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Syntactic marginalia in Old Babylonian.

This review article consists of two parts: the first briefly refers to the edition itself, while the second and more substantial part points out various important syntactic issues which arise from a close examination of the letters therein. These issues are discussed and expanded upon, based on additional information gathered from other Old Babylonian (henceforth OB) letters.


This letter volume contains, by and large, two groups of letters: TCL 1, letters 1-54, a new edition of the texts previously edited by A. Ungnad (VAB 6) in 1914; and TCL 17-18, prepared by E. Ebeling (MAOG 15) in 1942. Since both TCL 1 and 17-18 are often quoted in the grammatical literature, it is especially important that new editions be prepared in light of the growing Assyriological and linguistic knowledge of Akkadian.

A few innovations have been introduced in AbB 14: lexical remarks are given in a list at the end rather than in footnotes (in fact, an old practice in the ARM series). Also, the results of collations, more than five hundred of them, are found drawn in an appendix at the end, an excellent idea which renders the volume in a way self-sufficient.

However, unlike any previous AbB volume, the level of editing and proofing here leaves much to be desired; one finds innumerable typos (even in the transliterations!), dittogra-phies, missing footnotes and lexical entries, etc. These are serious flaws in a work of this sort, whose scientific value lies first and foremost in its precision and faithfulness to the original. Unlike the former AbB volumes, the translation renders several lines together; this befits texts whose interpretation is problematic (e.g., the archaic OB letters in AS 22), but here it is uncalled for and renders reading cumbersome. The English used in the translations is occasionally unnatural, and English copy-editing might have been useful. These flaws aside, the linguistic material contained in this edition is truly stimulating and forms the basis for the present paper.


Many syntactic issues in AbB 14 merit discussion, but space allows treatment of only a few. In the following are discussed only issues which are scarcely dealt with in the volume, new solutions to old problems as well as new insights. The issues are grouped according to their syntactic affiliation.

2.1 Substantival Content

This is an important issue which hardly ever gets the attention it deserves. Deutscher 2000 does look extensively into what he terms "complementation," but without specifically examining strategies of representing the verbal contents of substantives such as temum, unnedukkum, tuppum, etc. Deutscher (ibid., 10-11) maintains that there is no fundamental difference between clauses which are verb complements and those which are "noun complement," but his reasoning is semantic. The syntactic reason could be that both complements are (again, fundamentally) substantival clauses. However, the OB material points to different linguistic facts, viz., that these two types of clauses are not the same--they are constructed differently and have different commutation groups.

The most prevalent construction for the representation of the substantival content is a sa clause (rather than kima in a typical object clause):
 [1] u unnedukki sa subatka isterwna ana PN ustabilassu "And I
 sent over to PN my sealed document (saying) that only one garment of
yours is left." (119: 1 1-14; cf. 35: 20-21) (1)

This example features the expression of indirect content. The second person refers to the addressee, but the tablet is directed at a third party. An expression of direct content would be "one garment of his ... "Note that this is not a relative clause, since the antecedent unnedukki does not have a function inside the Sa clause, as would any antecedent of a relative clause. The content is often represented as direct speech inside this sa clause:
 [2] ana 10 sabim nadanim aspurakkum meher. tuppiya. sa sabi anaddin
 [ul l]aspuram "I wrote you to give (me) 10 workers, (but) [you did
 not] send me an answer to my tablet (saying) that 'I will give my
 workers.'" (95: 5-9; cf. 120: 8-9; 10-11; 9, 117: 7-9)

Here we see an interesting occurrence of direct speech inside this sa clause. This clause can even precede the substantive (which is unattested with relative clauses in everyday OB. as far as I know):
 [3] sa atapalsu meher tuppini subilam "Send me an answer to my tablet
 (saying) that 'I have paid him." (157: 19-20; cf. 9, 231: 30)

Another way to convey such finite content is to make it a genitive-equivalent attribute:
 [4] aran sumni damgam [in] "the crime by which he dishonored our good
 name [in] our town" (29: 38-40)

Another strategy, with a question, is to juxtapose a direct question to the content substantive, for which see below, [section]2.6.2.

