Sumerian Language in Semitic Perspective
by Andi Zeneli © 2007 - 2009
The exact course of history cannot be traced through fossil finds among dead languages. Unfortunately, the story of a people can be manipulated distorted and profoundly altered by its conquerors. Language fossils themselves are the product of extensive lexical and grammatical borrowings and cultural exchange among ancient civilizations. New discoveries constantly challenge old assumptions while our own cultural and religious glasses prevent the naked eye from reading the myths and translating them to modern codes.
Needles to say, languages have been operating on folk etymology since the dawn of human speech because it functions as a mechanism of language expansion. Errors in translation are necessary to enable absorption of foreign ideas and cultures. The transfer of technology from one culture to another requires linguistic compromise. The advent of writing did not stop folk etymology.
Ideographic symbols were a quantum leap in recording knowledge. We rise each morning, put on clothes of cotton and wool, read a paper, drink a coffee heated by gas or electricity and go to work with the aid of a car. At home we type on a keyboard; we might later visit a pub or theatre. We owe to Sumerians every bit of our pleasure, comfort and the luxury of a modern civilization.
Not one of these activities has altered qualitatively over the past 5000 years. Only the chariot pulled by a combustion engine instead of horses has altered beyond recognition. We do not live in the age of technological revolution. We live in the age of written technological boredom. When our ancestors sharpened the first stone to make a deadly weapon they stopped being humans. The name human in Indo European and Semitic languages meant -man of the earth. But the first stone tool made us men of stone. The stone age had just begun.
We watch the apocalypse and have stopped reading the past. When we finish reading Sumerian stories we do not weaver from our Semitic myths. No, research and development do not equate with religious progress. No, the computer is not a stunning technological advance, just an extension of mud tablets as known for over a century. No, the internet has not transformed most people's lives, just helped them read Sumerian myths. No, printing technology has not transformed myth creation, merely wasted time while illiterate shepherds gain immortality by singing folk tales.
Technological innovation is always hyped by those lobbying for riches, usually from government. The technology of writing was no exception. The creation of Sumerian script could not have been a gradual process but a sudden idea of a citizen seeking rewards from the king.
Many important discoveries have been lost due to the ape size of human brain which is not designed to remember huge amount of data. Writing changed the course of natural selection of human mind into the collective perpetual knowledge. Hence a modern individual can experience in a few moments of learning what generations have discovered through millennia.
The advent of writing has recorded the evolution but it has not accelerated it . A feral child is a wild or undomesticated ape. An unfortunate individual who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age has no concept of human care, of love or social behavior, and, crucially, human language. Feral children brought up by animals experience profound metamorphosis. The region of speech is wiped out of the brain. The gray area responsible for human behavior is shrunk beyond recovery.
It has been proved that humans do not inherit any genetic trait of speech pattern. Actually humans who got lost in the wild died very young and could not adjust to the basic human behavior. A person raised by wolves in the forest or pigs in the basement has not met even the standard of an ape man who roamed the earth several thousand years ago.
A tiger brought up by a donkey does not bray like an ass. A lion would roar even if raised by hyenas. Yet a human raised by a four legged animal exhibits behaviors entirely like those of the particular care-animal.
A child needs two years of training to walk on two legs which means bipedal movement is a recent development of human evolution. Consequently, feral children fail to walk on two legs or even sit like normal people. Can anyone suspect a hawk not to fly, a shark not to swim or a kangaroo not to jump on two hind legs unless it was taught by its parent? But children who learn an alternative, animal culture, find it impossible to acquire human language, to walk or engage meaningfully with other humans - even after intensive therapy.
In the Greek myth of Oedipus Rex, Thebes was plagued by the presence of a sphinx, a grotesque and fearsome creature that killed travelers along the road to the city if they did not answer her riddle correctly. "What walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?" the sphinx inquired. Oedipus answered correctly, "A human being, who in infancy crawls on all fours, in adulthood walks upright upon two legs, and in old age uses a cane." Upon uttering his answer, the sphinx killed herself.
Old people routinely experience bone diseases and spinal injuries. Every person bends over while carrying the cross of the human condition. Most organs of our body age but they don’t fail entirely. However, spinal injuries are so profound that old people are forced to walk virtually on three legs in the evening of their life. The reason why humans suffer such excruciating pain is that their ancestors did not walk on two legs.
If we believe in evolution than we should find some genetic information in human cells, information that would be translated into some basic human behavior regardless of accidents happening to the individual.
Children need at least three years to mumble some decent words and after extensive training they can speak the language. What are the chances of survival for an animal or bird if they learned how to communicate after such a long time as humans do?
Humans have been using folk etymology because they do not inherit the ability to pronounce accurately certain sounds of another people. Actually the reason why dialects exist at all is the inability of humans to reproduce accurately even their own tongue. Unlike animals humans have not developed certain patterns of voice recognition and voice production regardless of being raised by their mother. Unless somebody writes and installs the software into the brain its computing machine is useless.
Stone tools are solid proof of an advanced speech system that enabled the primitive man to preserve the knowledge of older generations and make improvement on previous inventions. Yet the ape size of human brain prevents data accumulation. That explains why human evolution came almost to a halt after certain primitive discoveries.
There is nothing divine or special about human language. Different species can develop similar traits. Birds are dinosaurs with feathers yet there were dinosaurs that could glide before the evolution of the birds. Bats are winged mammals while dolphins, whales are mammals that have developed fins just like fish. Tyrannosaur Rex walked the earth on two legs just like the ape man did millions of years later. Parrots can freely imitate humans.
