history,  homeschooling

Resources for Learning Akkadian and Sumerian

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My current hobby is learning ancient languages, in particular Akkadian and Sumerian. I take a multi-pronged approach. I use an app to help me memorize word lists. I make charts of words and work through workbooks and I watch youtube videos. I look at ancient texts and their translations to be able to see how words are used “in the wild” (in their conjugated forms). I copy sentences. I make lists of related words.

Searching for Words

The Sumerian online dictionary and Akkadian online dictionary are both very useful. There are app versions.

Memorizing Words:

I use the app Memrise. This is basically a flash-card app that asks you to match a word with its translation. Once you’ve done that several times it will ask you to spell the word yourself. When it introduces a new word, it gives you the option of adding a little memory clue (or “meme”) and you can view the ones others have added. (One Akkadian word list has abundance of Star War memes as hints.)

The app has a number of user-generated lists of Sumerian and Akkadian words. Many of the lists in Memrise are based off of grammar books. If you find a good list and google the book you can work through the list and book together.

The lists do not always match one another perfectly. For example, the word Sumerian god is written in one list as diĝir and in another as diŋir. The letter that is presented differently in those two words is pronounced /ng/ like in “sing” and I look at the variance as a positive, rather than a negative. I want to keep my mind flexible and be able to recognize words in the different ways I might encounter them elsewhere.

I find the app works differently on my phone than on my computer. On the computer version I can easily search for new lists, but I have trouble typing in some of the letters. So I use the phone version to play the app, but the computer to select my lists.

Grammar Resources:

Digital Hammurabi – a great YouTube language course.

Introduction to the grammar of Sumerian by Gabor Zolyomi – Click the yellow botton on the page to download the book for free!

A Grammar of Akkadian by John Huehnergard is available on Academia.edu

Reading and Listening Practice (Or how to find words in the wild):

SOAS University of London History Department recordings – ancient texts with the transliteration and translations and RECORDINGS of someone reading it!

Reading Akkadian Prayers & Hymns by Alan Lenzi – this text is awesome. It has the cuneiform versions of the texts, the transliterations, discussion of the words and which grammatical form they are in and then a translation. I work through the poems slowly copying everything into a chart.

ETCSL corpus – a database full of Sumerian poetry and other texts with both transliteration and translations. The translations tend to deal with several lines together.

YouTube video of someone reading the Codex Hammurabi. This is a fun one to listen to partly because of the repetition of the phrase that means “If a man…”.

Sumerian Proverbs – This video shows some proverbs with cuneiform, transliteration and translation.

Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Royal Inscriptions – The nice thing about this is that you can hover over the word and see what the word means and what the grammatical components of it are.

Sumerian Recitations – an interesting look at some potential variations in pronunciation.

Facebook groups:

Let’s Speak Akkadian – these guys are incredibly helpful and responsive to questions. They also make youtube videos to help one pronounce the words. However, their focus is on reviving the language for modern use not dealing with the historic texts.

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