Now, in order to judge these examples syntactically, we must compare them to their non-finite counterparts. The first is a (rather expected) sa ... parasim construction:
 [5] temka sa gersdnim mahah'uu ul taspuram "You did not send me your
 instructions for soaking the leek (seeds)." (141: 22-23; cf. 9, 112:
 29-32, and perhaps 4, 156: 7-9)

This strategy of juxtaposing a sa parasim construction to the substantive is discussed in Cohen 2005a: 194-96. Somewhat unexpectedly, there are several examples of such content represented by ana parasim (adnominal use of ana parasim is quite limited in OB):
 [6] ana eqlim suati ana PN ... nadaahn ruppi beliya illikam-ma "The
 tablet of my lord (namely) to give that field to PN ... reached
 me ..." (6: 10-13; cf. 85: 15-16, and possibly, with inverted order,
84: 10-13)

In the Mari letters one also encounters assum parasim (ARM 1, 22: 7-9; ARM 5, 62: 10). Another strategy involves a direct attributive construction:
 [7] assum tem kamasiya "as for the order that I finish" (132: 7, see
 1. 9 imp. kimis; cf. 6, 75: 6'-7', and ARM 26, 411: 60-61)

To conclude this section, the first construction (sa clause, exx. 1-3) is very different from the common way in OB to express verbal content, viz., by a kima-clause (which is not attested with a substantive in OB, as far as I know). The same applies to the second strategy (the attributive slot, exx. [4], [7]). On the other hand, other means more commonly represent verbal contents: sa + infinitive is used as a modal verbal content (see Cohen 2005a: 190-94), as well as a regular complement for epesum "see to it that ..." The construction ana + infinitive is also regularly used to represent a modal verbal content (e.g., of the verb qabum; see [section]2.3.2 below). In short, the paradigms representing the content of a substantive, on the one hand, and the contents of a verb, on the other hand, are different enough syntactically to justify a separate description. The following table illustrates these differences graphically:
 means content of content of
 substantive verbal form
1 clause substantival substantival different means
 sa clause kima clause
 (exx. 1-3)
 clause (ex. 4)
 -- ... parasam

2 infinitive attributive --
 (ex. 7)
 sa ... parasim similar means
 ana ... parasim

2.2.FSP Issues

FSP (functional sentence perspectives, or information structure) is the subsystem containing the mechanisms signaling old and new information, as well as information salient for other reasons, such as contrast, exclusivity ("only," see above, ex. 1), sealar addition ("even," e.g., 179:21). Several such mechanisms are described in Cohen 2005a: 31-36.

2.2.1 Focal Pattern #Object + (Explicit) Subject + Verbal Fonn# (2). This pattern (described Cohen 2005a: 34-35 (3) and exemplified for the letter corpus in the first part of ex. [9] below) is by now often recognized in translation (notably so in 31:11 12; 88: 14-16; 188: 5-7, less so in other cases). It is often found with interrogative pronouns (11: 18-20; 31:6-8; 40: 4-5), since they are naturally the informationl peak of their clauses.

2.2.2 The Particle -ma. The nfunction of this particle is now well understood (n. 21b: "-ma stresses the contrast"). A note, however, is needed to clarify to clarify the lack of symmetry in focus marking, especially when ul (which is a focus marker in its own right; see Cohen 2005a: 34) is involved. Unlike -ma, which occurs wherever such focus marking is desired, ul is very rate in any other but preverbal position. For example:
 [8] 12 kur se'am ul taddina 8 kur se am-ma taddina "You did not give
 me 12 kor of barley; you gave me only 8 kor of barley." (34:8 9;
 similarly 68: 4-7)

The salient issue here is in fact the amount given, rather than the giving itself. This is well reflected in the position of -ma (8 kur se am-ma). However. ul occurs immediately preceding the verb even though it is expected symmetrically to mark as focus the 12 kor of barley. This inflexibility of the language in the case of ul is seldom broken. Compare:
 [9]2 immeri(n) ... sa P[N] iddin{am] anaku apqid [akkum] ul suhari
 ipqidakkum "I handed out [to you] two ... sheep which PN gave [me]:
 (it was) not my servant (who) handed (them) out to you," (3, 76: 4-9)

The function of the particle -ma after adverbial (as well as substantival) clauses to mark the entire subordinate clause (which is analogous in this respect to any simple substantive or adverb) as focus is not quite reflected in the edition:
 [10] rekbam istu ummasu ezbet sanum ihuzusi-ma ina bit ahizisa warkim
 ulissu "The mounted messenger--only after his mother was divorced
 (and) another married her did she give birth to him in her second
 husband's house." (207: 3-8; ef. 74: 13-15: 131: 14-15; 193:4-5;
 perhaps even 100: 4-10)

2.2.3 Cleft Constructions. Clefts are yet another focus marker, used mainly with interrogatives:
 [11] minu sa ana se im taspurim "Why (is it) that you write me for
 brley?" (164: 20;ef. 218: 4-9)

Incidentally, the ending on minu is here analyzed as the locative-adverbial ending, hence "why?"

2.2.4 Topicl Constructions. Topics are discourse anchors which represent the entity discussed (about which new information is predicated, basically in the form of another clause). As such, it is often the cohesive factor between previous and current parts of the text. The most widespread topical pattern is OB, and indeed in Semitic in general, is topical extraposition:
 [12] awilum bissu biti "As for the man, his house is my house."

