Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

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L, Simon
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Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

Postby L, Simon » Tue Nov 28, 2023 2:38 pm

Hi!

I stumbled upon a book about Assyriology in my local library couple of months ago, which is beyond surprise, considering there are few researches on this subject in my homeland. I have briefed it through and found that it's mainly about Babylonian Akkadian, and it basically followed the European academic tradition, where Assyriology has thrived.

My problem is, that I, speaking and writing Chinese language and script ever since my infancy, are actually more familiar and comfortable with the ancient logo-syllabic style of writing rather than texts simply in Latinised transliteration, which basically is the style adopted by most materials I can find. I have also noticed ePSD2, which is a great corpus, but still lacks descriptions about the Sumerian cuneiform , the writing system itself (unless I'm using it wrong, which may happen).

As I study Chinese language history, I am familiar with the traditional Chinese philological way of study this logo-syllabic type of writing system, and we call it Wén-zì Xué (文字學/文字学, lit. "study of script") back home. Throughout the history of Wén-zì Xué, concepts like bù-shǒu (部首), piān-páng (偏㫄/偏旁), bù-jiàn (部件) have been developed to reduce a character into meaningful components that build up its sense, and a theory called liù-shū (六書/六书, lit. "six ways of writing") were proposed to explain the basic principles to invent and develop an intrinsic writing system: some of them much like concepts more familiar to the Western academia as in 'determinative' and 'rebus principle'. Therefore, I care a lot about the etymology of each Sumerian cuneiform sign, since it is widely accepted that all Sumerian cuneiform signs had been originally logograms, and my Wén-zì Xué knowledge urges me to study this ancient script 'the liù-shū way'. It is also true that I am trying to link different academic traditions and methodologies together, aiming to discover some innovative insights.

It will be nice to know whether there are any materials dedicated to etymology of Sumerian cuneiforms. I did find some sign lists from old literatures, but neither can I read full German texts at current stage, nor can I recognise actual German or French handwriting as a non-Westerner. But knowing that there is dedicated etymological materials about the cuneiform script out there can be very encouraging.

Thank you.
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Re: Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

Postby bolaobo » Tue Nov 28, 2023 4:51 pm

Manuel d’épigraphie akkadienne (Labat, R. 1994) lists the origins of many of the cuneiform signs and how they evolved visually over time. Unfortunately, it's in French. Knowledge of French and German is very helpful for this field.
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Re: Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

Postby lichtrausch » Tue Nov 28, 2023 7:39 pm

楔形文字入門 seems promising, but I've never looked inside it. One reviewer says 「絵文字起源説など、楔形文字の形成と構成原理が解説される。」
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Re: Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

Postby L, Simon » Wed Nov 29, 2023 11:47 am

bolaobo wrote:Manuel d’épigraphie akkadienne (Labat, R. 1994) lists the origins of many of the cuneiform signs and how they evolved visually over time. Unfortunately, it's in French. Knowledge of French and German is very helpful for this field.


Thank you so much! I looked it up and have checked a few pages, and I think it's just what I need! I can't believe I have missed this title before, which is probably due to my interest in Sumerian over Akkadian then.

Luckily, I am able to understand most of the texts of what I have casually read in this book so far. Not only does it include common historical forms of each sign from Deimel's list, but also it lists all values, each phonetic with semantic, after each sign, even distinguishing their frequency. I was also surprised at the analogy to Chinese character, which I rarely see in materials I have found before, in the line: "Les déterminatifs indiquent, comme les clefs chinoises, à quelle catégorie appartient le mot qu'ils affectent."

But I do wonder if this work is only available in handwritten (I assume) version, which is the only one I can find, because I'm really bad at recognising Western handwriting, even though in this book it's not that cursive thus difficult to read; which also reminds me, that I have to work myself to get used to read real handwriting, it being a part of languages learning.

Still, never enough words to express my gratitude! <3<3<3
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Re: Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

Postby L, Simon » Wed Nov 29, 2023 12:02 pm

lichtrausch wrote:楔形文字入門 seems promising, but I've never looked inside it. One reviewer says 「絵文字起源説など、楔形文字の形成と構成原理が解説される。」

Thank you for your recommendation!

