- Languagespoken in southern Mesopotamia until the beginning of the second millennium B.C. It was expressed in writing since the Early Dynastic period (earlier forms of cuneiform were not meant to reflect a particular idiom). Sumerian texts were written in the “main dialect” (emegir), and a secondary dialect was used for female speakers in the texts (emesal). It is not related to any other known languages. Its structure is agglutinative and ergative, and it differs greatly from the Semitic languages (e.g., Akkadian) that were current in Mesopotamia since the earliest written records. Most Sumerian sources date from the late third millennium B.C., the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur, when Sumerian was the official language for all documents. From the Early Dynastic period, there are important text collections from Abu Salabik and Shuruppak. Most of the extant copies of Sumerian literary texts (myths, prayers, hymns, humorous dialogues, fables, proverbs, and royal inscriptions) date from the Old Babylonian period. Sumerian probably became extinct as a spoken language by the mid-second millennium, but it continued to be transmitted in writing as part of advanced scribal training until the very end of cuneiform literacy.
Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. EdwART. 2012.