Author: Marie Young (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

1. A short history of the Sumerology

In the second half of the nineteenth century, after Akkadian and Persian cuneiform had been deciphered, Assyriologists discovered bilingual texts that revealed yet another language written in cuneiform. During the excavations of Nineveh in 1849, Henry C. Rawlinson identified Sumerian among the clay tablets found in the ancient Neo-Assyrian libraries, and got in touch with European colleagues to understand the language. In 1850, Irish preacher Edward Hinks already sensed that the writing system used by Akkadians had its source in an older language, because it was not well suited to the structure of a Semitic dialect. As he wrote in a letter:

“I accompanied the announcement with what I considered a necessary consequence of this newly discovered fact, that this mode of writing must have originated with a non-Semitic people; as non-Semitic peoples could have invented a system of writing so uncongenial to their language.”

Cathcart, K.J. (ed.), 2007, The Correspondence of Edward Hincks, II. Dublin, 297.

As he continued his study, Rawlinson’s discoveries enabled a systematic observation of the language. Sumerian was initially called “Scythian”, or sometimes “Turanian”, as scholars thought it was related to the Ural-Altaic languages. It was then called “Accadian” for twenty years, at a time when what is now known as Akkadian had been named Assyrian by young Assyriologists. 

The existence of Sumerian was confirmed when Henry C. Rawlinson published non-Semitic inscriptions found on bricks and clay tablets in southern Babylonia (from the cities of Larsa, Nippur, and Uruk). It was one of the first publications of Sumerian texts, and as such, provided the means to develop the analysis of the language. Edward Hincks was the one who established its agglutinating character, one of the first significant discoveries about the morphology of Sumerian language.

In 1868, Jules Oppert suggested that the language should be called “Sumerian”, from the title of the “king of Sumer and Accad”, featured on some royal inscriptions written in this language. He set out his arguments in an extended study published in 1875: “Sumérien ou accadien?”. At the time, acrimonious debates about Sumerian were emerging in scientific circles. For example, the French orientalist Joseph Halévy (1827-1917) argued in an article published in 1874 that Sumerian was only a cryptographic system invented by Babylonian priests and scribes and not a language in itself (Observations critiques sur les prétendus Touraniens de la Babylonie). Although Jules Oppert made a solid case for the existence of Sumerian in an 1875 article titled “Sumérien ou rien?” (“Sumerian or nothing?”), Halévy, undeterred, kept defending his point of view for forty more years, even after Carl Bezold had published a glossary containing the Akkadian expression lišan šumeri “Sumerian tongue” in 1889. Bezold’s paper displayed clear evidence that Sumerian was indeed a language, and not just a hieratic writing system. It is worth nothing that this controversy appeared in a context where the anti-Semitic ideas of Aryanism were fairly widespread in Europe. Halévy wanted to defend the idea of a Semitic origin of writing, while Aryanists began to view Sumerian as a superior Indo-Aryan civilization.

The deciphering of Sumerian was mostly made possible by bilingual texts. Among them were clay tablets inscribed with a sort of “dictionary”; they were divided into three columns, with the middle one bearing Sumerian words, the left one their phonological writing, and the right one their Akkadian translation. This type of object is now called a “vocabulary”. François Lenormant was one of the first scholars to study these documents in Lettres assyriologiques (1871-72), and La langue primitive de Chaldée et les idiomes touraniens (1875), and to publish a Sumerian grammar, Études accadiennes, dedicated to his friend Jules Oppert, in 1873.

In 1884, Paul Haupt was the first one to theorise the existence of two Sumerian dialects: eme-gir and eme-sal. He characterized Emesal as a feminine language (The Babylonian’s woman language, 1884), an idea that long held true in the field of Sumerology.  

Figure 1: Syllabary B vocabulary from Nineveh (1st millennium). Photo: Trustees of the British Museum. CDLI no. P365229

Meanwhile, from 1877 onwards, archaeological excavations in Tell Telloh, Southern Iraq, uncovered many texts and objects written in Sumerian and dating from the second half of the third millennium BCE. It was the first Sumerian archaeological site to be extensively excavated. Eleven campaigns took place in the city of Girsu/Tell Telloh, initially supervised by Ernest de Sarzec, the French vice-consul at Basra. French archaeologists excavated large diorite statues of Girsu’s former leaders as well as historical Sumerian texts on clay, stone and metal. Prior to this, scholars were aware of only a few resources written solely in Sumerian, and these excavations brought about a major change. In 1888, archaeological campaigns started in Nippur, the ancient religious capital of Sumer, where inscribed objects from the same period as the Tell Telloh artefacts were discovered.

