Is Sumerian NOT A Language Isolate?

This article presents some interesting parallels between Sumerian language and Turkish family languages. We’re often told Sumerian is a Language Isolate – that it is unrelated to any other known language. Yet these folks make a good case for it being in the Turkish group:


Last Update: September 9, 2018

The Sumerian language is not an isolate language. 160 years of articles and books prove this fact.

(Linguistic proofs must be considered together with Archaeological, Cultural, Mythological, Genetic and other proofs: see Sumerian origins , and also Sumerian Migrations, Sumerian Original Homeland Central Asia, Ancestral Homeland Siberia, Ugur (Hurrian), and Implications for the Indo-European Homeland for details)

Sumerian Migrations

Sumerian Migrations on Eurasian Map click on the map for the article and full size image

First of all, the origins of Sumerians were established by those who had discovered this ancient civilization lost in history for 4000 years until 1850: British scholar Edward Hincks and Henry Rawlinson classified this new language and the people as Turkic (Turanian) and their origins as Central Asia in the 1850s. So, the idea of Sumerians being Turks is not a novel fact!

Frenchman Jules Oppert who named this civilization as Sumer (could it have been Subar?) and other Oriental Studies scholars including British philologist Edwin Norris, Danish Orientalist Niels Westergaard, and Finnish scholar Wilhelm Lagus (article by Finnish linguist Tapani Harvianen) have agreed. They were referring to Turkic people as Scythian while others referred to them as Turanian. (Later, the word Turanian or Turanid was replaced by Ural Altaic in Western academic circles.)

1850s A very important 2011 article by Professor Kevin J. Cathcart explains how Sumerian cuneiform was deciphered by Edward Hincks as well as the role of Rawlinson in the discovery of Sumer.

1874 French Orientalist Francois Lenormant analyzed Turkic-Sumerian mythology by comparing Sumerian myths with Central Asian magic and cultural similarities, in addition to comparing Sumerian language with Ural-Altaic languages. He published his book La magie chez les chaldeens et les origines accadiennes concluding Sumerian to be Turanian.

1874 It was well established in European circles that Sumerians were Turanian (Turkic) for almost 20 years until Joseph Halevy declared in 1874 that there was no such language as Sumerian!

He purported in many “academic papers” that the newly discovered language was a secret Babylonian priest communication protocol and not a real language! Unfortunately this was a ridiculous assertion/lie but very tellingly, most European scholars except Francois Lenormant and Oppert played along! And the Sumerian studies were largely hindered (except the works of Hungarian scholars) until 1915!

1915 Renowned German Assyriologist Fritz Hommel showed that 200 Sumerian words were Turkic

1930s It was Ataturk who in the 1930s invited scholars from Europe and Turkey to Ankara to study the subject and then adding his own linguistic and history work of almost 5 years, showing Sumerians to be Turkic and of Central Asian origin. He also said that Anatolia (Turkey) was the land of the Turks for 7000 years. And since then many linguistic, archaeological, ethnological, genetic and geographic articles and books firmly established Sumerian as Turkic many times over!

And it goes on from there for a couple of more pages, all rich with links to supporting works.

It had always bugged me a little that Sumer seemed to spring fully formed on the scene as a complete and advanced society, then just evaporated one day. Something just wrong about it.

This thesis makes much more sense. It started in the central Asia area and followed the known paths of migration of peoples, farming, and culture, southwest. Eventually founding Sumer. Then as Empires wandered back and forth, absorbed some things from Persia and shifted into the present, but with lots of Cousin Languages around, some perhaps siblings, or maybe even derivatives. The Turks arising from the same origin area:

Turkic migration refers to the expansion of the Turkic tribes and Turkic languages into Central Asia, Eastern Europe and West Asia, mainly between the 6th and 11th centuries. The region of origin of the Turkic peoples is southern Siberia (North Asia) and the northern parts of modern-day Xinjiang, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

Identified Turkic tribes were known by the 6th century, and by the 10th century most of Central Asia was settled by Turkic tribes. The Seljuq dynasty settled in Anatolia starting in the 11th century, ultimately resulting in permanent Turkic settlement and presence there. Meanwhile, other Turkic tribes either ultimately formed independent nations, such as Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and others now enclaves within other nations, such as Chuvashia, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, the Crimean Tatars, the Uyghurs in China, and the Sakha Republic Siberia.

Turkic languages are agglutinative rather than inflected. There is a theory that each language type slowly mutates into the other. You can see some of that with English. We have largely abandoned inflected endings of Old English / Germanic in favor of small auxiliary words. The next step is to affix those words as endings, and then they become inflections. Wash and repeat…

It is known that when Siberia goes Way Way Cold, as it periodically does in climate cycles, a massive wave of migration heads south and west into the warmer areas. Was a very old one of those responsible for the formation of Sumer? Might there be interesting archaeological sites “up stream” in the source areas? Hmmmm….

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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4 Responses to Is Sumerian NOT A Language Isolate?

  1. corsair red says:

    Siberian cold. Massive migration south into warmer area. Formation of Sumer.
    This migration was into areas that already had Summer, right? :-)

  2. H.R. says:

    Well, today we call them ‘Snowbirds’ when they migrate to Florida for the Winter, corsair red. Back when, I guess all they could think of was Sum(m)erians.

    If their civilization had lasted just a teensy millennium longer, I suppose ‘Snowbird’ would have occurred to them.

    Then we’d all be wondering if Snowbirdarian was an isolate.

  3. corsair red says:

    Good point.

  4. Another Ian says:

    Don’t tell Erdogan or he’ll stake a land claim

Comments are closed.