By John L. Hayes
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Additional info for A Manual of Sumerian Grammar and Texts
Bi, is used to refer to inanimate antecedents (corresponding to English "its"). After a consonant, this suffix is normally written 3-nj. After a vowel, it appears both as a-ni and as For example, "his house" can appear a s both 42-3-14 and e7-ni. In the Ur I11 royal inscriptions, the fuller form is more common (as in line 5). It is possible that both writings, 9 - 3 ni and g2-ni, represent /eni/ and the writing ~ ~ - 3is- aa morphographemic spelling giving the fuller form of the morpheme, even if it was the shorter form which was pronounced.
The most recent investigation, by Claude Boisson (1989), finds that none of the systems of nasals which have been posited for Sumerian is likely; their existence is not accepted in this Manual. It is not known if both short and long vowels existed, at the phonemic level or otherwise; the writing system cannot unequivocally show vocalic length. It is possible that long vowels existed as a secondary development, arising from the contraction of diphthongs or other vocalic contraction. As discussed above, in practical terms most transliterations of Sumerian only reflect the four Phonology 25 vowel system charted above; the other vowels usually occur in specialists' discussions about the sounds of Sumerian.
But Akkadian does not have an lo/-quality vowel, and if there were only Akkadian evidence, it might never even Phonology 23 be known that Sumerian had such a vowel. Thus, the picture of Sumerian of the Ur 111period (21 12-2004 BCE) is actually based on Akkadian of the Old Babylonian period (1894-1595 BCE) and later. Likewise, very little is known about the historical development of Sumerian phonology. Sumerian was spoken over a period of several centuries (and was used as a written language for even more centuries).