Mesopotamian roots in modern languages

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Aydintashar

Senior Member
Iran, Turkish
Hi Everybody,
Has anybody investigated the possibility of ancient Mesopotamian roots (e.g. Sumerian, Elamite, Babylonian, Akkadian, Assyrian etc.) in modern languages. Can you provide any examples?
Thanks,
Aydin
 
  • sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Sumerian and Elamite are isolate languages (far as we know), while Babylonian, Akkadian and Assyrian are Semitic languages.

    The ancient semitic languages may have had an impact on modern Arabic, but of that I don't know anything.
    Sumerian and (to a lesser degree) Elamite had a huge impact on Akkadian, but basically limited to loans. Further, Akkadian had a huge impact on other, non-related ancient languages like the Indoeuropean Hittite language.
    I would be very surprised if in the Arab language of Koran one could find a significant number of Sumerian loans, but theoretically it is possible.

    The influence of all these languages on European languages should have been minute, if there was any; there could have been some influence through Jews and Arabs being in contact with Europe.
    (Hittite had no influence on Europe at all, by the way - or at least, not after the settlement in Asia Minor - and only then Akkadian influence on Hittite took effect.)
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Consider the following examples taken from:
    Sumerian Lexicon, Version 3.0, by John A. Halloran (see www.sumerian.org)

    In all of which “a” means water (compare French eau, Persian ab,etc.)

    a-bala: drawing of water (a, 'water', + bala, 'turn, duty')
    a-da gub-ba: water duty ('water' + 'near' + 'to stand' + nominative).
    a-da...tuš: to live near the water ('water' + 'near' + 'to dwell (singular)').
    a...dé: to pour out water; to irrigate; to flood ('water' + 'to pour').
    a-dé-a: the yearly spring flood ('water' + 'to pour' + nominative).
    a-dùg: freshwater ('water' + 'sweet, fresh').
    a-dun-a: inshore fisherman (?) ('water' + 'lowly student' + nominative).
    a-è-a: overflowing or breaks in levees ('water' + 'to emerge' + nominative).
    a-gal: overflow of flood waters ('waters' + 'big').
    a-gàr: irrigated field ('water; seed' + 'cake' ?).
    a-gig: bitter tears ('water' + 'pain').
    a-ma-ru: destructive flood ('water' + 'to go' + 'to send'; cf., u18-ru).

    Apart from the etymology of “a”, we also find out from these examples:
    Gal: high, big (compare gallant)

    All the best,
    Aydin
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    Consider the following examples taken from:
    In all of which “a” means water (compare French eau, Persian ab,etc.)

    Well, I did compare French eau and Persian âb to start with. The first goes back to PIE *
    akʷā- (or ǝkʷā): ēkʷ-, the second to h2ep or ā̆p-.

    Now, is the presence of an 'a' really a reason for you to say that Sumerian and the two Indo-European roots are related? By the way, forget about French and Persian in this case, it's always necessary to look at the oldest forms and we do have two PIE roots.

    Otherwise said, you take a Sumerian word, you look for modern with a similar (let's say) sound and then you make a conclusion.
    Frankly, I think you will need a lot more in this case.

    Gal: high, big (compare gallant)

    I am terribly sorry, but here, even more than with the first example, you give me the impression that you are searching for very superficial similarities and that the only thing you have
    to explain (im?)possible relations are those superficial similarities. To be honest, I think that's not what historical comparative linguistics is about.
    In this forum, we already have quite some threads about chance similarities.

    Once again, I did have a look at gallant in the first place. This English form goes back to French galant.
    It is quite well established that this French word (verb, even, since galant originally is a present participle of the old verb galer) goes back to a Gallo-Roman verb *walare, which in itself goes back to Germanic *wala. This *wala is found back in Dutch (wel) and English (well).
    [My source: Rey's Dictionnaire historique de la langue Française. Similar information (but more concise) can be found here].
    So, your starting point shouldn't be "Sumerian gal - English gallant", but "Sumerian gal and Germanic *wel".

