,
*bhel- "bright, white" to ignite"
*bher- "carry, bear" barag, bara, bar "stand, support"
*bher- "open, bore" buru, bur "bore through"
*bher- "cook, brew" bur "meal, repast"
*bher- "twine" barag, bara, bar "nest"
*bal- "to turn" bala, bal "spindle, revolve, change"
*bheleu- "sick" balag~ "funeral song" ?
*bhoHgh- "bog, clay" bahar "potter" ?
*peug- (Gmc. pu:st- "fist") buzur "hand, palm" ?

*deru- "tree" du [=dru] "build, fasten, work"
*dlku- "sweet" dug, du "sweet"
*dlnghu- "tongue" dug, du "speak, speech" ?
*dheigh- "clay, earth" dig "moist, soft, workable"
*del- "long, far" dal "far, fly, race"
*dholo- "mound" dul, du "mound, <tell>"
*demH- "house, build, tame" dam "spouse", dim "build"
*deH-mn- "tie, rope" dim "tie, rope"
*dhelg(h)- "needle" dalla, dala "needle"
*deuH- "long time, far" dag~al "wide"
*deiw- "god" dig~ir "god"

*eHg-, Hg- "speak, say" e "speak,say"
*edh- "fence, dwelling" e "house"
*akwaH, e:kw- "water, drink" eg, ig, e "canal, to water"
*en- "year" en "time"
*(dl)ingwaH "tongue" eme "tongue" ?
*ekwaH "mare" eme "she-ass" ?
*wes- "summer" (Hwes- ?) emes^ "summer"
?Germanic winter entena "winter" ??
*ed- "to eat" ezinu "grain, cereal" ? (< ed-tinu ??)

*gut-r- "throat" gu "neck"
*geus- "eat, taste" gu, ku "eat, swallow"
*gwou-dh- "cow" gu, gud, gudr "ox, bull"
*wal-, *wel- "big" gal, g~al "big"
*gonu- "knee" gam "kneel"
*ghombh- "tooth" gam "sickle" ?
*gen- "to give birth" gan "to bring forth"
*geu-, *gu-r- "circle" gur "circle"
*geus- "pour, smelt" gus^-kin "gold"

*we "we" g~a "I"
*we-ker "evening" gig, gi, ge, g~i, g~e, mi, me "night"
*gwem- "to come, go" g~in, g~en "come, go"
*gwes- "twig" g~is^, g~es^ "tree"
*wer- "wound, stab" g~iri, g~ir "knife, stab"
*wer-(t)- "turn, trip" g~iri, g~ir "road, trip"
*wer- "guard, save" g~ar, g~a "storehouse, store, ..."
*wedh- "to take away" (g~)ir(i) "booty, capture, drive away"
 [dh- sometimes seems to go to <d>, <r>, <dr> the mysterious /dr/
 phoneme of Sumerian, cf. *gwou-dh- gud[r]]
*weid-, *wid- "see, know" g~es^-tug "ear, hear, understand"
 [dt > s^t]

*dhghu- "fish" ku(a), ha [?] "fish" ?
*Hau- "bird" hu "bird"

<to do> [h i k l m n p r]

*sek- "to cut, etc." sa "compare, equal in value" ?
*seu- "give birth" su "to grow, multiply"
*sed- "to sit" si "to stand, be straight, be still"
*seu-p "to sip, suckle" sub "to suck, suckle"
*sep- "to honour" sub "to bless, to pray"
*sewe- "self, alone, person" sag~ "head, human" ?
*gon-[edh-] "chin" sun, sum "chin" ???
 [g' > s is unexpected...]

*(s)ke-r-, ~-u-, ~-i- etc.
1. wrinkle, dry up s^a "dry up", s^ir "testicles" ?
2. turn, bend, link s^ed "link", s^ita "bind, bond"
3. cut, destroy s^a "cut" , s^e "portion",
 s^ar "drive away" ...
=> *(s)kut- skin, hide kus^ "skin, hide"
=> German Schar "troop" s^ar "to be many, world, slaughter"
4. cover, shadow s^u "dark, cover", s^e(d) "cool"
5. shine, bright s^un "star", s^en "shiny"
6. shit s^e "excrement"

*(s)kre:m "scratch, sword" s^um "butcher, slaughter"
*k(e)rem "garlic, onion" s^um "garlic, onion"
*seuH- "rain, wet" s^eg~ "rain"
*sneghw- "snow" s^eg~ "snow, ice"
*ske-u(H)- [1] "drought, heat" s^eg~ "hot; cook, boil" ?

*tep- "hot" tab "sting, fever, burn"
*trep- "shake" tab "shake" ?
*tag-, *tak-t- "touch" tag "touch"
*temH- "dark" ten "cold" ?
*ter, *teru "tender, young" tur "small, child"
*teuk- "seed, progeny" tuku, tuk, tug, tu "own, get, marry"

*genu- "chin, cheek" te, de "chin, cheek"
*gweiHw- "live" ti, til "live"
*kel-, *ghel- "shout" til, tal "shout"
 [Velar before e/i palatalizes to t/d???]

<to do> [u z]

 [Just some examples of initial z:
 za "you" = ??
 za = "stone" ?
 zu "tooth" = *steu- "hit, beat"?
 zi = "stench"
 zib = "stamp"
 zig, zi = "stand"
 zuh = "steal"
 zal = "stall, [wait]" "bronze [white stone]" => "stannum"?

Sumerian grammar is of course completely un-Indo-European, but that
would be consistent with a language that has lost all final syllables
to phonetic wear and tear, and has subsequently rebuilt an [ergative]
agglutinative case and verbal system. Sumerian pronouns are also
radically different from IE, which is hard to explain, unless they
follow some strange sound-laws of their own [kwi >]...

Help, am I crazy??

<< end quoted message >>

In the last few hours [h, some i], I have found:

*weit- "branch, twig" g~i-dru "scepter" [= "tree branch"!]

<... H>
*e:ik- "to won, rich" he "abundance"
es- "to be" he "be! (imper.)" ?
a:p- (3) "sick, weak" hab "to stink, rot"
*Huebh- "weave" hub, hup "weaver"
*erH, *res-, *rem- "rest" hun "to rest", *hug~ "id."
*Hol-, (*ol-e-, *el- (5)) hul "evil, hated, hostile"
 "destroy", Hitt. hullai- "bekaempfen"
*arqu- "gebogenes" har "ring; young, small" ?
Hitt. har(k)- "to have" har, ar3, ur5 "loan, debt,
*arwaH "intestine" liver, soul,
*al- (5) "grind, mill" hand mill, chew"
*ereb, ro:b "bore, needle" hur "scratch, sketch, inscribe"
*ozdos "twig" has^, haz "break off twigs"
*a:ter- "fire" hada2, had2 "shine brightly, dry"
Hitt. hark- "destroy" hara, ara3 "pulverize, crush"
*albho- "white" halba, halbi "frost, freezing" ?
<I ...>
*okw-, *ekw- "eye" igi "eye, to see"
Lat. idus, Osc. eiduis,
Ir. e'sce "moon, idus" id4, it4 "moon"
*Hnom-, *Hnem- "name" inim "word"

Further notes on Sumerian in general: the Sumerian numerals and
kinship terms bear no relation to the PIE ones [but cf. in part
Hittite]. The lexicon as outlined above shows no particular affinity
with Hittite [rather with Tocharian and Germanic?]. I can't even
begin to imagine what the consequences would be for the Urheimat

Comments, criticisms, corrections and contributions are
welcome and badly needed.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
Amsterdam, NL
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