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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 you can

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

  • analyze the grammatical structure of Sumerian words and clauses,

  • critically use the principal scholarly literature dealing with the Sumerian language, and

  • translate independently Sumerian texts of intermediate difficulty.


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

Students can take this course for 10 EC (= 280 hours), either in one semester or in two consecutive semesters. Please contact the teacher for more information about these options.

Assessment method

Assessment will be in four parts, the first three of which are in the BA course:

  • 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 BA course (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.

Exam review

Students can view their marked examinations and request (additional) feedback for a period of 30 days after the publication of the grades.

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 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