I have checked on the Internet but fail to find an available copy, and I'm not thinking about booking one oversea for the moment. However, by the fact that this book belongs to the series "講談社学術文庫", and that it's a work by a leading authority in Japanese Assyriology academia (according to the book's introduction), I do believe that it is worth reading.

Moreover, I get an inspiration from your post, and it occurs to me that I have never actually though about searching for Assyriology materials in Japanese before: I had always stereotypically assumed that not much information can be found in "Sinosphere's" Assyriology academia. I will try to do some research in Japanese later.
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Re: Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Nov 29, 2023 7:40 pm

L, Simon wrote:
bolaobo wrote:Manuel d’épigraphie akkadienne (Labat, R. 1994) lists the origins of many of the cuneiform signs and how they evolved visually over time. Unfortunately, it's in French. Knowledge of French and German is very helpful for this field.


Thank you so much! I looked it up and have checked a few pages, and I think it's just what I need! I can't believe I have missed this title before, which is probably due to my interest in Sumerian over Akkadian then.

Luckily, I am able to understand most of the texts of what I have casually read in this book so far. Not only does it include common historical forms of each sign from Deimel's list, but also it lists all values, each phonetic with semantic, after each sign, even distinguishing their frequency. I was also surprised at the analogy to Chinese character, which I rarely see in materials I have found before, in the line: "Les déterminatifs indiquent, comme les clefs chinoises, à quelle catégorie appartient le mot qu'ils affectent."

But I do wonder if this work is only available in handwritten (I assume) version, which is the only one I can find, because I'm really bad at recognising Western handwriting, even though in this book it's not that cursive thus difficult to read; which also reminds me, that I have to work myself to get used to read real handwriting, it being a part of languages learning.

Still, never enough words to express my gratitude! <3<3<3

This is a bit off-topic but since you expressed interest, I do have a few suggestions for working on reading cursive Latin script.

If you can't write in cursive, I would strongly suggest learning. I was able to read the Hebrew alphabet since I was a child but I couldn't read hand-written Hebrew until the past year, when I learned to write in cursive Hebrew myself.

Since you have some knowledge of French, a gentle introduction to reading cursive would be the Babar books. All of the text is written in cursive, but the language is simple and the letters are big and clear.

And finally, since le Manuel d'épigraphie akkadienne is interesting to you, you can think of it as an opportunity to practice reading Latin cursive!
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L, Simon
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Researches & Studies: Dia- and synchronic linguistics(, hence the multiple-language-learning).
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Re: Etymological materials for Sumerian Cuneiforms?

Postby L, Simon » Thu Nov 30, 2023 12:34 am

Deinonysus wrote:This is a bit off-topic but since you expressed interest, I do have a few suggestions for working on reading cursive Latin script.

If you can't write in cursive, I would strongly suggest learning. I was able to read the Hebrew alphabet since I was a child but I couldn't read hand-written Hebrew until the past year, when I learned to write in cursive Hebrew myself.

Since you have some knowledge of French, a gentle introduction to reading cursive would be the Babar books. All of the text is written in cursive, but the language is simple and the letters are big and clear.

And finally, since le Manuel d'épigraphie akkadienne is interesting to you, you can think of it as an opportunity to practice reading Latin cursive!


Thank you for your warm-hearted recommendation on the adorable Babar books, even though I feel like I have past the age to devotedly read a children's book (sad).

I had actually learnt to write English cursive from Longman's New Concept English 1 as a child, and my handwriting was complimented by an British teacher back in university, so I had been confident about English handwriting recognition, until I dabbled in English language history when younger and encountered English facsimiles for the first time, and that was when I realised that real-life handwriting is a different thing.

I also noticed that English, French and German all have their own style of cursive, especially die deutsche Kurrentschrift, which undoubtedly adds up the work. (To furtherly derail for a moment: I actually learnt about French cursive from the episode titles of Miraculous : Les Aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir.)

Above all, I think my point is that real-life handwriting is really something different from printed cursive for me, therefore I will try to find access to actual handwritten pieces. Luckily, le Manuel d'épigraphie akkadienne has nicely organised handwriting that makes it less difficult for me, and I think this book will be an important step for my cursive recognition learning.
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