The clause bissu biti is predicated on awilum. One strong rationale for the use of topic (even when it is easily recoverable) is when topic shift occurs:
 [13] ninu (4) niddin attunu idna "we gave, (now) you give!" (65:

There is no doubt that the 1 cpl and 2pl are marked in the verbal form, but this apparently is not enough to signal a topic shift. The same idea is reflected in the following example:
 [14] ... ata u PN ... kiam toqbisu .... su kiam ipulka ... anakunusi
 ... " ... you and PN ... you told him thus ... he told you thus ... I
 told you ... " (34: 4-10 0

Only the shifts themselves (atta[right arrow]su, su [right arrow] are presented here, omitting the rest. What characterizes these topics is that dsspite their "emphasis" they carry no new or salient information; you the topic is certainly capable capable of being contrasted.

2.2.5 Non-Verbal Clauses: Patterns. The unmarked order for a non-verbal clause with a personal pronoun is #X--pronoun# (see Cohen 2005b, [section] with references). When the opposite order is found, the personal pronoun is marked either as contrastive topic or as focus (ibid., [section]2.1.2);
 [15] sabum kalusu sa sapiriya-ma u anaku wardum. klnu[m s]a beliya
 "The entire army belongs to my lord, and I too am a faithful servant
 [o]f my lord." (182: 8-9)

The edition has "and I myself," which reflects, more or less, the same idea. This mechanism does not work, however, when higher-ranked signals (such as the particle -ma) are involved:
 [16] anaku wedissiya-ma "As for me, I am alone." (92:11)
 [17] ina alim sati kimti u ah! ana-ma "In this town,you are my family
 and brother." (139: 18-19)

The particle -ma "overrules" the marked order.

Bipartite non-verbal clauses with an adverbial rheme (this is the term covering the new information in the clause; see Cohen 2005b, [section]2.2.2) have an unmarked order #substantive--adverb#, as can be seen in ex. [18]:
 [18] atta u PN pihat samsammiya elikunu "You and PN-the
 responsibility for my sesame is on you." (36: 5'-6')

The edition, however, has "it is on you that the responsibility ...," that is, as if there were some focus marking on elikunu, which is not supported by the actual order. Only when the adverbial part precedes do we actually have focus:
 [19] u milu madu sa idiglat ina sabatum alaksu "And the great(est)
 flooding of the Tigris--its occurrence is in the month sabatum." (1,
 141: 29-30; perhaps also 179: 7-8).

2.2.6 Paronomastic Infinitive. The paronomastic infinitive's functions (for which see Cohen 2004) have to do with functional sentence perspective as well. Three analyzable examples (5) occur in AbB 14:
 [20] tenum liten "Let her just grind." (48: 23; the edition has "let
 her just do the grinding," which is rather close).

 [21] minu sa ana se'im taspurim ki masi ina 1 umim kurummatum-ma 20
 kur se um adi inanna iggammar se um ina biti sati itaprusu ittanapras
 "Why (is it) that you write me for grain? How much is a ration for
 one day? 20 kor of grain have been consumed until now! Does the grain
 actually fly from this house?" (lit. "[is it] to fly continuously
 [that] it flies?"; 164: 20-24)

Exx. [20] and [21] both belong to the type b paronomastic infinitive (Cohen 2004: [section]2), where the verbal lexeme ('grind' and 'fly' respectively) is focused.

The following example belongs to type c:
 [22] awatum hurrumum hurruma talammassinati "The affairs are (indeed)
 covered up, (but) you will learn them." (113: 20-21)

The type c paronomastic infinitive (Cohen 2004: [section]3) is used like the asseverative, for insistence, as well as for rhetorical concessives (which is what we have here; see Cohen 2005a: 60-65).

A different construction, reminiscent of the paronomastic infinitive, (6) is of the type #summa + infinitive (protasis)--finite verbal form (apodosis)#, where both clauses have the same lexeme. Some occurrences thereof are listed in Aro 1961: [section]1.2; ARM 1, 24: 9'; ARM 3, 43: 19-20; as well as our exx. 23 and 24; other cases are listed by Kraus 1984: 44; 2, 129: 12; 3, 64: 3; 10,29: 12'; I have also found a couple more: 8, 52: 8; 13, 81: 12-13. One example can serve as a semantic key:
 [23] PN 2 1/2 siqil kaspam summa susqulu[m] susqili summa umma
 su-ma ul asaqqal ..."If (it is possible) to make PN pay 2 1/2
 sheqels (of) silver, make (him) pay; if he says 'I don't want to pay
 ..." (9, 33: 14-17)

In other cases, the contrast is given by summa la kiam (2, 129: 12; 10, 29: 12'). The edition of ex. [23] misses the point, but not that of ex. [24], where the possibility factor is included ("if that is possible"):
 [24] hashuri summa sabatum lusbat inatim la adaggal "If (it is
 possible) to take on the apples, let me do it, (but) let me not wait
 for the team of plough oxen." (141: 27-29)

Judging by the translations, these cases are rather clear. The formulation is hence simple "if (it is possible) to X."