    Do you still think there is a relation between Sum. gal and Gmc *wel? If so, please explain in detail.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Tararam

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    If I'm not mistaken... "eau" in french comes from "aqua" only that the q got dropped later on and the pronunciation changed so there isn't a connection actually.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    I spent a few hours trying to search words in modern languages which are thought to come from Sumerian. I must admit that I limited myself to IE languages. Seems a lot of sources are, erm, avoiding the issue. It's also possible that there are hardly any instances. Or maybe Google and me just had an off-day.

    Anyway, some people seem to think that cannabis (and hence hemp) might go back to a Sumerian word.
    See here (note 54). In this example, the Sumerian word is qu-nu-bu. But I am not going to bet my money on it :).

    On non-academic web pages, the link between cannabis and
    qu-nu-bu is taken for granted. Some authors seem to adapt the Sumerian transcription (kanabu etc.) to make it look more than the modern day variant.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Once again, I did have a look at gallant in the first place. This English form goes back to French galant.
    It is quite well established that this French word (verb, even, since galant originally is a present participle of the old verb galer) goes back to a Gallo-Roman verb *walare, which in itself goes back to Germanic *wala. This *wala is found back in Dutch (wel) and English (well).
    [My source: Rey's Dictionnaire historique de la langue Française. Similar information (but more concise) can be found here].
    So, your starting point shouldn't be "Sumerian gal - English gallant", but "Sumerian gal and Germanic *wel".

    Do you still think there is a relation between Sum. gal and Gmc *wel? If so, please explain in detail.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    The problem is, in my opinion, that we take the explanations of any established dictionary for granted, whereas different dictionaries sometimes do not share the same opinion. On the other hand, almost all dictionaries referred to by you and me, use no other linguistic method than comparing phonetic similarities and making guesses. Even the whole science of PIE is based on an artificial language created on assumptions. If we are supposed to take all those things for granted, then we cannot take even a single step forward.
    The similarities with Sumerian is not limited to "a", it is much more numerous than than, and I am going to provide lots of other examples.

    Aydin
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    The problem is, in my opinion, that we take the explanations of any established dictionary for granted,
    All the major dictionaries I (we?) use are peer reviewed scientific works. Personally, I have slightly more faith (not blind faith, though faith might be a bad choice of words here) in such a work, the result of many specialists working in the same field compiling, comparing, etc., than in a post on (any) message board.
    Most, if not all, lexicographers dealing with etymological dictionaries keep in mind a checklist like this one plus the accumulated knowledge of historical grammar(s) of PIE, IE languages (and, obviously, other language families). I'd love to see your guidelines/checklist (see below).

    whereas different dictionaries sometimes do not share the same opinion.
    Yes, what's weird about that? That's how it goes and that's how it works. And that's why people always try to double check things. That's what makes linguistics such a dynamic science with a lot of (often animated) discussions and debates.

    On the other hand, almost all dictionaries referred to by you and me, use no other linguistic method than comparing phonetic similarities and making guesses.
    No other method? Guesses? You're kidding us, aren't you?

    Even the whole science of PIE is based on an artificial language created on assumptions.
    No, it results in reconstructing PIE, PIE is not the base of the 'whole science'. Maybe you should spend some time on the history of historical linguistics to find out the difference, for example here.

    If we are supposed to take all those things for granted, then we cannot take even a single step forward. The similarities with Sumerian is not limited to "a", it is much more numerous than than, and I am going to provide lots of other examples.
    I start to wonder what you mean by "a single step forward": Sumerian roots in PIE languages? You'd consider that a step forwards? Forwards to what?

    It has been tried before, people have tried to connect Sumerian with IE languages (or any other language on this planet) and so far all attempts, by professionals and amateurs, have failed any kind of critical test. Maybe that's because there is no connection, apart from a few (?) loans.

    But anyway, the only things you will have to do (in a nutshell) are:

    1. to come up with a slightly more profound and less naive critique on the comparative method (and the other methods used in comparative historical linguistics);

    2. to come up with a slightly more profound and less naive critique on the results of those methods;

    3. to suggest a better hypothesis and explain your methodology, but preferably not a methodology based upon lexical comparisons and highlighting superficial similarities between a bunch of words which are found in word lists or the like;

    4. to convince your peer reviewers that your hypothesis holds water and explains (and predicts) more than the current (mainstream) theories.

    Good luck!