Humans speak a second language just like parrots. Humans never fully understand the nuances of words in a foreign tongue. That is why a dead language will never raise from the dead. Sumerian is a very bizarre exception. It behaved as if it was alive for 3000 years.
The invention of writing slowed down the loss of data, yet it did not prevent languages from dying out. Surprisingly Sumerian was never dead. It was in a state of coma. Languages are born like new islands and erode like old rocks. The writing system simply records those giant geological formations but it cannot stop the creation of new mountains, the disappearance of old rivers, earthquakes and the constant continental drift. Sumerian survived because it was a language of its own and a writing system for Semitic languages.
Writing enables humans recollect the experience of their entire species in a split second. No longer is a human the surviving individual but he has become the member of a surviving civilization. Sadly when a civilization dies out experience of its people vanishes into oblivion unless it is translated to another language.
Without folk etymology the continuum of human experience would have been impossible. Bad translation is better than no translation at all. If modern sciences apply strict rules on tracing the word formation the autopsy will not save a language from total annihilation. Folk etymology is not a science. Yet we have to teach science to find the genetic code of folk etymology. Vinegar is bad wine. Alas, vinegar is all science has got to determine the flavor of ancient grapes that helped manufacture the good wine. Languages are like onions build upon layers of errors and bad translation. But if you remove all layers you end up with no onions.
The age of the world according to Sumerians was a factor of 3600 because the basic number of Sumerian numeric system was 60, a number that could be easily divided by 10 and 3. While Semitic people believed that lifespan on earth was a factor of 20 because 20 (later 10) was the basic number of their numeric system.
Sumerians believed that earth was a sphere surrounded by water while Semites and the rest of mankind thought earth was flat. Sumerians were aware of ten planets although they did not possess telescopes. Semites could barely count visible planets in a night sky like Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The mythology of Semitic people and the Bible insist that the world is several thousand years old. The story of Genesis is true as far as recorded history is concerned. Humans started to collect large data about their ancestors and their kings only after the invention of the writing system. The age of the world is the age of the collected data from Sumerians.
Apart from some vague myths humans can not keep track of their history. Until the discovery of the Hittite tablets no descendant of the Indo European race had a clue of the existence of a mighty empire called Hittite. No one had suspected that an Indo European race called Tocharian had ever existed in China. Before the advent of writing it was impossible for primitive humans to preserve the slightest piece of information. But even after its invention the writing system did not stop the birth of different myths from the same source. The epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah are as similar as they are different despite of being created and recorded in the same Fertile Crescent.
If we believe that Sumerian script is the oldest written language we would make the classic mistake of humans since we do not remember the past. We would regard Sumerians as the inventors of writing until archeology makes another crucial discovery and pushes the writing event back in time.
By the time the primitive hunter gatherers painted their god like animals on cave walls in Europe 40000 years ago, they had already created a very primitive form of writing. The cave painting had a name and a function similar to the pictographic writing that would be later initiated by Sumerians. The material on which the painting or writing is manufactured does not matter at all, if that is a cavern wall, a pillar, and a clay tablet, papyrus, modern paper, and computer, text message on a mobile phone or old fashioned print on a typing machine.
Semitic Sumerian Etymological Dictionary
Semitic Sumerian Etymological Dictionary
Other books from the author:
There are many agglutinative languages in the world but Sumerian did not behave as a naturally born tongue. Semitic languages often employed taboo words to avoid offending the gods. In this process a whole language taboo was born – Sumerian. By the time I had compiled the Indo European Etymological Dictionary I realized that Sumerian words were abnormal distortions of either Semitic or Sanskrit equivalents. The most astonishing discovery was that Sumerian gods were actually depictions of Proto Semitic people whose faces were neither Asian nor African type. Long noses, huge eyes and tall stature were the hallmarks of Semitic and European folk. The whole Sumerian language seems to be not a language but a writing system to secure the preservation of a religious medium among the class of Semitic priests. In modern times a dead Italic language is still being used as an obscure medium of communicating with a Latin ignorant audience.
In other words Sumerian is a fraud and each religion related to or based on Sumerian myths is unfortunately a sophisticated device of manipulation. The fact that Semitic priests lived thousands of years ago does not make them less cunning than a shaman who makes a living by driving away the spirits through some cheap magic.
Here is a classic example of Sumerian Folk Etymology:
Root / lemma: (keu̯ǝp-:) ku̯ēp-, ku̯ǝp-, kū̆p- next to which occasional keu̯(e)p-, k(e)u̯ep-
Meaning: to smoke; to boil; to cook
Note: From ku̯- plural only k- probably through previously proto Indo Germanic simplification
Old Indic kúpyati (= Latin cupiō) ` is seething, is angry ', kṓpa- m. ` surge, rage, fury ', kōpáyati ` shakes, angers '; cṓpati ` moves, stirs '; kapi- ` incense ', wherefore as ` *smoke-color ' kapilá-, kapiśá- ` brownish, reddish ', also kapí- m. ` ape ';
Egyptian: qephi (derived from kapi)
Hebrew: קוף (koff) m.
Hindi: . कपि (kapi) m.
Telugu: కోతి (te) (kOti)
Urdu: کپی (kapi)
ugubi [MONKEY] wr. uguugu4-bi; uguu-gu5-bi "monkey" Akk. uqūpu
ugubi [MONKEY] wr. uguugu4-bi; uguu-gu5-bi "monkey" Akk. uqūpu
Sumerian Folk Etymology:
ugu4[KU]: to bear, procreate, produce (cf., ugu4-bi).
ugu4-bi; a-gáb: ape, monkey ('to give birth' + inanimate demonstrative ["Inanimate are things and animals." Thomsen, p. 49]).