In a forthcoming short paper, I describe the accusative paronomastic infinitive as expressing physical inability. The following example illustrates this idea:
 [25] assumisu salala ul sallak (sic) idalli[panni] "Because of him I
 cannot sleep; he keeps [me aw]ake." (114: 23)

This phenomenon occurs without further qualification of the infinitive (or nomen actionis). When the latter is further qualified, we have what is termed an internal object:
 [26] summa nerta[m] rabita[m] la ener-ma eliya la tarasse la attallak
 "If I do not strike mightily (lit. kill a mighty kill) and hence do
 not owe you (anything), let me not go away." (208: 32-37; cf. 7,
 84: 14', where the same nomen actionis is not further qualified; also
 141: 47-48 and 174: 15'-16')

The essential function of the internal object is to qualify the verbal lexeme (nerum), which would otherwise be effected by an adverb.

2.3 The Completive Relationship

This is one of three syntactic relationships (for which see Goldenberg 1987, where the general linguistic literature treating these relationships is adduced), which are: 1) the predicative relationship (= nexus), found between any theme and rheme and symbolized by the nominative (marking the theme and the nominal rheme); 2) the attributive relationship, as found in annexation, symbolized by the genitive case; and 3) the completive relationship, found between the nexus and the object or adverb and symbolized by the accusative case (marking both adverbials and objects). The application of these relationships in syntactic description is found, for literary OB, in Izre'el and Cohen 2004: 62-85. The last relationship is the issue dealt with here.

2.3.1 Constructions of the Type tuppi anniam ina amarim. The arguments of the infinitive in infinitive constructions in OB are generally placed in the slot between the preposition and the infinitive. The subject rarely occurs, and when it does, it is marked as nominative (assum ... sabum ana serika la alakim " as for the army not coming to you" ARM 1, 22:7). The object, on the other hand, is marked in this position by the genitive (presumably as a result of attraction, as suggested in GAG [section]149c). In a few cases this is not so, and the arguments are extraposed. The topic is dealt with in Aro 1961: [section][section]7.36-7.38. The most prevalent use is with an accusative construction with ina:
 [27] tuppi anniam ina amarim "upon seeing my tablet" (126: 4-5; cf.
 11: 21-22, 129: 4, 135: 3')

 [28] sitertam ina sakanim "upon submitting the document" (148: 21)

 [29] paniki ina amari "upon seeing your face" (2, 46: 10; Aro
 1961: [section]7.37)

This adverbial phrase is special in having its object extraposed. This occasionally happens with other prepositions as well:
 [30] anaku tuppi beliya kima semem ana ser awtlim seti eru[b]-ma
 "I, upon hearing my superior's tablet, ent[er]ed this man's place
 ..." (ARM 2, 109: 35-36; Aro 1961: [section]8.2)

Note that this adverbial phrase can even be inserted between the topic (here anaku) and the rest (ana ser ...).

An extraposed nominative, the agent of the infinitive, is rarely attested: (7)
 [31] [se]um ina alakim [a]naku allakakkum-ma "When [bar]ley arrives, I
 will come to you ..." (115: 22-23)

 [32] mu ina maqatim ana naspakisu liter "When the water is falling,
 let him return (it) to his silo." (9, 215: 9-11; Aro 1961:

 [33] PN ina alakim 2 bur eqlam ... nu[ka]llamsu "When PN arrives, we
 will s[ho]w him the field of two bur ..." (9, 72: 9-11)

The extraposed nominative occurs with kima as well (Aro 1961: [section]8.2): (8)
 [34] tuppi beliya kuma kasadim alakam epsam "When the tablet of my
 superior arrives, come." (ARM 4, 30: 24-26)

 [35] habur kima matim bitkam esekker "When the Habur becomes low, I
 will close the opening." (ARM 6, 8: 12-13)

The advantage of this extraposition is that the extraposed object keeps its natural syntactic marking.

2.3.2 -ut + Gen. Pron. and Related Forms. This morphological formation has to do with abstracta of various kinds; in the following pair of examples it is used adverbially:
 [36] saqlussu seam suhri-ma sami "It being rare, look for barley and

 buy (some)." (140: 31, derived from saqlum 'rare' >; 'being rare'?)

