Grammar : Sumerian and Tamil


The issue of the identification of Sumerian language as Archaic Tamil is the clue we have towards unraveling the many corners of not only the Prehistory of India but also the origins of civilization and its spread from East to the West or from the middle both ways. In order to have a scientific understanding  of this matter, I think we have to establish the linguistic identity Sumerian has with Tamil and as preliminary to showing  how this Sumerian language is also related to  other world languages like Austrolesian  African  Ancient Greek  Ancient Hebrew and so forth. Unfortunately the transliteration scheme currently employed by the Sumerian scholars and which has been going on without any reference to the Dravidian languages  seems to have many flaws that need to be corrected by systematic studies , a task in which both the Sumeriologists and Dravidian scholars have to come  together. Since such a group of scholars is already showing positive sings of emerging, I want to analyze couple of sentences in Sumerian that would mark out some areas for  future studies.


I chose sentences below in virtue of the clarities they bring into the phonology morphology and grammar and the directions for re-transcribing so that the ancient phonology is also recaptured.


The sentences are from Suruppak’s NeRi ( The Instructions of Suruppak, Bendt Alster), the oldest written copy of which is  dated around 2500 -  2600 B.C. ( Al Ubaid period). Since this is the oldest WRITTEN copy of a text that had existed in oral form perhaps for several centuries, it is certain that this text goes back 3rd or 4th millennium itself and hence perhaps the oldest literature of the world that had widespread influence throughout the ancient world. The latest copies are dated around 1000 B.C. and hence it must have been a text that was cherished for several millenniums and all over the ancient Middle East.


62. uru.tus lu-ka na-ab-ta-bal-e-de ( Do not transgress people’s dwelling place)


63. si-du-un si-du-un si-me- si-ib-be-e-ne ( Go aay! Go away!  -- they will say to you)


These can be rendered more accurately as


uuru.tuc.u uLu-aka naa aabta paalyidee


sii-idu-en sii-idu-en siimmee seppinee


The key words are : uru ( uuru: town, city) tus ( tunjcu: to stay, sleep) ul ( uLu> aaLu: people) ka (aka, akam: inside, place) ab ( av or aav : there , they)  -ta ( tu, ta: ablative case marker) bal ( paal: to cross over) e-de ( idu : aux. verb to do) si ( sii : to radiate , extend, cel: to go away), si-ib-be-e-ne ( ceppinee)




The Vowel Length : the short and long


It appears to me that the short and long vowel length must have existed in Sumerian while the transcription conventions do not accommodate this ( may be because the script itself failed in this leaving it to the context to determine it)


The words uru ( uuru) bal ( paal)  na ( naa ) are clear evidences to this . Throughout its history and in the wide use the word uru, it  has existed only as  Ta. uuru and it continues to exist as thus even now. The bal (Ta.paal) has given us the word paal-am ; bridge , something that helps one to crossover a river etc. It also exists in duplicated form bal-bal-a meaning generations to come. It is clear that it is this that underlies the formation of culturally some important terms such as paramparai, paarampariyam, piraaptam etc. We may also equate this word with the ‘paal’ of Tol.  and  derive ‘par-an < paal-an’  the lofty ; paraman < paala-me-en), the Transcendent BEING. It may be possible that it is this Paraman that is rendered in SK as Brahman.


We must also note another Su. word ‘pa” meaning the zenith which has coalesced with this word by evolving into paal: white, bright;  pakal: daylight, paal-ai: desert land etc.


The /b/ and /p/ as Allophones


However the point is  , it appears that phonemic  distinction between /b/ and /p/ perhaps did not exist as it does not  even now both being taken as allophones of of the phonem {b}. While they exists as the sounds of Tamil, but do not serve as phonemes.


The Aux Verb idu


The VP “na-an-ta-ba-e-de “ clarifies many issues in the development of the  Verb Morphology of the Dravidian languages and how Tamil has retained its ancient forms. The ‘e-du’ is most certainly Ta. idu as in cey-t-idu, van-t-idu,  pooy-idu etc. Hence we can see that what is rendered as ‘e” is actually more accurately ‘i’. There are many examples towards this the most notable being Su. e meaning  ‘house” i.e, Ta. il.  This ‘e’ also occurs in many compounds : e-ku ( Ta. koo-il__ e-gal-la ( Large house , palace; kaL-il (obsolete). It appears that the sign read as ‘e’ meaning a house  should be  read as ‘il’ more accurately



We should note that the aux verb idu ( e-du) may exist also in truncated forms with the initial ‘e’ deleted as  ‘si-du-un” which is actually ‘sii-idu-en’ . We should also note that the pronominal suffix ‘ –en’ changes to ‘un’ if it is preceded by  ‘u’  and ‘in’ if preceded by ‘- i’ and so forth. The pronominal suffix /en/ is available even as in ‘ van t-een’,  ‘paditt-een’  where ‘-een’ means “I” while in such phrases as ‘van-t-aan’  ‘padit-aan’ etc. it means ‘he’.  Thus perhaps Su. en is actually ‘een” and which has become ‘een’ ‘’aan”  ‘oon”  etc. However in the pronouns “av-an < ab-an”  “iv-an <ib-an) we have the form with short vowel.


The primordial meaning of ‘aan’  must have been  simply the neutral ‘person’ ‘self’ etc  later giving  rise to the word Ta. aanma: the soul, that which is the essence of being a person.


The Plural marker: e-ne


The word si-ib-bi-e-ne which is clearly Ta. ceppu-inee’ shows that the plural marker Su. e-ne is Ta. ina, inam: a multitude, a collectivity , group etc. Now it exists only as the plural marker of the non-person category of objects ‘ - na “ as : maadukaL vanta-na. Here again we have Su. e corresponding to Ta. i,  Ta.  e-ne & ina, inam


The alternation between -e- and -i


The  word si-ib-bi which is clearly identifiable as Ta. ceppu, ceppu shows that ‘e’ of Tamil perhaps also varied with ‘i’  of Su.  This word also shows that -bb-/ -pp- consonant clusters  was in the repertoire of Su. as it is in Tamil and again as allophones.


These are only some brief notes of linguistic matters that need to be studied more extensively so that a more accurate understanding of SumeroTamil phonology and morphology become available and through that a better understanding of the evolution of Tamil and other Dravidian languages.