Thanks to these new excavations, academics published a lot of writings on the structure of the Sumerian language, and translated new resources at the start of the twentieth century. François Thureau-Dangin, a former student of Jules Oppert, offered a reliable translation of a corpus of Sumerian inscriptions from Tell Telloh. In 1895, he translated the first part of Cylinder A of Gudea with a commentary, a first grammar, and a vocabulary. His project was completed in 1905, with the publications of all of Gudea’s cylinders. Thureau-Dangin was one of the first Sumerologists to study the objects from the ancient city of Girsu/Lagaš.

Figure 2: Statue of Gudea, Prince of Lagash. The French excavations discovered several inscribed statues of the Sumerian ruler during the excavations of Tell Telloh. A part of them was already exposed in the palace of a Hellenistic ruler: Adad-nadin-ahhe. Object now in Louvre. Credits: Musée du Louvre / Maurice et Pierre Chuzeville, Museum number : AO 3293.

He produced many transcriptions, copies, and translations during his career in the Louvre. His work Les inscriptions de Sumer et d’Akkad, published in 1905, was a great success, and was later translated in German. His correspondence with German Sumerologist Arno Pöbel on Sumerian grammar is well documented. Arno Pöbel wrote many articles on Sumerian. His first piece, Das Verbum im Sumerischen, published in 1908, was a response to François Thureau-Dangin’s 1907 article on the syntax of Sumerian verbs, La syntaxe du verbe Sumérien. In 1923, he published the first systematic description of Sumerian in German: Grundzüge der sumerischen Grammatik (translated in English in 2005), which became a precious tool to understand the newly discovered Sumerian tongue. In the early twentieth century, Arno Pöbel and François Thureau-Dangin were the leading figures of the flourishing discipline of Sumerology.

The number of Sumerian text editions continued to grow, facilitating the understanding of the Sumerian language and its grammar. Benno Landsberger launched the project of a first Sumerian dictionary: Materialen zum šumerisches Lexikon, whose first volume was published  in 1937, while he was in Ankara. He had been dismissed from Leipzig University as a result of the Nazi regime’s anti-Jewish policy.

After the second world war, Adam Falkenstein‘s works in Germany dominated the discipline. A former student of Benno Landsberger, he published a new grammar of Sumerian as well as several studies on the Sumerian legal system (1956-1957). His Grammatik der Sprache Gudea von Lagaš became a reference in the field. Samuel N. Kramer and Thorkild Jacobsen in the United States, who were also following in the footsteps of Benno Landsberger, issued a great number of publications on the Sumerian language, literature and religion, and started popularising Sumerian literature.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, Sumerology was enriched by debates between linguists on the structure of the language. Later on, the development of the Internet enabled the publication of entire corpora of Sumerian texts online. The project initiated by Jeremy Black at the University of Oxford, The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, aims to provide a digital library of all Sumerian literary compositions. Similarly, the Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts has made over 86,000 administrative documents from the third millennium BCE accessible online. The discipline is still young, and even though excavations have become scarce over the last few years due to tragic events in the region, a lot of texts currently in private collections or Museum are yet to be made public.

2. Sumerian Language in the Ancient Near East

Sumerians lived in southern Iraq, in the Euphrates and Tigris plain on the Persian Gulf, around the fourth and third millennium BCE. The first engraved clay tablets dated from the fourth millennium BCE and came from Uruk. They showed pictograms representing lexemes instead of phonemes, hence the term of proto-cuneiform. But whether they actually were written by Sumerians is still uncertain.

Figure 3: Proto-cuneiform tablet from Uruk, fourth millennium BCE, Louvre Museum AO 19936. Credits: 2011 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Ollivier.

The oldest texts known to have been written in Sumerian date back to 2800 BCE and were found in the city of Ur. They present grammatical elements that can easily be described as Sumerian. These texts are of administrative and lexical nature. Indeed, the script was initially invented to manage a state economy that was growing more complex.

Sumerian is an isolated language. Though it has no known relationship to any other language, many attempts have been made to draw links to Hungarian, Turkish, or Oral-Altaic. Mesopotamians stopped speaking Sumerian at the beginning of the second millennium BCE, as Akkadian established itself in Mesopotamia around 2600 BCE. It was initially spoken upstream on the Euphrates and Tigris, before spreading to the south of present-day Iraq. As a result of Akkadian’s expansion, Sumerian eventually died down, as was likely the case for neighbouring languages such as Eblaite or Amorite.