 [37] requssu tutarrim "Will you return him-(being-)empty-handed?"
 (110: 35)

This formation, including the genitive pronoun, is very similar to the H 'emptiness, nakcdness' + gen. pron. 3ms., lit. 'his [nakedness sub acc'], used gerundially. A different form, the gerundial -issi + gen. pron. is perfectly synonymous:
 [38] matum edissisa nadatti "The country lies (it-being-) alone."
 (131: 4-5)

However, unlike the adverbial -ut gen. pron., the formation with -issi is more flexible in matters of functional sentence perspective:
 [39] bereku u kusu iktas duninni erissiya-ma "I am hungry and the cold
 has caught up with me; I am naked." (23: 20-23)

This flexibility is reflected in [39], where the gerundial form constitutes a unipartite non-verbal clause, and in [40], where it is the focus of the clause:
 [40] wedissika-ma tur "Return alone!" (208: 10-11)

Apart from its adverbial function, the -ut + gen. pron. formation functions as an objective nomen actionis:
 [41] ukullam damqam sukun-ma serusu la innassiku (9) tem seri sa alpim
 warkim PN asal-ma naskussu iqabbiakkum "Place good fodder so that his
 flesh does not get slender. I will ask PN for a report regarding the
 flesh of this rear ox and he will tell you whether it is flattened."
 (105: 26-27)

 [42] baltussu ul ide-ma "I did not know that/whether he lived
 ..."(13, 21: 7-9)

In this function it is basically the object of the verb, and is syntactically equivalent to an infinitive or to an objective kima clause:
 [43] wasbussu iqbunim "They told me of his staying ..."(13, 21: 13)

 [44] wasabsu ina alim mahrika iqbunim "They told me of his staying
 with you in the city." (9, 62: 18-19)

 [45] kima alam la wasbata aqbi "I said that you do not dwell in the
 city." (7, 42: 13-14)

All these strategies have in common, in addition to their syntactic function, an indicative value, unlike the following pair, which is opposed (in the same object slot) precisely by the modality it expresses:
 [46] ana durim erebam mannum iqabbikum "Who tells you to enter the
 wall?" (9, 140: 13-14)

 [47] ana PN ahiya sibutam ana epesim aqbisum "I told PN my brother to
 do what is necessary."(11, 115: 3-5)

With verbs such as qabum the nomen actionis always represents an indicate content ("the fact that he dwells"), ana parasim a modal content ("to do"), while the accusative infinitive can convey both, depending upon contextual information. This is important because modality is often mentioned only in connection with finite verbal forms. In OB it goes as far as infinitive constructions (see, in addition, Cohen 2005a, chapter 7, for a description of sa parasim).

2.4 iptaras after a Textual Boundary and Chain-Ending iptaras

iptaras forms which follow a textual boundary in the dialogue (notably at the beginning of direct speech, or at the beginning of the letter) are discussed in Streck 1999: [section]2.3 (for the Hammurabi letter corpus) as well as in Cohen 2006: [section]3.2 (for epic OB), and, after, the particle innana, in Loesov 2004, [section]2.1. Streck states that there is no difference in value between this iptaras (which he refers to as "isoliertes iptaras") and iprus in that environment but rather some kind of complementary distribution. In view of several examples in the current volume, I maintain that this iptaras form has a value other than the chained iptaras, that is, it is a real present perfect (whereas iprus in the same conditions denotes past actions). That is, the form has two temporal reference points: the past point, when the event took place, and the here-and-now, when its result is currently relevant:
 [48] #ahatka imtut ummaka marsatti u PN mari imtut "Your sister has
 died, your mother is sick, and PN my son has died." (135: 4-6; see
 also 18: 6-12)

 [49] se'am ana PN nadanam aqbisum-ma umma su-ma #se'am attadin "I
 told him to give (the) barley to PN and he (said) "I have given
 (the) barley,''' (163: 8-11; cf. 209: 17-18)

To substantiate these claims, another example clearly shows us the essential function of the chained iptaras:
 [50] umma anan k u-ma atta ul taqlpanni u biti tahsus-ma tusterib "I
 (said) 'you did not trust me and made me enter my house quickly.'"
 (198: 11'-13'; see n. b)

What we see here is a use of the form merely as a mechanical rule to mark the end of the chain. When not the final form, we find, ... ihsusam-ma itrudam u sabam ... ul itrud# "he hurried and sent ..., but did not send an army ..." ARM 6, 55: 7-9). This is a hendiadys, where basically a temporal (or modal) agreement is strictly maintained between the forms (e.g., ugdammer-ma addabub 7, 93: 38-39). Note that, in ex. [50], the object biti is placed inside the first clause while actually associated with the second, testifying to the unity of these two clauses. This end-of-the-chain rule is so strong that it actually breaks this almost automatic agreement (mood/tense, person, gender, and number) between the two parts of the hendiadys. It can be concluded that iprus and iptaras are not different, inside the chain, as far as their tense values are concerned, but rather in their junctural features, viz., iptaras marks the end of the chain.

