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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 (“Inleiding Sumerisch”), where we will treat the basic grammar of Sumerian and read a few texts in transliteration. In addition, students get a reading list for self-study and receive tutorials on topics from this list on the basis of their needs and interests.

Course objectives

Students acquire:

  • knowledge of the grammar of Sumerian;

  • the ability to read Sumerian texts and analyse their grammar independently;

  • the ability to interpret and judge scholarly literature dealing with Sumerian.


Please consult the timetables on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar;

  • Tutorials.

Course load

Total course load 10 ec x 28 hours= 280 hours:

  • 26 (13 × 2) hours attending the seminars;

  • 39 (13 × 3) hours preparing the seminars;

  • 35 hours preparing the mid-term assignment;

  • 40 hours preparing for the written exam;

  • 140 hours for the reading list, the tutorials, and preparing the final paper.

Research master students can take this course for 5 ec (= 140 hours). Please contact the teacher for more information about this option.

Assessment method

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

  • a written exam on the subject matter of the seminar (35% of the final grade);

  • a final paper on the reading list (50% of the final grade).


Both the written exam and the final paper must have a grade above 5.49 and can be repeated if their grade is lower. The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the three subgrades.


If the final grade is below 6.0, the final paper (50%) can be repeated.

Reading list

To be provided at the beginning of the course.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • course material, communication.


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

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.




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