SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Introductory Sumerian

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Taught in:
Full Year

An introduction to the Sumerian script and grammar, to include readings from elementary texts such as Early Dynastic royal inscriptions, the inscriptions of Gudea and Ur III kings, etc.


Introductory Akkadian is normally a prerequisite.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module the student should have acquired knowledge and understanding of basic Sumerian grammar, mastery of essential Sumerian vocabulary and competence in the reading of easy cuneiform texts in Sumerian; should have acquired competence in the translation and interpretation of cuneiform texts in the genres studied; should have acquired a fundamental understanding of the written legacy of Sumer; and should have gained appropriate knowledge of the philological and methodological issues with which Sumerologists engage.


The module will normally entail two or three hours in the classroom each week. Preparation for classes will include the study of passages from the set texts for reading in class.

Scope and syllabus

The module begins with three or four weeks of instruction in the basic elements of Sumerian grammar. Thereafter it comprises mainly the reading and discussion of a selection of set texts in cuneiform.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); an exercise to be submitted day 5 after reading week, term 1 (5%); an exercise to be submitted day 5, week 1, term 2 (10%); an exercise to be submitted day 5 after reading week, term 2 (5%); an exercise to be submitted day 5, week 1, term 3 (10%).

Suggested reading

Basic bibliography:
  • Deimel, A.: Sumerisches Lexikon. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1928-37 Edzard, D. O.: Sumerian Grammar. Handbuch der Orientalistik 71. Leiden: Brill 2003 
  • Falkenstein, A.: Das Sumerische. Handbuch der Orientalistik I. Bd 2, 1-2. Leiden: Brill, 1959 
  • Falkenstein, A.: Grammatik der Sprache Gudeas von Lagas. Analecta Orientalia, 28-9. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1949-50 
  • Landsberger, B., M. Civil and others: Materialien zum sumerischen Lexikon, later Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon. Rome: PIB, 1937- (vols. 1-17 so far) 
  • Sjoberg, Ake W. (ed.): The Sumerian Dictionary of the University Museum of the University of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University Museum, 1984- (vols. A/I-III, B only) (abbr. PSD) 
  • Thomsen, M.-L.: The Sumerian Language. Mesopotamia, 10. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1984 
  • Volk, Konrad: A Sumerian Reader. Studia Pohl series maior 18. Rome: PIB, 1997


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules