Sumerian Language

Essay by mahnurnaqvi786University, Bachelor's November 2014

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Sumerian Language

Sumerian language is a language isolate and the oldest written language in existence. It is the language of ancient Sumer which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). Sumerian is generally believed to be a complete isolate as no relationship between Sumerian and any other language has been proven. The relationships with Elamite and the Dravidian languages have been proposed though. About 2000 BC, Sumerian was replaced as a spoken language by Semitic Akkadian. Sumerian never extended much beyond its original boundaries in southern Mesopotamia.

Five periods of Sumerian can be distinguished:

Archaic Sumerian - 31st-26th century BC,

Old or Classical Sumerian - 26th-23rd century. BC,

Neo-Sumerian - 23rd-21st century BC,

Late Sumerian - 20th-18th century BC,

Post-Sumerian - after 1700 BC.

Sumerian is a language isolate and it has been the subject of much effort to relate it to a wide variety of languages. Several linguistic problems arise in the attempt to relate Sumerian with known language families.

It has also been suggested that the Sumerian language descended from a late Paleolithic Creole language however, there is no conclusive evidence. First, the amount of time between the earliest known form of Sumerian and the oldest reconstructable form of the proposed related language is too great to make reliable comparisons. Another problem difficult to overcome is that the phonetic and semantic change to vocabulary that can occur over long periods of time can make a language unrecognizable from its ancestor. Words in two languages that may sound alike today are more likely to be unrelated than related.

The linguistic affinity of Sumerian has not yet been successfully established. Ural-Altaic (which includes Turkish), Dravidian, Brahui, Bantu, and many other groups of languages have been compared with Sumerian, but no theory has gained common acceptance. Sumerian is clearly an agglutinative...