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Dear Frank,
    Many thanks for your suggestions. I will definite bear them in mind. Definitely, we will examine more examples together, but I want to remove a misunderstanding dominating the debate. I have never suggested, and will never suggest typological nor genetic relationship between Sumerian and IE, PIE. I am simply talking of Sumerian loanwords in modern languages. Please take due note.
    By saying that most dictionaries do not agree on the origin of words, I mean that their methologies are based mainly on speculations and reconstructed hypothetical languages like PIE. I am by no means promoting the method of sheer phonetic similarity for establishing etymological relationships, but the dictionaries do not really follow any better way. If you look at the scientific methods used by linguists, you will notice that the major component (not all!) is speculation. Sorry, but it is true.
    By saying "any step forward" I just mean approaching more realistic results anyway. Of course, finding any realistic word origins relating to Sumerian would also be considered a step forward, why not?

    Respectfully,
    Aydin
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    By saying that most dictionaries do not agree on the origin of words, I mean that their methologies are based mainly on speculations and reconstructed hypothetical languages like PIE. I am by no means promoting the method of sheer phonetic similarity for establishing etymological relationships, but the dictionaries do not really follow any better way.
    What better way is there?

    If you look at the scientific methods used by linguists, you will notice that the major component (not all!) is speculation.
    I think the word "speculation" is sometimes misused with regards to science. I would make a distinction between speculation and theorization. Linguists theorize; they do not just speculate out of thin air.
    And I'm glad you added that "speculation" (I prefer theorization) is not the only component of historical linguistics, since another crucial component is of course double-checking one's theories against the evidence provided by the historical record.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    The problem is, in my opinion, that we take the explanations of any established dictionary for granted, whereas different dictionaries sometimes do not share the same opinion. [...]
    You seem to imply that any objection against your Sumerian-(P)IE connections (as in the case of Sum gal and English gallant), can be dismissed as yet another 'speculation' and hence leaves room that your connection is possible?
    Or do I misinterpret your post?

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    franz rod

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Water is a fundamental word for every group of people. So it's absurd thinking that one civilisation influenced another one with "every-day" words.
    It can be only a casual similarity.

    Very interesting is the similiarities in language of the same linguistic group; for example in hittite water is named "watar"

    Sorry for my English
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Here are some additional Sumerian words indicating strong similarities with modern languages. I re-stress that these are merely suggestions for further elaboration. The purpose of this effort is not to establish genetic or typological relationships, but simply investigate the possibility of Mesopotamian loanwords in modern languages.
    Thanks for contributions,
    Aydin

    Note: accents and subscripts indicate homophones.

    ninda-gu:a type of bread ('bread' + 'net' ?). Compare with Persian “nan” (bread)
    na:adj., no. Compare with all IE languages
    nu-kù: no money, i.e., a worthless penny ('not' + 'silver, precious metal').
    du:to walk; to go; to come. Compare with Persian “dow” (to run)
    gù:n., noise, sound; voice. Compare with Persian “gu” (say), Russian “Gowor” (speak)
    ada, ad:n., father. Compare with Turkish “ata” (father)
    igi:n., eye(s); glance; face; aspect, looks; front, v., to see. Compare with “Eye”, “Auge”
    umu, um:old woman; nurse; wise or skillful teacher. Compare with Arabic “Umm” (mother)
    usu:skill; strength. Compare with Persian “Ostowar”(strong), Ustad (teacher, skilled man)
    , three. Compare with turkish “üç” (three), also colloquially spelt “üsh”
    dub:n., (clay) tablet; document. This has also other variants like dib, dab, which indicate writing through scratching, specially on clay tablets. Compare with “Table”, “Tablet”, also compare with Persian دیباچه (foreword) as well as “daftar” (note book)
    libx:mutton fat; grease. Compare with Greek “lipos” (fat), and its derivatives in IE
    pab, pap, pa:father; brother; man; leader. Compare with “baba”, “papa” occuring in plenty of languages
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Hello Aydintashar,

    Please keep in mind that the EHL forum is not about chance coincidences, which exactly your lists are basing their arguments on. As already requested by the moderator Frank06 (#5 supra), you have to compare the Sumerian words with the oldest forms recorded in the languages you are trying to see Sumerian influences in.

