Archiver > GENEALOGY-DNA > 2006-08 > 1155099085

From: "Ethan S Bruce" <>
Subject: Re: [DNA] re Ethan's history of IE
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2006 23:51:25 -0500
References: <> <>
In-Reply-To: <>

On 8/8/06, CherylSimani <> wrote:
> Sorry about the "pouncing" bit, I sometimes get carried away. And yes,
> I was reading Balkans for your Baltic – but the point about Alexander still
> stands true.

No problem.

Sumerian remained the official language long after the Akkadians took
> control of the lowlands. On the other hand, Akkadian became the
> international language from about 2000 BCE until it was replaced with
> Aramaic during the Assyrio-Babylonian period. Aramaic continued to dominate
> the region through the early Persian and Parthian periods (until 243
> CE). It is possible that a few Sumerian words were passed down through the
> ages.

It also seems possible, at least, that Proto-Indo-Europeans took on some of
the words of their Sumerian neighbors.

Linguistics is a tricky business. One very real problem is that words
> from different languages may have the same sound and muddy-the-water. For
> instance in comparing Biblical Hebrew to English - he means she, who means
> he, me means who, and hello means - is it not so.

It's very tricky, and unfortunately I don't know enough Biblical Hebrew to
follow your examples, but an important aspect of the Sumerian-PIE
similarities is that the two languages don't merely use similar sounds to
represent different meanings (meanings like he vs she, who vs he, me vs.
who, etc.), rather they both use similar sounds to represent the same or
similar meanings (me vs me). That makes the parallels more significant, in
my opinion, and probably indicative of borrowing. But, as you say, it's
tricky, and I could be wrong.

Since I first saw that list, though, I've looked into the subject a bit on
my own. Interestingly, sometimes PIE will use the same morpheme for two
unrelated concepts, and Sumerian will use a corresponding morpheme for two
corresponding concepts. To clarify (I hope):

There are two PIE roots with the form *ag- (the asterisk means it's a
reconstruction). One means "to do" or "to move" (whence "act"), while the
other means "to speak" (whence "adage"). Likewise, there is a Sumerian
form, ég, that can mean either "to do" or "to speak." It's strange enough
that similar morphemes should denote similar concepts in PIE and Sumerian
one at a time, but for both languages to double up in the same way is just

Another example of similar morphemes doing double duty in both languages
involves the two PIE roots with the form *bergh-. One means "to hide"
(whence "bury"), and the other means "high place" (whence "burg"). Compare
this to the Sumerian form, barag, which in one sense means "box, sack,
chamber" (all are good hiding places) and in another, "throne dias, nest"
(both are usually high places).

Plus, there's even an example of a morpheme carrying three different
meanings in PIE and a similar morpheme carrying three corresponding meanings
in Sumerian. Three PIE roots take the form *bhel-, and they mean,
respectively, "to thrive," "to burn," and "to blow." Compare this to the
Sumerian bul, which means "to sprout," "to ignite, kindle," and "to blow."

It's hard to dismiss these as chance resemblances, and there are dozens
more, though few are multiplied like these are.


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