Sumerian thereafter became a language of culture and cult, similar to Latin in the Middle Ages. It continued to be used until the end of the first millennium BCE, particularly in religious, legal and scholarly circles. From the end of the third millennium BCE onwards, Akkadian scribes had to create educational tools to teach and learn Sumerian, such as lists of words and conjugation tables written in both Sumerian and Akkadian. Those documents conditioned the contemporary approach to the Sumerian language, and scholars consequently theorised Sumerian though an Akkadian lens. Linguistic and cultural exchanges between Akkadian and Sumerian were such that we now speak of a Sumero-Akkadian culture. Bilingualism was widespread in Mesopotamia, where phonological, grammatical or lexical exchanges took place.

Though Sumerian has often been studied as a homogeneous block, it underwent numerous linguistic evolutions during the long period it was in use, from the end of the fourth millennium to the first century BCE. The Sumerian spoken under Gudea (ca. 2120 BCE), often described as classical Sumerian, was certainly different from that used in Babylon under Hammurabi (1792-1752 BCE) for instance.

Figure 4. Map of the areas or cities where cuneiform tablets were found. Source: Cécile Michel and Martin Sauvage.

3. The different phases of the Sumerian language

Within the long history of cuneiform writing, different periods for the use of Sumerian can be distinguished:

The first era, from 3300 to 2350 BCE, is that of Sumerian archaic, also called the Pre-Sargonid period, when Sumerians already existed alongside Akkadian populations. There are many texts, mainly administrative documents, from Uruk, and, in chronological order, from Jemdet Nasr, Ur, Fara/Shuruppak, Abu ṣalabikh, and Telloh. The first lexical and literary tablets appeared around 2600 BCE. More than 10,000 texts from this period are known to exist.

Figure 5: This artefact is the so-called standard of Ur. During the archaeological campaign of 1927-1928, L. Woolley found it in the royal tombs of the city of Ur. The Sumerian king Ur-Pabilsag, who died around 2550 BC, possibly kept it in his grave. Credits: Wikimedia, British Museum: Museum number BM 121201.

Around 2350 BCE, an Akkadian state emerged under Sargon of Akkad, choosing Akkadian, a Semitic language, as its official language. The northern Babylonian communities started using Akkadian in writing, whereas southern cities continued to employ Sumerian as a prestige language and for local accounting. It was under the Sargonic kings that Akkadian was first used in place of Sumerian to write royal inscriptions. A minority of inscriptions were written in Sumerian or were bilingual Sumerian-Akkadian. The Cuneiform sign forms used on these inscriptions lived on, and considerably inspired the inscriptions of the kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur and their successors.

Figure 6: This stela celebrates the victory of the king of Naram-Sîn (2254-2218 BC) against the Guti. He was the grandson of Sargon. The text described his military success, but was erased by the later Elamite king Shutruk-nahhunte who brought this artefact to Susa as a trophy. Credits: Wikimedia, Louvre Museum.

The period from 2150 to 2000 BCE is described as the Sumerian Renaissance. Ur-Namma unified most of Babylonia. Around 100,000 published administrative texts testify of his activities and those of his four successors (ca. 2110-2003 BCE). A lot of documents are still in the ground or unpublished. Although the dynasty was using Sumerian, rare Akkadian documents found in peripheral sites indicate that Sumerian was not the only official language of the time. The reign of Gudea in Lagash and the empire of Ur (UR III) left their mark on this period. A lot of new compositions were written in Sumerian back then, as shown by later copies, when the hymns, epics, and other compositions entered the main curriculum of scribal education.

Figure 7: Gudea cylinder. Louvre Museum. The object explained the construction of the Eninnu temple, built for the god Ningirsu, whom Gudea saw in a dream, telling him to build his temple. It is one of the longest royal inscriptions in Sumerian (picture: 2011 Musée du Louvre / Chipault / Soligny, museum number: MNB 1512).