    If the words in question have reconstructed forms in proto-languages, we also look forward to explanations as to how Sumerian theory of yours better explains the phenomenon.

    The Guidelines for all WordReference fora and ones for EHL are very clear in that this is a venue for academic discussions. Please help us uphold the ideal.
     

    Lugubert

    Senior Member
    Hello Aydintashar,

    Please keep in mind that the EHL forum is not about chance coincidences, which exactly your lists are basing their arguments on. As already requested by the moderator Frank06 (#5 supra), you have to compare the Sumerian words with the oldest forms recorded in the languages you are trying to see Sumerian influences in.
    There are similarities that can be explained as "genetic" relationships between languages. As mentionmed, there are criteria to be used in deciding.

    There are similarites that can be explained by borrowing. In this case, I think it's necessary to trace the candidate words back to a time when their ancestors were really similar, nor coinciding in just two or three letters.

    AND there are similarities that can be found between any random pair of alnguages, like sound imitations. The name of the crow in many languages reflect the sound of the bird's cry. Classical examples are like
    Aydintashar said:
    umu, um:old woman; nurse; wise or skillful teacher. Compare with Arabic “Umm” (mother)
    pab, pap, pa:father; brother; man; leader. Compare with “baba”, “papa” occuring in plenty of languages
    "m" words for mother or wet nurse are abundant all over the globe, as are "p"/"b" words for father. I suppose that babies' first sounds often can be compared to the b and p sounds, and so proud parents interpret them as referring to themselves...

    This site should have been quoted earlier. Lots of maths, but the conclusion from the statistics calculations should be clear to everyone: Between any pair of languages from any language families, there will be lots and lots of superficial resemblances that don't mean a thing regarding the relationship betwen the chosen languages.
     
    Hi Everybody,
    Has anybody investigated the possibility of ancient Mesopotamian roots (e.g. Sumerian, Elamite, Babylonian, Akkadian, Assyrian etc.) in modern languages. Can you provide any examples?
    Thanks,
    Aydin
    In Turkish, the word "Temmuz" which means "july" is a Sumerian loanword. In Sumerian it is "Dumuzi", the name of a god.
     

    dudasd

    Senior Member
    Serbo-Croatian
    In Slavic languages root dub- is unmistakeably present in a number of verbs and nouns with the essential meaning of "to dig, to scratch, to drill, to make a hole, to make something hollow by burrowing".

    Coincidence... or not? My dictionaries are giving a poor explanation of this root, for example, connecting it with the homophone root meaning "to stand upright", which seems suspicious at least.
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian


    Well, I did compare French eau and Persian âb to start with. The first goes back to PIE *
    akʷā- (or ǝkʷā): ēkʷ-, the second to h2ep or ā̆p-.

    According to the source you presented, the word for water in Akkadian is apa´h.
    The word is very similar with the Romanian word for water (probably in pronunciation too): apă, which is officialy identified as coming from Latin word aqua. I mean, I'm getting confused here, is there any relation between those two words: apa´h and apă? Is that source reliable?
     
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    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    What about Turkish köprü and Greek γέφυρα both meaning bridge?
    They seem not to be related. However, a Mesopotamian root cannot be exluded.
     
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    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    According to the source you presented, the word for water in Akkadian is
    apa´h.
    The word is very similar with the Romanian word for water (probably in pronunciation too): apă, which is officialy identified as coming from Latin word aqua. I mean, I'm getting confused here, is there any relation between those two words:
    apa´h and apă? Is that source reliable?

    I searched a bit, and I found other Latin-Romanian pairs with kw > p:
    apa < aqua
    iapa < equa
    patru < quattuor
    paresimi < quadragesima

    However, this seems to be disputed, since Rom. apa could also go back to PIE *h2ep-, iapa is believed to be influenced by Albanian. Which leaves us quattuor > patru.

    I have no idea about the Akkadian word.

    So, either (1) kw > p is a possible sound change in Romanian (aqua > apa), or (2) Rom. apa goes back to a different root.
    In the former case, the similarity with Akkadian would be purely coincidential, in the latter case: I have no clue :).

    Groetjes,

    Frank

    PS: sorry for the lack of diacritics (or, using the wrong letters ;-))
     
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