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The Sumerian Language: Structure and Analysis


Admission requirements

No previous knowledge of Sumerian or the cuneiform script is required.


Sumerian is an ancient Near Eastern language which was spoken in what is now southern Iraq. It was there the main written language until ca. 1700 BC and is known to us from more than 100,000 inscriptions and clay tablets written in the cuneiform script, which the Sumerians invented around 3200 BC. Sumerian is a language isolate and its position in a remote corner of the Near East shows it to be a last remnant of the languages that preceded the arrival of Semitic languages in the area.

Students participate in the BA course Introduction to Sumerian, where we will treat the basic grammar of Sumerian and read a few texts in transliteration. In addition, students will read a few texts independently and receive tutorials on the basis of their needs and interests.

Course objectives

After this course students can:

  • describe the basic principles of the Sumerian script and spelling,

  • analyze the grammatical structure of Sumerian words and clauses, and

  • translate independently Sumerian texts.


Please consult the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Tutorials

Course load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours:

  • 26 hours attending the seminars

  • 39 hours preparing the seminars

  • 30 hours preparing for the written exam

  • 45 hours preparing the texts read independently

Assessment method

Assessment will be in four parts:

  • weekly written tests on vocabulary and grammar (15% of the final grade)

  • a mid-term assignment of a text to be read independently (15% of the final grade)

  • a written exam on the subject matter of the seminar (45% of the final grade)

  • a final assignment of a text to be read independently (25% of the final grade)


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the final grade is below 6.0, the written exam and the final assignment can be repeated.

Inspection and feedback

Students will be invited to discuss their paper and the other results for this seminar (mid-term assignment and exam) individually with the teacher, as soon as the results have been published.

Reading list

The study materials will be provided through Blackboard at the beginning of the course.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • providing the study materials and course information

  • uploading assignments and giving feedback on them


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about registration in uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to register.


Dhr. Dr. A.H. (Bram) Jagersma