2.5 Modality

Two important issues pertaining to modality are found in this letter volume. First, two new conditional patterns, in addition to what is already known, may be formulated. Second, the modal particle kisa-ma can now be given a rather precise formulation.

2.5.1 Conditional Patterns. Two conditional patterns are analyzed and discussed in Cohen 2005a. One is quite common (ibid., chapter 6; see all relevant references):
 [51] se'am apulsunuti awilu la udabbabuninni ... seam ul
 tappalsunuti-ma um tallakam anni-kiam udabbabuka "Pay them the barley
 so that the men do not make claims to me ... should you not pay them
 the barley, the day you come they will make claims on you here."
 (103: 16-22)

This is a textbook example, containing a characteristic preceding directive (apulsunuti),which is of opposite polarity but identical lexeme compared to the protasis (ul tappalsunuti). The Paradigmatic constitution (that is, inventory of possible forms) of this pattern is as follows:
preceding protasis connective apodosis meaning

(optional) iparras -ma (in iparras prospective
 iprus variation) paris condition;
 paris with nil non-verbal iprus in the
 marking clause protasis=
 indicated by liprus lu (ilnguistic)
 ('[right arrow]') iparras perfect

The second pattern (Cohen 2005a, chapter 5) is much less common, and its main characteristic is a precative form functioning as protasis (which is connected forward, again, by -ma ie [right arrow]), whereas the apodosis can house any (non-)verbal form with the expection of iprus and iptaras. The semantic difference from the former pattern is that the value of the precative protasis is (concessive)conditional, viz., "(even) if ..." Two more examples are found in AbB 14:
 [52] kaspan u se' am likillunikkum-ma la tamahhar "Even if they have
 silver or barley available for you, do not accept." (37: 13-15; 9,
 260: 10-15 is very similar structurally)

 [53] istu inanna lidukuniati [right arrow] mamman nippal "From now
 on, (even) if they beat us, will we answer to anyone?" (64:43-44)

Ex. [53] is not translated in thi smanner in the edition, but there is not much sense in anyone ordering their own beating.

A common feature of both pattern is that they constituate the majority of cases deviating from the otherwise obligatiory modal congruence (where precatives are linked via-ma only with precatives, indicatives only with indicatives), in such a way that a case of modal incongruence is generally a singal for one of these patterns.

This volume, however, contains evidence for two more conditional patterns. The first consists of an asseverative(10) form as protasis and an imperative as protasis:
 [54] u lu mahrata ter "And if you did accept (11) return it." (37:

The immediate context for this example is ex. [52]. A standard paratactic condition would have been tamahhar-ma ("should you receive ...") or even tamhur-ma ("if you have received ..."). Here, however, we have an asseverative, adding insistence to the protasis, "if you did accept." Two more examples seem to belong to the same basic pattern:
 [55] ina baim lu illeqqe wakil tamkarim tu udabbibka saknum tu
 udabbibka supr[am]-ma "(If) anything will be taken from the house,
 (if) a creditor did make claim to you, (if) the governor did make
 claim to you--write [to me]." (104:8 11)

If tu mahrata in ex. [54] could, at least in principle, be interpreted as precative, the forms in exx. [55] and [56] cannot; they have to be asseverative (lu iprus and lu iparras always are);
 [56] samassammi ... ana erresim lu iddin su lu iris sa leqeni u
 leqesu suribam-ma " (If) he did give the sesame... to the
 cultivator, (if) he did cultivate (it)--bring in what we ought to
 take and what he ought to take ... " (163: 16-21)

The context is found in ex. [49] above, viz., the issue is pre-mentioned (attadin), which is one of the syntactic characteristics of asseverative forms.

Another quite tempting interpretative option is to see lu as a disjunctive conjunction (like u or ulu). Indeed, such a lu occurs in OB, but never between clauses. Moreover, a conjunction is expected, in this language, to precede the entire clause, which is the case in neither [55] nor [56]. This conditional pattern is summarized in the following table:
Protasis apodosis
lu iprus/lu paris/lu iparras (one or more) purus

Yet another pattern, in addition to the three previously discussed, has to do with the particle piqat 'perhaps.' There are several occurrences in this volume in which piqat occurs in a bi-clausal structure, and thus basically produces a condition:
 [57] u piqat sibutum ibbassi-ma istu ekallim isapparuni 5 kur
 tappinnu u simmanu Sa ibassu resam likil "And if the need arises
 and they write from the palace, let 5 kor of tappinnu flour and
 (whatever) beer ingredients which exist be available." (164: 29-33;
 cf. 145: 12-19; 145: 21-25)

The protasis contains one or more iparras forms which are linked by -ma. The apodosis contains directives, viz., precatives or imperatives. It is very important to note that the protasis and apodosis are not interconnected in a similar manner to summa clauses. The semantic difference between the notion of 'if and that of 'perhaps' is really very small, and "perhaps x, do y" is quite naturally realized as "if x, do y." The pattern is as follows:
Protasis apodosis
piqat iparras(-ma iparras, etc.) purus/liprus

This pattern is not very flexible; a direct speech marker and its content can substitute in the protasis (e.g., 4, 49: 11-12, where the apodosis is exceptionally not a directive, but an iparras form; see ex. [23], where this occurs inside a sumrna clause) or the apodosis (e.g., 4, 150: 37-38). The direct speech marker habitually takes the place of verbal as well as other forms, so this is hardly a surprise.