The period from 2000 to 1600 BCE marks the Old Babylonian Period, during which people gradually stopped speaking Sumerian. By the nineteenth century, the Sumerian language was no longer used for administrative purpose in Babylonia, with the exception of the city of Nippur, where the language survived. Sumerian documents from this period were mostly produced in school context. The canonisation of Sumerian literature seems to have taken place during this period. Most available Sumerian literary sources date back to this time, with a majority of them coming from Nippur and Ur, and were written by scribes whose mother tongue was Akkadian but who learnt Sumerian in a bilingual pedagogical environment. The corpus from this period is heterogeneous, and is composed of Sumerian literature as well as religious or legal texts. Akkadian scribes created and used various tools to perpetuate the teaching of Sumerian. Even so, sources show that the spread of Sumerian differed from one region and era to another, as indicated by this letter to the Kind of Mari Yasmah-Addu (1795-1776 BCE):

“You wrote me to send you a man who deciphers the Sumerian in these terms: “Take for me a man who deciphers the Sumerian and speaks Amorite”. Who deciphers Sumerian and lives close to me? Well, should I send to you Šu-Ea who deciphers the Sumerian? […] Iškur-zi-kalama deciphers the Sumerian, but he holds a position in the administration. Should he leave and come to your house? Nanna-palil deciphers the Sumerian, but I must send him to Qabra. You wrote me this: “May someone send me a man from Rapiqum who can decipher the Sumerian!” There is no one here who reads Sumerian!”

(English translation by Marie Young from D. Charpin).

This letter attests that finding someone who spoke Sumerian in North Mesopotamia during the eighteenth century BCE may have been a challenge. Yasmah-Addu affirmed that only three officials could read Sumerian!

Fig. 8: This tablet from the Old Babylonian Period perpetuated the myth of Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta. The myth tells the story of a war between Enmerkar and Aratta and explained how writing came to be. The messenger of Enmerkar was too tired to deliver messages between the two rulers, and Enmerkar, king of Uruk, created the script to facilitate his work: “The messenger, whose mouth was heavy, was not able to repeat it. Because the messenger, whose mouth was tired, was not able to repeat it, the lord of Kulaba patted some clay and wrote the message as if on a tablet. Formerly, the writing of messages on clay was not established. Now, under that sun and on that day, it was indeed so. The lord of Kulaba inscribed the message like a tablet. It was just like that.” (translation ETCSL). Credits: CDLI no. P346132, Trustees of the British Museum.

From 1600 to the first century BCE, traditional Sumerian texts continued to be reproduced, but in an artificial language. Sumerian was used to write the prayers or hymns of the cult or the divination score. Prayers in the Sumerian dialect of Emesal are particularly well documented. Some literary works are also bilingual: an Akkadian translation or commentary could follow the Sumerian composition. Sumerian became a language of culture learned by scholars working in temples until the first century BCE. Greek-speaking scholars in the first century BCE could even transcribe Sumerian prayers into Greek characters to facilitate their apprenticeship.

Fig. 9: Emesal vocabulary of the Neo-Assyrian Period. This document displays a list of words in Emesal with their translation in Akkadian. It was a precious composition to understand the Emesal dialect. Tablet no. K.171 (Trustees of the British Museum).

4. Some characteristics of the Sumerian Language

4.1. An agglutinative and ergative language

This means that pre- or post-posted elements (morphemes) are permanently added to invariable roots to create a noun or a verb.  Sumerian makes no distinction between nouns and verbs.  For instance, the du10 sign 𒄭 could be used to signify either the adjective “good”, or the verb “to be good”.

The word order follows a subject-object-verb structure. The verb is normally placed at the end of sentences. Sumerian makes a distinction between verbal stems known in Akkadian as hamṭu and marû forms. Akkadian scribes would use either of them in accordance with their specific linguistic characteristics. The term hamṭu refers to a literally fast, past action; whereas marû indicates a slow,fat”,present or future action. How Sumerians characterised these different verbal stems is still unknown.

Sumerian is also an ergative language. The transitive subject is in the ergative case and takes the suffix “-e”, whereas the direct object and intransitive subject are in the absolutive case. No graphic element denotes the absolutive.

Examples of sentences:

𒈗 𒉌 𒆭  
Translation: the king entered.   The subject of intransitive clauses is in the absolutive case. Here, the subject is “Lugal”, the king.  The intransitive subject isn’t marked in the verbal scheme by a morpheme. The prefix “i3-” is a preformative vocal prefix. It is always the first prefix of a verbal form. It is mostly used in South Sumer, and seems to express a past action.  
Lugal-e bad3 mu-un-du3     𒈗 𒂊 𒂦 𒈬 𒌦 𒆕Translation: the king built the wall.    The suffix -e indicates the ergative case in transitive sentences. In this instance, the word in the ergative case is “king”. The subject is also rendered in the verbal scheme by the infix -n- before the verb form hamtu, which describes a past action. The prefix mu- is a ventive. It means “here”, but is often left untranslated to lighten the translation. With verbs expressing a motion, the ventive case describes an action made “in direction of the speaker”.  

