LINGUIST List 7.1247

Sun Sep 8 1996

Disc: Sumerian and PIE

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Gonzalo Rubio, Re: 7.1222, Disc: Sumerian and PIE
  2. miguel, Re: 7.1222, Disc: Sumerian and PIE
  3. Alan Huffman, Sumerian and PIE

Message 1: Re: 7.1222, Disc: Sumerian and PIE

Date: Mon, 02 Sep 1996 13:41:58 EDT
From: Gonzalo Rubio <>
Subject: Re: 7.1222, Disc: Sumerian and PIE

Well, that "Sumerian-IE" list presents many problems, besides the fact
that such "linguistic" hypothesis was proposed many years ago --cf. C.
Autran, _Sumerien et Indo-europen: l'aspect morphologique de la
question_ (Paris 1925); and N. M. Holmer, "A Proto-European Consonant
System and the Pronuntiation of Sumerian", _Studia Linguistica_ 3
(1949): 1-17. [see E. Sollberger's critique, _CFS_ 8 (1949):
75-78]. There are many different hypotheses on the Sumerian linguistic
filiation (from Dravidian, Hungarian, or Meroitic [yeah, right!] to
Nostratic --especially for Bomhard, since the Moscow-Michigan school
seems not to have used Sumerian for their hypothetical approach), and
absolutely no Sumerologist has ever supported any of them.

In general, I dare say one shouldn't spend too much time discussing
these mere "look-alikes", but, just for the record, let's look at some
of them:

> *auH- "say" (Toch. "command") ag~(a) "command"
> *auH- "love"			 ag~(a) "love"

The Sumerian verb ag~2 (those numbers play a basic role in Sumerian
grammar, since they let us distinguish between homophonic words) means
"to measure". Frequently, it appears as a compound verb (with a
nominal "addition"): a2... ag~2 "to command" (lit. "to measure the
arm/side"!?), ki... ag~2 "to love" (lit. "to measure the place"!?)

> *Hkeu- "hear" aka, ag, a "listen"

Well, the verb ak means "to make, to do", the compound verb
gizzal... ak means "to listen".

> *bhaH "say" bi, be "say"

Wow, that's interesting, "bi, be" to say... I never saw anything like
that in a Sumerian text. "To say" is dug4/du11 (two readings of the
same sign, which is the KA sign, a mouth). Of course, since in
Akkadian "mouth" is pu^, one of the AKKADIAN readings of that sign is
pi4 or pe4 (that would be the closest and completely unrelated
thing). Or perhaps that might be a sort of "false or wrong cut" of the
sg. hamTu and sg. and pl. maru^ form of dug4, e.

I don't think one should spend more time doing this. Of course, the
author of that list is not crazy. It's just that a couple of
dictionaries don't make an etymologist. An etymologist needs a good
and deep knowledge of the languages (s)he is dealing with, which means
a perfect knowledge of the lexicon *in context* (someone who does read
the texts) and a perfect command of the grammar, plus some common
sense, probably the least common of the senses. Sumerologists are used
to all these amateurish and rather naive lists of look-alikes. Quoting
a convivial short article by Geoffrey Lewis in A.F.L. Beeston
Festschrift (Oxford 1991), English "bad" and Persian "bad" have
nothing to do with each other, although they do mean the same and look
really alike.

- -------------------------
Gonzalo Rubio
Near Eastern Studies
Johns Hopkins University
- -------------------------
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Message 2: Re: 7.1222, Disc: Sumerian and PIE

Date: Tue, 03 Sep 1996 01:42:18 PDT
From: miguel <>
Subject: Re: 7.1222, Disc: Sumerian and PIE

I wrote:

>> Help, am I crazy??

Patrick C. Ryan replied:

>No, I will be one of the few who will not say that. You might want to
>take a look at Alan Bomhard's _Indo-European and the Nostratic Hypothesis_, 
>just published.

You misunderstand. Whether the Nostratic theory is correct (and I am
not opposed to it in principle) is neither here nor there. If I am
correct on this, the Sumerian - Indo-European link is far more
intimate than anything the Nostraticists have ever come up with. See
my etymologies of PIE homophones, matched _exactly_ in Sumerian: *bhel
- bul, skre:m/k(e)rem - s^um, the *sker/skeu/skei words...

If Sumerian were merely Nostratic, I would have expected a few dozen
cognates, no more. And that was indeed all I expected... Instead,
both the quantity and the quality of the cognates I found was more in
the order of what one would get comparing a Hittite wordlist with
Pokorny. Not that I ever have, but the index to Pokorny lists some
500 cognates, not all of them equally solid; I have listed here
roughly 125 Sumerian-IE links which I considered solid enough to
include, based on a partial inspection of an already partial wordlist.
How many did Hrozny give in "Die Sprache der Hethiter"? (God, I *am*
going crazy!)

As to your more detailed suggestions, I will look at them more closely
before replying.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
Amsterdam, NL
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Message 3: Sumerian and PIE

Date: Thu, 05 Sep 1996 01:10:28 EDT
Subject: Sumerian and PIE

Here are a couple more for your Sumerian / PIE list:

Sum. me 'I'
Sum. adda 'father' cf. Gothic atta
Sum. nu, na 'not'
Sum. lugal 'king' cf. Latin leg-is

Correction: 'god' = dingir, not "digir" as on your list
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