When piqat occurs with one clause only (e.g., 37: 11-12), or when the forms are different than those specified (6, 125: 19-22, where what might have been considered as an apodosis is an iprus form, and hence outside the construction), the value of piqat remains 'perhaps.'

Unlike piqat, which forms its own conditional pattern, one example with another particle, assurri, shows us that it is perfectly compatible with the first conditional pattern illustrated above:
 [58] assurri s[e]'um 1 qa ihailiq-ma libbaka imarras "Should, god
 forbid, (even) 1 liter of barley be lost, you will get angry."
 (63: 15-17)

2.5.1 kisa(-ma). kisa(-ma), a rare modal particle, is found in the dictionaries (e.g., AHw 490b "verzeih mir!"; CDA 162a also "as interj. implying polite contradiction"; CAD K 445b "certainly, evidently"), but otherwise it has not received individual treatment. One occurrence thereof in AbB 14 (182: 10-14) is not very enlightening, but together with the other known examples it is possible to delineate and describe its function.

The material at our disposal consists of eleven occurrences, (12) of which two are in broken contexts. These occurrences suggest that the form is kisa-ma (one occurrence of kisa), never with an explicit final mimation, as the dictionaries suggest (kisam-ma), and one occurrence is actually written ki-sa-ma (ex.[10, 148]), which seems to exclude the final mimation. The following pair of examples illustrate the functional domain of kisa-ma:
 [59] kis [a]-ma ina la idim aspurakku FN watra "Supposedly I wrote to
 you without a reason; ask PN and let him tell you that what I speak to
 you is not exaggerated." (9, 184: 21-25)

 [60] resam aspurakkum-ma amtam ul taddin kisa-ma ina Inlka ana annis
 qiasum ibassi libbi tib "I sent you a slave, but you did not give (me
 back) a maid, as if in your view there is a gift here! Satisfy me!"
 (Sumer 14 p. 69, no. 44: 8-12)

In both cases the information put in the range of the particle turns out to be incorrect: In ex. [59] it is writing without reason, which is later contradicted by a witness who can vouch for the opposite; in ex. [60] it is the assumption that the slave was a present, which was not the case, as can be gathered from the demand libbi tib.

The value of kisa-ma, then, is indeed very similar to what Wasserman 2006 calls, when characterizing tusa, "false assumption." It is mentioned (ibid., 153) that kisa (or perhaps ki sa?) is considered a synonym of tusa 'as if ' in the synonym lists, and the related meaning in OB of kima sa and the particle tusa is also mentioned, kima sa is indeed used to convey the value 'as if,' but its use is that of a conjunction, rather than a particle. Moreover, it seems that the functional domain of kima sa is less nuanced than that of kisa-ma.

The syntactic facts are that kisa-ma is not followed by the subjunctive (unlike kima sa), but that the negative particle following it (in three cases) is nevertheless la (that is, very similar to summa or tusa). In addition to the conjectural etymology suggested (< imp. of kiasum), one could think of another possibility, viz., grammaticalization of ki(ma) sa 'as if from a conjunctive element (followed by the subjunctive, etc.) to a particle with a similar functional range.

2.6 Question-Related Issues

Questions are no doubt a fascinating linguistic domain. AbB 14 contributes some interesting facts to our knowledge about rhetorical questions and a little about indirect questions (neither of which are, in fact, real questions) and related strategies.

