ERIC Number: ED368171
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1993-Sep
Reference Count: N/A
Sumerian: The Descendant of a Proto-Historical Creole? An Alternative Approach to the "Sumerian Problem." ROLIG-papir 51.
Problems in determining the origins of Sumerian, an ancient language, are described, and an alternative approach is examined. Sumerian was spoken in southern Iraq in the third millennium B.C. and later used by Babylonian and Assyrian scribes as a classical language. While early texts in Sumerian are considered a better reflection of the original language than are more recent texts, they offer no compelling evidence of the language's identity and the cuneiform in which they are written gives limited information about grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. The language was also linguistically isolated despite its historical importance. It is proposed that the Sumerian language may have evolved from a creole language in southern Iraq in the mid- to late fourth millennium B.C. Supporting evidence is drawn from written Sumerian text forms and from the evolution of other pidgins and creoles. Specific aspects of pidginization and creolization considered include common patterns in phonology, lexicon, sentence structure, gender and animacy, noun and nominal chain, adjectives, ergativity, verbs, and a number of minor features. Evidence of a pre-Sumerian form is also considered. This perspective is offered not as a final solution but as providing some insight into interpretation of Sumerian. (Contains 79 references.) (MSE)
Descriptors: Creoles, Diachronic Linguistics, Foreign Countries, Language Classification, Language Patterns, Linguistic Theory, Pidgins, Uncommonly Taught Languages, Written Language
ROLIG, hus 03.2.4, RUC, Postbox 260, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Roskilde Univ. Center (Denmark).