Monday, August 24, 2020

Sumerian Verb Conjugator (SVC)

Sumerian Verb Conjugator (SVC) 
Version of 23 August 2020 reload
Authors: Margaret Jaques & Dieter Koch, Zurich, Switzerland. Please report any errors to

Sumerian Verb Conjugator and Analyser (SVC, SVA)
Babylonian Verb Conjugator and Analyser (BVC, BVA)
In the study of the Sumerian language, the verbal system represents the greatest challenge. Its complexity makes it difficult to present it comprehensively in tabular form. Another problem is the insufficient availability of information about the possible constructions of verbs and their lexical meanings. The situation is less dramatic in the Akkadian language, where extensive lexica and conjugation tables (by von Soden, Huehnergard) are available, but even here it is not easy for students to find the right table with the right paradigm.

The aim of this project is the development of online tools to mitigate the unsatisfactory situation described above. They will be written in the programming language Javascript and will be executable on every internet browser and device. The tools should have the potential to become important reference works in Assyriology.

At the moment our work is focused mainly on the Sumerian Verb Conjugator (SVC) and the Sumerian Verb Analyser (SVA). Their prototype is accessible under There is also a prototype of a Babylonian Verb Conjugator (BVC) under, however, the development is less advanced, and as yet it does not know some frequent verbs which are doubly weak or very irregular. A Babylonian Verb Analyser (BVA) does not exist yet.

The Sumerian Verb Conjugator and Analyser are supposed to accomplish the following tasks for all proven Sumerian verbs including the composite verbs:
  • They should provide detailed information on the possible syntactic constructions of a verb and the meanings it has in these constructions.
  • SVC should be able to generate conjugation tables for each verb and all its constructions and should master all possible prefixes and suffixes. Each table field should optionally contain the verb form, an analysis that clarifies it, a morphological gloss as used in linguistics, and an English translation..
  • SVA should be able to analyse all verb forms and in case of ambiguity should show all the possible different analyses. In addition, it should indicate possible alternative readings, such as i3-gub and ni-gub.
  • It should be able to provide possible English translations for all verb forms; in case of ambiguity, it should provide translations for all the possible different analyses.
  • For each verb, SVC should provide a representative list of examples from Sumerian literature, including an English translation, a morphological gloss, and, if possible, a link to the online source at ETCSL, CDLI, BDTNS, ETCSRI, or ePSD which allows the user to study the example in its context. This representative list should ideally contain all existing forms of this verb.
  • Many verb forms produced by SVC are not attested but are logically formed by the computer. Also, many analyses of verb forms shown by SVA are merely theoretical. Thanks to the examples list, SVC and SVA will be able to indicate (a) which forms of the verb are attested and which are not. In addition, they will indicate (b) which of the given analyses of verb forms are found in the list of examples.
  • Online text databases such as ETCSL, CDLI, BDTNS, ETCSRI and ePSD will have the possibility to link verb forms to SVA and display possible analyses and translations at the click of the mouse. They just have to add links like the following to their verb forms: (for the verb form i3-gub). In fact, this already works for a number of verbs. A future version of SVA should also be able to isolate verbs, including compound verbs from a longer string, e.g. from a whole text line. In this way it will also be usable for text databases that are not lemmatised.
  • Thanks to the morphological glosses, the sample texts, tables, and analyses will also be accessible to linguists who have a great interest in Sumerian but do not necessarily want to learn the language in depth.
The Babylonian Verb Conjugator and Analyser should do pretty much the same for the Akkadian language, except that no examples from Akkadian literature will be given. Here, the user should rely on CAD, for which BVC will only indicate the volume and page number.

Thus, our project as well as this documentation are still under construction, and it is to be expected that many things will be changed or improved with time and especially when Jagersma's new grammar will appear.

The conjugation tables and the verbal analyses of SVC and SVA will be mostly based on the principles laid out in A.H. Jagersma's "A Descriptive Grammar of Sumerian" (2010) and "An introduction to Sumerian Grammar" (2018), with some exceptions, where we know that Jagersma has changed his views or where ideas from Attinger (1993), Foxvog (2016) or other sources including the authors themselves (D. Koch, M. Jaques) were implemented.

We are deeply indebted to Bram Jagersma, who helped us to clear up many points of doubt. It is important to add, however, that he did not really supervise this project and any shortcomings or errors in the tables or analyses or documentation are our own fault, not his.

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