A characteristic of ergative languages is the cross-references between three elements: the subject of the action, the object of the transitive verb and the verbal form itself.

– If the transitive subject is a person, a pronominal infix -n- is used before the hamṭu stem, while a pronominal infix -b- is used for an object or impersonal element. The object of a transitive action is expressed after the hamṭu stem with a suffix.

– When there is a marû verbal stem marking the present and future, the -n- or -b- infix placed before the verb refers to the direct object of the transitive verb. The transitive subject is indicated by an -e suffix after the verb root.

4.2. The Sumerian Consonants and Vowels

Sumerian uses the following standard consonants:

Consonants phonemes
fricatives, z, š, h
liquidl, r

And as vowels: /a/, /e/, /i/, /u/. The existence of /o/ remains debated.

4.3. The cases in Sumerian

Sumerian has twelve different cases. They help understand how the noun relates to the verb or to other parts of the sentence. For example, they can indicate the subject and object. Other cases can bear specific meanings like “in”, “from”, “with” and “like”. They are signaled by final clitics located after a noun or nominal phrase. Several can be used in a row. However, some cases are reserved for either human and animate objects or non-human and inanimate objects. For instance, the dative is only used for human and animate objects.

The Sumerian cases

4.4. Sumerian dialects

The word Sumerian itself comes from the Akkadian term šumeru, but the etymology of this Akkadian translation remains unknown. Šumeru is a translation of the Sumerian term eme-gi7.r used to describe the Sumerian language. The original Sumerian term comes from eme: language and gi7.r, which could mean “native”. The term eme-gi7.r was mainly encountered during the Old Babylonian period, when Sumerian was no longer spoken but still used as a language of culture. Sumerian was divided into two dialects: Emegir, the main dialect, and Emesal, which first appeared in texts dating back to the Old Babylonian period. While the meaning of the word Emesal is uncertain, some academics argue that “sal” means “thin”, and consequently translate Emesal as “ thin/fine language”.

Paul Haupt was the first to write a solid analysis of Emesal. He characterised it as a women’s language, partly because of the sign form of sal 𒊩 which could also be read as munus, woman (The Babylonian’s woman language, 1884). Since then, the state of research on the subject has evolved, and it seems that Emesal is only considered a language of cult, an idea already put forward by Fr. Delitzsch in 1914 (Grundzüge der sumerischen Grammatik). Emesal made phonetical changes to some terms of Eme-gi7.r, and some of its words had different stems.

Diĝir, the godDimer
Kalam, the landKanaĝ
Nin, the queengašan

The hymns and laments sung by lamentation priests in temples (the kalû) were often written in this dialect. Emesal texts are attested from the Old Babylonian Period until the first millennium. Priests still sung them during the first centuries BCE, which marked the very end of cuneiform culture.

5. Writing Sumerian in Cuneiform

The cuneiform signs used by Sumerian could be either logograms or phonograms. A logogram is a sign (grapheme) bearing a sound and a meaning.

Ex. KA means the mouth. 𒅗

In the case of a phonogram, a sign (grapheme) represents a phonetic syllable (phoneme) of a verbal or nominal stem. The sign KA, could also mean the syllable with the sound / ka / 𒅗

Homonyms were common in Sumerian: different words could have the same sounds, and conversely, the same sign could represent several sounds. Scribes often used glosses to help them read texts.

For example, the phoneme DUG could be used to write several words. Sumerologists signal the difference between homophones by using numbers or accents after the word:

  • Dug, the jar : 𒂁
  •  Dug3/dùg, to be good : 𒄭
  • Dug, to speak : 𒅗

A sign could also have several meanings and several readings:

For example, the sign KA 𒅗 could be read as:

  • ka: the mouth
  • inim: the word
  • dug4: to speak
  • gu3/gù: the voice
  • kir4: the nose
  • zu2/zú: the tooth

Although there is a relative semantic coherence here between all the words written with the sign KA, it is important to note that it was not always so.

Scribes also used what we call determinatives to help them read texts. These signs were not meant to be pronounced.

For instance, the sign meaning “wood”, giš could be placed before all wooden objects. i.e., gištukul: a (wooden) weapon 𒄑 𒆪.

The sign meaning “the place”, ki, 𒆠 could be placed after city names.

i.e., Unugki-ga : in the city of Uruk.

