Glossary of Terms for Learning Sumerian

1st person (1st): Referring to the speaker or the group the speaker is part of.

2nd person (2nd): Referring to the person or people being spoken to.

3rd person (3rd): Referring to someone or something, not speaking or being spoken to.

ablative case (abl.): indicates removal or by a method ‘from [a place or method]’.

absolutive case (abs.):the standard unaltered case of a noun.

active voice: in the active voice, the subject is the agent; that is, the noun doing the action.

adjective (adj.): a describing word that tells more about a noun.

adverb (adv.): a word that describes a verb, adjective, or another adverb and often tells how, when, or where.

auslaut: the final consonant, sound, or syllable in a word or syllable boundary.

comitative case (com.): indicates group action, as in ‘with’.

conjugational prefix (conj. pref.): a small word that precedes a verb to change its meaning or show when an action happened.

conjunction (conj.): a word that connects words or groups of words.

copula: a verb that connects the subject of a sentence to a subject complement; often the word ‘was’, ‘is’, or ‘will be’.

dative case (dat.): indicates motion toward someone, as in ‘to/for [a person]’.

demonstrative (dem.): a word that indicates something specific.

determinative: an unpronounced word prefixed or suffixed to a noun to indicate a classification.

diacritic: a mark or symbol added to a letter to change its pronunciation or meaning.

direct object: a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that directly receives the action of the verb in a sentence.

enclitic: a word or particle that suffixes to the end of another word.

equative (equ.): indicates similarity, as in ‘like’, or ‘as’.

ergative case (erg.): indicates the agent; the noun doing the action, as in ‘[performed] by’.

genitive (gen.): indicates origin or derivation, as in ‘of’.

glottal stop: a brief stop, gap, or catch in a sound, such as the pause in the word ‘uh-oh’.

hamţu: an Akkadian (Akk.) word meaning quick that describes a perfective verb; that is a completed action.

imperfective (imperf.): a form of a verb that shows an action in progress or has not yet been completed.

impersonal: a class of nouns considered inanimate in Sumerian, such as animals, inanimate objects, places, as well as some classes of humans, such as slaves and enemies.

indefinite (ind.): refers to something that is not precisely identified, counted, or determined.

indirect object: a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase which is received by the direct object.

indirect reflexive: a verb form where the action indirectly returns to the subject, typically for their benefit or detriment.

infix: a particle in the form of a syllable, vowel, or consonant within the verbal chain that provides additional meaning about the sentence.

intransitive: referring to a verb that doesn’t require a direct object, such as ‘the cat sleeps.

literally (lit.): exactly as it is said, word for word.

locative case (loc.): indicates where something is happening, as in ‘in’, or ‘at’.

marû: an Akkadian (Akk.) word meaning fat or slow that describes an imperfective verb; that is, an unfinished or ongoing action.

middle voice: in the middle voice, the subject is both the agent and the patient; that is, the action affects the subject in some way.

noun (n.): a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea.

particle (part.): a small word that adds meaning to a sentence or connects words.

passive voice: in the passive voice, the subject is the patient; that is, it receives the action.

perfective (perf.): a form of a verb that shows a completed or finished action.

personal: a class of nouns considered animate, such as deities and humans except for slaves, enemies, and other people spoken of disparagingly.

plural (pl.): referring to more than one person, thing, or idea.

polyvalency: having more than one value, such as a sound or meaning.

possessive (poss.): showing ownership or belonging to someone or something.

postposition: a word or particle placed after a noun or pronoun to indicate a relationship with another word in the sentence.

preposition (prep.): a word or particle placed before a noun or pronoun to indicate its relationship to another word in the sentence.

pronominal elements: components in a sentence representing pronouns, such as prefixes, infixes, and suffixes in the verbal chain.

proper noun (prop. n.): a name of a person, place, or thing.

prefix (pref.): a small word added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning.

reduplication: the repetition of a word to express a grammatical or semantic feature, such as plurality, intensity, or verb tense.

reflexive: a verb form where the subject and object are the same, indicating the action is done by the subject unto itself.

singular (sg.): referring to one person, thing, or idea.

subordinating conjunction (sub. conj.): a word that connects two ideas and shows that one idea is more important than the other.

suffix (suff.): a small word added to the end of a word to change its meaning.

transitive: a verb that requires a direct object to complete its meaning, such as ‘the cat eats mice’.

transliteration: writing the sounds of one language using the characters or alphabet of another.

terminative case (term.): indicates a final destination, as in ‘to [a place]’.

valency: the ability of a verb to combine with noun phrases and pronouns, often distinguishing between intransitive (one participant) and transitive (two participants) verbs.

verb (v.): a word that shows action or a state of being.

verbal chain: a string of prefixes, infixes, and suffixes attached to a verb to provide additional information about the action.

vowel harmony: a phonological process where vowels within a word harmonize to be all from the same class.