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Old 2020-03-15, 13:35   #2
xilman's Avatar
May 2003
Down not across

37·281 Posts

Originally Posted by xilman View Post
A couple of weeks ago I decided that it really was time to start learning Sumerian.

To put things in perspective, Sumerian was as dead or living a language at the date of the founding of Rome as Latin is today. That is, widely read and written by the intelligencia but it hadn't been spoken as a first language for well over a thousand years.

A quick rummage at DuckDuckGo turned up which convinced me that it shouldn't be too difficult. A dozen or so other videos are available in the same series.

Yesterday I remembered Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash was based heavily on the idea that Sumerian was the pre-Babel universal language. Sure enough on page 111 appears the string a ma la gen ba dam gal nun ka aria su su nu na an da

Two weeks' study is nowhere near long enough to be able to translate it properly, if indeed it is Sumerian, but even so I recognize /gal/ ������
as the adjective "great", /an/ ������"heaven, sky, god" and /nu/ ������as the negating element generally translated as "not". An hour or so with a dictionary turned up words which mean "ship" and "people" (the latter is /su su/, where /su/ ������ means "person" and plurals are generally formed by duplicating the noun). All very much true to the context of the narrative which suggests to me that Stephenson was paying attention to an Assyrologist.
Hmm, it looks like the cuneiform doesn't display properly despite my having the fonts installed. Perhaps a reboot is called for; the fonts were installed since the last reboot.

/gal/ is Unicode code point 120F2, /an/ is 1202D, /nu/ is 12261 and /su/ is 122E3 if you want to take a look with the aid of a character map application.
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