Lesson 4: Sumerian Pronouns

Sumerian Pronouns

Create Basic Sumerian Sentences with Independent and Possessive Sumerian Pronouns

Lesson Introduction

Now that you have a basic understanding of Sumerian words and sentences, it’s time to start putting your knowledge into practice.

In this lesson, we’ll:

  • Review Independent Sumerian Pronouns
  • Review the Sumerian Enclitic Copula
  • Learn Possessive Sumerian Pronouns
  • Create Simple Sumerian Sentences

Lesson Vocabulary

Here are the new vocabulary words you’ll encounter in this lesson. Remember, you can see the vocabulary for all lessons in the Online Sumerian Dictionary.

a-na: 𒀀𒈾

  • part., pron. suff.,  in his/her (loc.), of his/her (gen.) (before OB).



a-ni: 𒀀𒉌

  • pron., (ind./pron. suff.) his/her (pers.) (abs.) (before OB).



babbar: 𒌓

  • v., to be white (alt. bábbar 𒌓𒌓).



bé: 𒁉

  • part., suff., its (erg.); with -àm, (it is) its.



bi: 𒁉

  • part., suff., its (sg./pl.) (abs.) (impers.).



e-na: 𒂊𒈾

  • part., pron. suff., in his/her (loc.), of his/her (gen.) (OB).



e-ni: 𒂊𒉌

  • pron., ind. prron./pron. suff., his/her (pers.) (abs.) (OB).



dumu-mí: 𒌉𒊩

  • n., daughter.



dumu-munus: 𒌉𒊩

  • n., daughter.



dumu-níta: 𒌉𒀴

  • n., son.



im: 𒅎

  • n.,
    • clay, mud, loam
    • rain, rainstorm, storm, wind, weather, cloud
    • direction



im-ri-a: 𒅎𒊑𒀀

  • n., family, clan, relatives.



máš: 𒈧

  • n., goat, kid (masc.); sacrificial animal.



mí: 𒊩

  • n., woman, female.
  • adj., female, feminine.



nam: 𒉆

  • n.,
    • being, state
    • fate, destiny, determined order, lot
    • testament, will
    • area of responsibility, office
    • governor
    • province
    • sign
    • manner, way
  • part., (nam-) -ship, -ness



nin9: 𒎐

  • n., sister.



níta: 𒀴

  • n., male.
  • adj., male, masculine.



ri: 𒊑

  • v.,
    • to lie (upon); to place (upon/against) (w/ -ši-); to press upon; to affix
    • to be located; to touch; to moor
    • to beget; to emit
    • to accompany
    • to be distant
  • adj., distant, far.
  • part., dem. pref., that/those (way over there).



zu-ne-ne: 𒍪𒉈𒉈

  • part., pron. suff., your (abs., erg., gen.) (alt. zu-ne).

Sumerian Pronouns

Independent Personal Sumerian Pronouns—Review

Here are the independent pronouns we covered in Lesson Three.

REMEMBER: There are no attested forms of us/we or you (pl.). These can be expressed in other ways, or you can use the copulas me-en-dè-en 𒈨𒂗𒉈𒂗 or me-en-zé-en 𒈨𒂗𒍢𒂗 for us/we and you (pl.) respectively.

ĝe26(-e): 𒂷(𒂊) I/me (abs.); by me (erg.); I (am), (it is) me

ĝá: 𒂷 me, (dat., com., abl.); in me (loc.); of me (gen.)

zé(-e): 𒍢(𒂊) you (abs.); by you (erg.); you (are), (it is) you

za: 𒍝 you (dat., com., abl.); in you (loc.), of you (gen.)

(a/e)ni ((a/e)-ne before -àm 𒀀𒀭): (𒀀/𒂊)𒉌 he/she; him/her

(a/e)ne-ne: (𒀀/𒂊)𒉈𒉈 they/them

Possessive Singular Sumerian Pronouns

The 1st and 2nd person possessive pronouns in the absolutive and ergative cases are:

-ĝu10: 𒈬 my (abs.), by my (erg.)

-zu: 𒍪 your (abs.), by your (erg.)

When followed by the genitive case marker -ak 𒀝, and the locative case marker -a 𒀀, the /u/ of ĝu10 𒈬 and zu 𒍪 becomes /a/:

-ĝá: 𒂷 of my (gen.), in my (loc.)

