SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Introductory Sumerian (Masters)

Module Code:
Year of study:
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.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of basic Sumerian grammar, mastery of essential Sumerian vocabulary and competence in the reading of easy cuneiform texts in Sumerian
  2. demonstrate competence in the translation and interpretation of cuneiform texts in the genres studied
  3. demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the written legacy of Sumer
  4. demonstrate appropriate knowledge of the philological and methodological issues with which Sumerologists engage.


 This course will be taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week in language classes.  

Scope and syllabus

  • Term 1 to Reading Week: grammar, vocabulary and script
  • Term 1 after Reading Week: longer royal inscriptions
  • Term 2: longer royal inscriptions; historical-literary text, e.g. Utuhengal and the Gutians; narrative poetry, e.g. Gilgamesh and Akka

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); a language learning portfolio to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (30%).

Suggested reading

  • 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 Lagaš. Analecta Orientalia, 28-9. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1949-50
  • Foxvog, Daniel: Sumerian Grammar and Glossary (online pdfs, Moodle)
  • Landsberger, B., M. Civil and others: Materialien zum sumerischen Lexikon, later Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon. Rome: PIB, 1937- (vols. 1-17 so far)
  • Sjöberg, Āke 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