In this example, the suffix -a marks the locative case. The scribe repeated the last consonant of the word before the case ending, in order to help the reader to recognise the correct lecture of the sign UNUG.

i.e., if the sign KA is read as KA, for “the mouth”, in the locative case it should be written: KA + a, “in the mouth”:  𒅗 𒀀

i.e, if the sign KA is read INIM, for “the word”, in the locative case it should be written: KA+m+a 𒅗 𒈠 , “in the word”.

The syllable -ma shows the reader that the KA sign is to be read as INIM.

If the sign KA is read kir4, for “the nose”: in the locative case, the scribe writes KA+r+a : kir4-ra, for “in the nose”. 𒅗 𒊏

6. Sumerian Proverbs

Texts of every type were written in Sumerian: administrative, literary, divination, lexical, juridical, royal inscriptions, rituals et cetera. Apprentice scribes were particularly fond of proverbs, which they often learned to write during their education in Sumerian school, the é-dub-ba (“the house of the tablets”). These proverbs helped them memorise brief stories as well as the grammatical or lexical content of their sentences. They had a certain didactical accuracy and enabled schoolchildren to learn important moral rules of Sumerian society. While some of these proverbs are difficult to understand nowadays, others offer a clear reflection of Sumerian life, or illustrate clichés that still prevail today: 

  • lul dug4-ga-ab zid dug4-ga-ab lul ba-e-sig10-ge5

Tell a lie and then tell the truth: it will be considered (as) a lie.

  • dam nu-ĝar-ra e2-a til3-la-am3; a2-sag3-a2-sag3-e dirig-ga-am3

A malicious wife living in the house is worse than all diseases.

  • dub-sar-re mu 1-am3 he2-en-zu; šu-ni he2-sag9-sag9 e-ne-am3 dub-sar-re

If a scribe knows only a single line but his handwriting is good, he is indeed a scribe!

  • dub-sar eme-gir15 nu-mu-un-zu-a a-na-am3 nam-dub-sar-ra-ni

What kind of a scribe is a scribe who does not know Sumerian?

Fig. 10: School tablet with a proverb in Sumerian and translated in Akkadian: One who does not love the (art of the scribe) will not pay attention to Sumerian: lu2 dub-sar nu-da-ki-ag2 eme-gi geštu2 nu-ga2-ga2-e. (MS 3370: Schoyen collection, Oslo, CDLI no. P252311).


Philippe Abrahami, “Un système d’idéogrammes, « Sumérien ou rien ? »” in Histoires des déchiffrements, les écritures du Proche-Orient à l’Egée, Paris, Errance, 2009, 111-128.

Jeremy Black (ed), The literature of ancient Sumer, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.

Irving Finkel and Jonathan Taylor, Cuneiform, London, The British Museum, 2015.

Uri Gabbay, Pacifying the Hearts of the Gods, Sumerian Emesal Prayers in the First Millennium BC, Wiesbaden, Heidelberg Emesal Studies, 1, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2014

Samuel Noah Kramer, History begins at Sumer, London, Thames and Hudson, 1958.

Erika Marsal, “The beginnings of Sumerology (I). From early first sketches to a first complete grammar”, Aula Orientalis 32/2 (2014), 2014, pp. 283-297.

Willem H. Ph. Römer, Die Sumerologie. Einführung in die Forschung und Bibliographie in Auswahl, Münster, Ugarit-Verlag, 1999.

Konrad Volk, A Sumerian Chrestomathy, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2012.

Konrad Volk (ed.), Erzählung aus dem Land Sumer, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2015.


Pascal Attinger, Éléments de linguistique sumérienne. La construction de du11/e/di « dire », Fribourg/Göttingen, Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht, 1993.

Dietz O. Edzard, Sumerian Grammar, Leiden/Boston, Brill, 2003.

Abraham H. Jagersma, A Descriptive Grammar of Sumerian, Leiden, Leiden University,1999.

Marie-Louise Thomsen, The Sumerian Language. An Introduction to its History and Grammatical Structure, Copenhague, Akad. Forlag, 1984.

Gábor Zolyomi, An Introduction to Sumerian Grammar, Budapest, Eötvös University Press, 2017.

Web sites:

The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature:

The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary:

The Database of Neo-Sumerian texts:

The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative:

Cite this article as: M. Young, “The rediscovery of Sumerian”, in N. Moncunill (ed.), Cracking lost scripts, 19/04/2023,

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
lostscripts (April 19, 2023). THE REDISCOVERY OF SUMERIAN. Cracking lost scripts. Retrieved July 25, 2024 from

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