Search Sumerian Sumerian was spoken in Sumer in southern Mesopotamia part of modern Iraq from perhaps the 4th millennium BC until about 2, BC, when it was replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language, though continued to be used in writing for religious, artistic and scholarly purposes until about the 1st century AD.
History[ edit ] Early writing tablet recording the allocation of beer in southern Iraq— BC The cuneiform writing system was in use for more than three millennia, through several stages of development, from the 31st century BC down to the second century AD.
It had to be deciphered as a completely unknown writing system in 19th-century Assyriology. Successful completion of its deciphering is dated to The cuneiform script underwent considerable changes over a period of more than two millennia.
The image below shows the development of the sign SAG "head" Borger nr. Kish tablet Sumerian inscription in monumental archaic style, c.
These tokens were in use from the 9th millennium BC and remained in occasional use even late in the 2nd millennium BC. Originally, pictographs were either drawn on clay tablets in vertical columns with a sharpened reed stylus or incised in stone.
This early style lacked the characteristic wedge shape of the strokes. Certain signs to indicate names of gods, countries, cities, vessels, birds, trees, etc.
Proper names continued to be usually written in purely "logographic" fashion. The earliest known Sumerian king whose name appears on contemporary cuneiform tablets is Enmebaragesi of Kish.
Surviving records only very gradually become less fragmentary and more complete for the following reigns, but by the end of the pre-Sargonic period, it had become standard practice for each major city-state to date documents by year-names commemorating the exploits of its lugal king.
From about BC, many pictographs began to lose their original function, and a given sign could have various meanings depending on context.
The sign inventory was reduced from some 1, signs to some signs, and writing became increasingly phonological. Determinative signs were re-introduced to avoid ambiguity.
Cuneiform writing proper thus arises from the more primitive system of pictographs at about that time Early Bronze Age II. By adjusting the relative position of the tablet to the stylus, the writer could use a single tool to make a variety of impressions.
Cuneiform inscriptions, Stela of Iddi-Sin, king of Simurrum Cuneiform tablets could be fired in kilns to bake them hard, and so provide a permanent record, or they could be left moist and recycled, if permanence was not needed. Many of the clay tablets found by archaeologists have been preserved by chance, baked when attacking armies burned the buildings in which they were kept.
The spoken language included many homophones and near-homophones, and in the beginning similar-sounding words such as "life" [til] and "arrow" [ti] were written with the same symbol. After the Semites conquered Southern Mesopotamia, some signs gradually changed from being pictograms to syllabograms, most likely to make things clearer in writing.
In that way the sign for the word "arrow" would become the sign for the sound "ti". Words that sounded alike would have different signs; for instance the syllable "gu" had fourteen different symbols.
When the words had similar meaning but very different sounds they were written with the same symbol. For instance "tooth" [zu], "mouth" [ka] and "voice" [gu] were all written with the symbol for "voice".
To be more accurate, scribes started adding to signs or combining two signs to define the meaning. They used either geometrical patterns or another cuneiform sign. As time went by, the cuneiform got very complex and the distinction between a pictogram and syllabogram became vague.
Several symbols had too many meanings to permit clarity. Therefore, symbols were put together to indicate both the sound and the meaning of a compound. Two phonetic complements were used to define the word [u] in front of the symbol and [gu] behind.
The spoken language died out around the 18th century BC. Akkadian cuneiform[ edit ] The archaic cuneiform script was adopted by the Akkadian Empire from the 23rd century BC short chronologyand by the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age 20th century BCit had evolved into Old Assyrian cuneiform, with many modifications to Sumerian orthography.
The Semitic languages employed equivalents for many signs that were distorted or abbreviated to represent new values because the syllabic nature of the script as refined by the Sumerians was not intuitive to Semitic speakers.
At this stage, the former pictograms were reduced to a high level of abstraction, and were composed of only five basic wedge shapes: Most later adaptations of Sumerian cuneiform preserved at least some aspects of the Sumerian script.
Written Akkadian included phonetic symbols from the Sumerian syllabarytogether with logograms that were read as whole words. Many signs in the script were polyvalent, having both a syllabic and logographic meaning.
The complexity of the system bears a resemblance to Old Japanesewritten in a Chinese-derived script, where some of these Sinograms were used as logograms and others as phonetic characters.
Assyrian cuneiform[ edit ] This "mixed" method of writing continued through the end of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires, although there were periods when "purism" was in fashion and there was a more marked tendency to spell out the words laboriously, in preference to using signs with a phonetic complement.
Yet even in those days, the Babylonian syllabary remained a mixture of logographic and phonemic writing. Hittite cuneiform is an adaptation of the Old Assyrian cuneiform of c.Details of the Sumerian cuneiform script, the world's oldest writing system, which was used to write Sumerian, a semitic language spoken in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq and Syria) until about AD.
The Mesopotamian basin was the birthplace of writing.
The Cuneiform writing system developed here was the first form of communication beyond the use of pictograms. The earliest writing systems evolved independently and at roughly the same time in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but current scholarship.
Students will use a translation chart to answer simple questions in the ancient Mesopotamian writing of cuneiform. Students will experience challenge of this early form of writing first hand. Designed for middle school Social Studies. Mesopotamia- Cuneiform Decoding This printable is a worksheet for students to become familiar with the general look of cuneiform writing.
They use the cuneiform alphabet to decode the message. Write Your Name in Cuneiform In today’s Literacy, we will be looking at Cuneiform, an ancient form of writing from Mesapotamia (now Iraq). Write your name in Cuneiform – Just like a Mesapotamian!
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