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5811Re: [ANE-2] Re: Cuneiform question.

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  • Robert M Whiting
    Aug 1, 2007
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      On Wed, 1 Aug 2007, jimw wagner wrote:

      > Robert Whiting wrote:
      > > --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, jimw wagner <jpw@...> wrote:
      > >
      > >> The other day, I was looking at pl. 48 in the British Museum series
      > >> part 40, "omens concerning the surdu bird (falcon)."
      > >> When I looked up this word in the Akkadian Dictionary at:
      > >>
      > > http://www.premiumwanadoo.com/cuneiform.languages/dictionary/index_en.php
      > >
      > >> It gave the name as surdu(MUÅ EN), MUÅ EN apparently being the
      > >> determinative for at least some birds.
      > >>
      > >> The ePSD (http://psd.museum.upenn.edu/epsd/nepsd-frame.html)
      > >> confirms this.
      > >
      > > This is quite correct.
      > >
      > >
      > >> However, the second part of the determinative, as it occurs in BMC4000,
      > >> does not appear in any of the Neo-Assyrian lists I have, that is,
      > >> Borger, Bauer, or Labat.
      > >>
      > >
      > > I do not understand what you are talking about. There is no "second
      > > part of the determinative". The determinative is a single sign, MUÅ EN,
      > > which represent the Sumerian word for 'bird'. The sign is also used
      > > logographically for the Akkadian word iṣṣūru 'bird'.
      > >
      > Sorry, your transcriptions do not come through.

      Neither did yours in my mail reader. That's why I went to the ANE-2
      list's home page to reply to the message. It lets me both read and write
      unicode. If you want to read the transcriptions, go to the ane message
      page and open the message. Make sure the character encoding in your
      browser is set to UTF-8. Learn to be the master of your software, not its

      > I see what my problem is here, then. the two signs (in Assyrian seeming
      > to be gag-h(u) are actually read as one sign, mus(en, as in the word
      > read _weapon_, which appears to be two different signs.

      No, you don't see what your problem is yet. The sumerian word surdu is
      written syllabically with a determinative. This is one of those words for
      which there was no logogram and which had to be written syllabically.
      The gag sign that you see is actually read du3. The entire word is
      written with three signs: sur2-du3.MUÅ EN. The sur2 sign is DUL3 (the
      gunû of SAG) the; the MUÅ EN is the hu sign. The Akkadian is a loanword
      from the Sumerian, surdû. Go to the PSD page you referenced and type in
      surdu at the bottom of the page; all will be revealed.

      > >> This same sign occurs in several times in the cylinder of
      > >> Sennacherib (BMC2600) with the value of 'ḫu'.
      > >
      > >> Can anyone give me enlightenment on this? For instance, I haven't found
      > >> any other bird-names that took the determinative though I haven't read
      > >> more than a limited sample of cuneiform texts. Also, can anyone give me
      > >> any notion of why the value of the sign should be so radically
      > >> different
      > >
      > >> between Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian. (Yes, I realize that one is a
      > >> language-isolate and the other is Semitic. Is there any reason
      > >> beyond that?
      > >
      > > Do you need a reason beyond that? But you are looking at the problem
      > > from the wrong end. The sign does not have different values in
      > > Sumerian and Akkadian. The sign has the same values in both. It
      > > simply depends on what the sign is being used for.
      > >
      > > I'm not sure that I can explain this to you because you really need to
      > > have some idea about how writing systems work and how they express
      > > language before you can grasp the concepts involved here.
      > >
      > > First, although Sumerian and Akkadian use essentially the same writing
      > > system, they use it in different ways. Sumerian writing is
      > > logo-syllabic (i.e., most content words are written logographically
      > > while most function words as well as bound morphemes [markers of
      > > person, number, gender, plurality, and case relationships] are written
      > > syllabically; foreign words and concepts that have no logogram are
      > > also often written syllabically); Akkadian writing is essentially
      > > syllabic (i.e., everything can be written syllabically, although
      > > logograms are frequently used as shortcuts to represent words or as
      > > determinatives for resolution of ambiguities resulting from the use of
      > > logograms representing different words).
      > >
      > > Second, cuneiform is both homophonic and polyphonic. That means that
      > > different signs can have the same value and that a single sign can
      > > have more than one value. When this sign means 'bird' a Sumerian
      > > would read it as mušen (but an Akkadian speaker would read it as
      > > iṣṣūru; we write is as MUŠEN in Akkadian context to show that it is
      > > being used logographically and is not to be read according to the
      > > value of the sign). But being polyvalent, the sign also has the value
      > > 'ḫu'. It has this value in both Sumerian and Akkadian. This value is
      > > strictly syllabic (i.e., it has no meaning associated with it). The
      > > Sumerians had a term for such values, KA.KA-si-ga, the interpretation
      > > of which is obscure, but whose meaning is undisputed. KA.KA-si-ga
      > > refers to values of a sign that are syllabic only (i.e., there is no
      > > logographic meaning associated with the value). In Sumerian, 'ḫu' is
      > > found most often as an optative particle in verbal prefix chains
      > > (interestingly enough, the Sumerian sign KUâ,+ [meaning 'fish'] also has
      > > a KA.KA-si-ga value 'ḫa', which also appears primarily as an optative
      > > particle as well). In Akkadian 'ḫu' is simply used to write the
      > > syllable /ḫu/; it has no logographic use (as it does not in Sumerian).
      > > Similarly, MUÅ EN is used only logographically; it has no syllabic use
      > > (as it does not in Sumerian).
      > >
      > >
      > >> One of my main curiosities, I suppose, is that if a sign occurs as a
      > >> part of a determinative, why is it not in the major sign-lists?
      > >
      > > I still don't know what you mean by "part of a determinative". But
      > > one of the reasons why you won't find all Sumerian logographic reading
      > > for a sign in the modern sign lists is that they are geared toward
      > > Akkadian. If a Sumerian logographic value is not used in Akkadian
      > > (i.e., doesn't have an Akkadian equivalent) it is likely not to be in
      > > a modern Akkadian sign list. Since determinatives really don't have
      > > an equivalent in the language (being used as mnemonic-identifying
      > > devices), they are likely not to be represented. For that you have to
      > > go back to Deimel.
      > >
      > >
      > >> If I'm asking the wrong questions, I'd appreciate being told that as
      > >> well.
      > >
      > > Consider yourself told (gently, I hope).
      > >
      > >
      > Thanks. I suspect I learned much of this stuff back in my Cuneiform
      > course near to forty years ago, but not having dealt with it until just
      > recently, it's slipped out of my mind.

      Yes, if you don't take esoterica like this out once in a while and dust it
      off it tends to crumble when you try to pick it up.

      Bob Whiting
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