On 10 February 2014 00:27, Guilherme Santos <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> How did Sumerians know what was happening to who?

Short of building a time machine and asking them directly, we will never

Don't forget all we have of Sumerian are writings! It's entirely possible
that the spoken language was different.

> Did they have gender in
> their adpositions or did they just come in the order the noun phrases came?

No gender. the adpositions (really case suffixes) just appear in the
*opposite* order of the phrases themselves, exactly in the way of Gary's
original example, which he thought was just him misunderstanding how
postpositions work :).

Here's an actual example of Sumerian (with just a single genitive phrase,
but the principle is the same for nested genitive phrases):
šag ur babbar.ak.a
[šag [ur babbar].ak].a
[heart [beast white]-GEN]-LOC
In the belly of the white beast

(the brackets are there to help you track which affix belongs to which

It's actually surprisingly simple to understand :).

> I am really interested in how that works. Since my work in progress conlang
> does some weird stuff with word order to indicate definiteness i haven't
> quite figured how to make the adpositions' role clear. That sounds like a
> very good inspiration for that. (Some mad noun class system may also help,
> i'm thinking about the options)
Sumerian had a human/non-human gender distinction, but it only appears in a
small number of case affixes. Most of them are identical for both genders.

The Wikipedia page about Sumerian is quite good. I advise you to look at
it: :).

On 10 February 2014 08:23, Jeffrey Daniel Rollin-Jones <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I don't know if it's quite as complex as Sumerian, but Basque also places
> adjectives after nouns and number, definiteness and case suffixes at the
> end of a noun phrase; Classical Greek would place a noun phrase in the
> genitive case, including its concomitant article, *inside* its head
> (the-NOM the-GEN affair-GEN end-NOM "the end of the affair")

Basque was indeed the language I had in mind when I mentioned "the only
languages I know of that are group marking like that tend to have modifier
phrases *preceding* the noun they complete rather than following it". While
it places adjectives and determiners after the noun, modifier phrases
appear *before* it, making it somewhat less complex. That said, Basque has
complications of its own :P.

ObConlang: my own Moten works like Basque in that respect: group marking,
with adjectives following nouns, but modifier phrases and clauses preceding
them. In a way, it's kinda like the exact opposite of how English does
things (English is also group marking, but with prepositions that appear at
the beginning of the phrase rather than suffixes that appear at the end.
Further, it has adjectives preceding nouns, and modifier phrases and
clauses following them. Really, just swap the word order in English totally
and you've got a good idea of how Moten –and Basque– does things! :P).
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
President of the Language Creation Society (

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