-za: 𒍝 of your (gen.), in your (loc.)

The third person personal and impersonal possessive pronouns in the absolutive case are as follows.

Remember that (a)ni/ne/na is the older version, and (e)ni/ne/na is the later version. Also remember that the vowels /a/ and /e/ are often dropped with (a/e)ne is suffixed to a word ending in a vowel—ex. dumu-ne 𒌉𒉈.

Also notice the possessive pronoun for ‘his/her’ is the same as the independent pronoun (a/e)ni (𒀀/𒂊)𒉌.

-(a/e)ni: (𒀀/𒂊)𒉌 his/her (pers.) (abs.)

-bi: 𒁉 its (sg./pl. impers.)

In the ergative case, or before the copula -àm 𒀀𒀭, the /i/ of /ni/ and /bi/ becomes /e/:

-(a/e)ne: (𒀀/𒂊)𒉈 (it is) his/her; by his/her (erg.)

-bé: 𒁉 (it is) its, by its (erg.)

In most cases, when followed by the genitive case marker -ak 𒀝, and the locative case marker -a 𒀀, this final /e/ is replaced with the genitive or locative /a/, resulting in multiple meanings:

-(a/e)na: (𒀀/𒂊)𒈾 in his/her (loc.), of his/her (gen.)

-ba: 𒁀 in its (loc.), of its (gen.)

Possessive Singular Sumerian Pronouns

There are no attested pronouns for us, we, and you (pl.) in Sumerian. Demonstrating 1st or 2nd non-possessive plurality must be done in other ways, such as use of the copulas me-en-dè-en 𒈨𒂗𒉈𒂗 and me-en-zé-en 𒈨𒂗𒍢𒂗 respectively.

-me: 𒈨 our (abs.), by our (erg.), of our (gen.)

-zu-ne-ne: 𒍪𒉈𒉈 your (abs.), by your (erg.), of your (gen.)

-(a/e)ne-ne: (𒀀/𒂊)𒉈𒉈 their (abs.), by their (erg.)

NOTES: 1) -zu-ne-ne 𒍪𒉈𒉈 is sometimes simply -zu-ne 𒍪𒉈. 2) The (a/e)-ne-ne (𒀀/𒂊)𒉈𒉈 can mean ‘his/her noun(pl.)’ or their noun(sg.) Determining which is the correct interpretation must be gleaned via the surrounding context.

The /a/ of the locative suffix -a 𒀀 does not contract to the preceding vowel.

-me-a: 𒈨 𒀀 in our (loc.)

-zu-ne-ne-a: 𒍪𒉈𒉈 𒀀 in your (loc.)

-(a/e)ne-ne-a: (𒀀/𒂊)𒉈𒉈𒀀 in their

Basic Copular Phrases

Now that you know the independent and possessive Sumerian pronouns, we can start combining them with the enclitic copula to form some basic sentences. But before we do, let’s review the enclitic copula from Lesson Three:

Enclitic Copula—Review

-me-en: 𒈨𒂗 I am, you are (-me 𒈨 in OS)

-àm: 𒀀𒀭he/she/it is

-me-en-dè-en: 𒈨𒂗𒉈𒂗 we are

-me-en-zé-en: 𒈨𒂗𒍢𒂗 you (pl.) are

-me-eš: 𒈨𒂠 they (pl.) are (-me 𒈨 in NS)

Talking about Me and You

Remember, -me-en 𒈨𒂗 can mean I am or you are. Determining which will be up to you and the context!

nin-me-en: 𒎏𒈨𒂗 I am/you are queen

lugal-me-en 𒈗𒈨𒂗  I am/you are king

Of course, a preceding independent pronoun will make things clear.

ĝe26 nin-me-en: 𒂷𒎏 𒈨𒂗 it is I who am queen

zé lugal-me-en 𒍢𒈗𒈨𒂗 it is you who are king

Now that we have our nam-lugal 𒉆𒈗 (kingship) established, let’s talk about who we’re with.

ĝe26 za-da-me-en: 𒂷𒍝 𒁕 𒈨𒂗 it is I who am with you

zé ĝá-da-me-en: 𒍢 𒂷 𒁕 𒈨𒂗 it is you who are with me

Now, let’s talk about our possessions. Remember, we don’t necessarily need an independent pronoun if the context is clear.

