Site Cardinal Lemoine
Salle Françoise Héritier, Institut des civilisations
En libre accès, dans la limite des places disponibles

Niek Veldhuis est invité par l'assemblée du Collège de France, sur proposition du Pr Dominique Charpin.

La conférence est en anglais.


Modern Sumerian lexicography is entangled in complex ways with ancient lexicography, produced by Babylonian and Assyrian scholars in the period between 1,800 BCE to 100 AD. The texts that these ancient scholars wrote are called lexical lists – they consist of long lists of words and expressions in Sumerian, provided with a translation in Akkadian.

Sumerian was spoken in the deep south of what is now Iraq in the fourth and third millennium BCE. Once Sumerian had died out as a vernacular, knowledge of the language was preserved by Babylonian and Assyrian scholars who spoke different dialects of Akkadian. For modern scholars Sumerian poses great difficulties because it is a linguistic isolate. Akkadian, on the other hand, with its Assyrian and Babylonian dialects, belongs to the Semitic group and is related to languages such as Hebrew and Arabic. Sumerian – Akkadian bilinguals, therefore, are potentially of great value for developing a Sumerian dictionary. One issue, however, is that ancient bilinguals do not necessarily reflect the same principles of translation that a modern scholar would subscribe to. 

In the past five years no less than three dictionaries of Sumerian have appeared: two traditional paper publications, and one digital online glossary. A comparison of these three dictionaries will invite thoughts about the past and the future of Sumerian lexicography. How do modern lexicographers depend on lexical lists, the work of their ancient counterparts? How can modern computational methods advance the semantic analysis of Sumerian words?