(zé) lugal-ĝu10-me-en: (𒍢)𒈗𒈬 𒈨𒂗 [it is] you [who] are my king

(ĝe26) nin-zu-me-en: (𒂷)𒎏𒍪 𒈨𒂗 [it is] you [who] are my queen

Talking About Him and Her

Now let’s talk about someone else—him and her. Remember -àm 𒀀𒀭 can refer to him or her. Determining which can be gleaned through the context.

-àm: 𒇽𒀀𒀭 he is a/the man/male

munus-àm: 𒊩𒀀𒀭 she is a/the woman/female

Now that we have that out of the way, it might be helpful to learn:

šeš-a-ne-àm: 𒋀𒀀𒉈𒀀𒀭 he is his/her brother

nin9-a-ne-àm: 𒎐𒀀𒉈𒀀𒀭 she is his/her sister

ĝá-da-me-eš: 𒂷𒁕𒈨𒂠 they are with me

Generally speaking, the word dumu 𒌉 usually means son, but is can just as easily refer to a daughter. For clarity, you might suffix one of the following adjectives to create specific words for son and daughter.

munus or mí: 𒊩 female, feminine

níta: 𒀴 male, masculine

Now we can tell if the child is a girl or a boy.

dumu-munus-àm: 𒌉𒊩𒀀𒀭 she is a/the daughter

dumu-níta-àm: 𒌉𒀴𒀀𒀭 he is a/the son

ama-ne-ne-me-en: 𒂼𒉈𒉈𒈨𒂗 I am their mother

zé a-a-ne-ne-me-en: 𒍢𒀀𒀀𒉈𒉈𒈨𒂗 it is you who are their father

Unless we’re talking about someone else’s children, in which case:

dumu-munus-àm: 𒌉𒊩𒀀𒀭 she is a/the daughter

dumu-níta-àm: 𒌉𒀴𒀀𒀭 he is a/the son

ama-ne-ne-me-en: 𒂼𒉈𒉈𒈨𒂗 I am their mother

zé a-a-ne-ne-me-en: 𒍢𒀀𒀀𒉈𒉈𒈨𒂗 it is you who are their father

Notice how in the last example, the singular noun dumu 𒌉is used, as we know from the 3rd person copula -me-eš 𒈨𒂠 that child is plural.

Talking About Them and Us

nin9-me-en-dè-en: 𒎐 𒈨𒂗𒉈𒂗 we are sisters

šeš-me-en-zé-en: 𒋀 𒈨𒂗𒍢𒂗 you are brothers

dumu-me-eš: 𒌉𒈨𒂠 they are children

Whose siblings and children are they?

šeš-zu-me-en-dè-en: 𒋀 𒍪𒈨𒂗𒉈𒂗 we are your (sg.) brothers

šeš-zu-ne-ne-me-en-dè-en: 𒋀 𒍪𒉈𒉈 𒈨𒂗𒉈𒂗 we are your (pl.) brothers

nin9-a-ne-me-en-zé-en: 𒎐 𒀀𒉈 𒈨𒂗𒍢𒂗 you (pl.) are his/her sisters

nin9-a-ne-ne-me-en-zé-en: 𒎐 𒀀𒉈𒉈 𒈨𒂗𒍢𒂗 you are their (pl.) sisters

dumu-ĝu10-me-eš: 𒌉𒈬 𒈨𒂠 they are my children  

Talking About It

Now that we’ve talked about people, let’s talk about something inanimate: the é 𒂍, the household, or im-ri-a 𒅎𒊑𒀀, the family/clan.

é-gal-àm: 𒂍𒃲 𒀀𒀭 it is a large household

im-ri-a-tur-àm: 𒅎𒊑𒀀𒌉𒀀𒀭 it is a small family/clan

We can also talk about these in relation to possession.

é-gal-ĝu10-àm: 𒂍𒃲 𒈬 𒀀𒀭 it is my large household

im-ru-a-tur-zu-àm: 𒅎𒊑𒀀𒌉 𒍪𒀀𒀭 it is your small family/clan

NOTE: é-gal 𒂍𒃲 is also the word for palace, which means é-gal-àm 𒂍𒃲 𒀀𒀭, can also be read ‘it is a palace’.