2.6.1 Rhetorical Questions. Rhetorical questions in OB are often marked by context, rather than by a distinct signal. One type is discussed in George 2003: 226-27 in connection with a supposed interrogative particle -ma (Gilgames Sch0yen sub.2 tablet, 11. 14-16). This lengthened -ma, however, seems to be the same -ma used in non-verbal clauses to show, much as in verbal clauses, the contrastive element. It is lengthened because it is inside a question. Another type is discussed, more for its modality than its rhetoricity, in Cohen 2005a: 110-12. It seems plausible, however, that two clear-cut signals for a rhetorical question occur in OB. One such signal seems to be the interrogative complex mannasu/i:
 [61] mannasu atta istu 10 sanatim riqata-ma u sumni damqam ina alini
 tumassaku "Who are you, who are unemployed for 10 years, to stain our
 good name too in our town?" (29: 24-27)

 [62] mannasu [m]ar PN [an]num sa anaku eqlam ana (p1)PN anaddinu-ma
 sunu ana sasum inaddinusu "Who is [t]his [s]on of PN that I give a
 field to PN (sub.col) and they give it to him?" (31: 17-19; cf 31:
 25-27; 7, 187: 8-9)

As is clear from these examples, the structure is #mannasu/i + pers. pron./PN + sa clause# and is to be translated as "who is X/are you to ... " An example of a slightly different structure is 7, 125: 11-12, where the proper name comes first: "PN, who is he that you ..." Yet another example, which is syntactically different, is the following:
 [63] elenukka ana manniya uznaya ibassia "To whom other than to you
 is my attention paid?" (lit. "are my ears available?" 11,106: 11'-12')

It seems, on the basis of these examples, that the issue here is not necessarily the structure but rather the interrogative complex itself (mannasu--mannasi--manniya) which signals the rhetorical question. (13)

Another mechanism for marking rhetorical questions seems to be a pattern that differs in order from the otherwise strict everyday OB verb-final pattern, in which the predicative complex (verbal and stative forms) occurs at the end. These occurrences are discussed in GAG [section] 153d as questions, but not as rhetorical questions. Compare the following pair of examples:
 [64] eli awatim annitim awcitum sanitum sumrustum ibassl "Is there
 anything worse than this matter?" (113: 5-7)

 [65] ibassi annum e.qei be ram allakam-ma nazqaku-ma warkati ul
 taparras "Is this possible, that I come (from) a distance of two
 hours and am worried and you do not look into my case?" (154: 4-7;
 cf. 4, 64: 15)

Only the context shows that ex. [64] is a rhetorical question, whereas the inverted order in ex. [65] is a very prominent signal, and is found in similar cases:
 [66] damiq epesum annum. "Is it good, this deed?" (9, 4: 4; 9, 113: 8)

 [67] natu epesum annum "Is it proper, this deed?" (9, 198: 10; 11,
 51: 5)

 [68] natu saparum annum "Is it proper, this writing?" (6, 76: 4)

 [69] tab annumsa tepusanni "Is it good, that which you did to me?"
 (1, 30: 14)

This pattern is heavily marked, whereas the regular pattern with the regular order (9, 103: 25; 12, 166: 4; 13, 181: 14) is unmarked. The correlation of this pattern with a rhetorical question (exx. [65]-[69]) is very clear.

Rhetorical questions, differently from real questions, may occasionally be paraphrased by other constructions. Compare the following pair:
 [70] ul[l]anukka ana mannim asapparam "To whom except you can I
 write?" (145: 26-27, paraphraseable as "Except for you, I have no one
 to write to." Cf. ex. [63] above, marked by manniya as rhetorical)

 [71] sa la kati abam u belam ul isu "Except you I do not have a
 father and a lord." (149: 6-8)

Ex. [71] is not a rhetorical question, but a rather straightforward declaration, yet it has the same content.

2.6.2 (In)direct Questions. Indirect questions are very rare in OB. One example occurs in AbB 14:
 [72] summa adi uttetika akamtnisu wasbaku Supram-ma "Write to me
 whether I should stay until I pack your wheat ..." (141: 25-27)

This is why OB uses a couple of other strategies to convey these questions. A more common practice is preposing a direct question to the main verb:
 [73] mannusa se am ana ukulle bitika nigabbatam ram-ma "Write to me,
 who (it is from) whom we can borrow barley for provisions to your
 household." (164: 8-10)

In ex. [73] we have a clefted direct question. The following pair of examples is related to the content of substantives as dealt with above ([section]2.1):
 [74] seam ki masi tusaddin [k] i masi uhhur temam gamram nicher
 tuppiya subilam-ma "Send me as an anwer to my (ablet a complete
 report, viz., how much barley did you collect? How much is left?"
 (87: 22-25)

 [75] u issu sa innaksu massaru qisatim ikkisu ina qatim ahitim
 innaksu warkatam purus-ma "And the trees that were cut--did the
 forest keepers cut them? Were they cut by another party? Investigate
 the matter ..."(4,20:21-26; quoted in Deutscher 2000: 136)

The substantives temum (ex.[74]) and warkatum (ex. [75]) are each preceded by a direct question that represents their expected content. In addition to these juxtaposed direct questions, sa parasim constructions are used to convey embedded modal deliberative questions:
 [76] tern se'im sati sa turri u la turrim amm[nim l]a taspurim "Wh[y]
 did you [n]ot send me instruction(s) regarding this barley, whether
 (it is) to be returned or not to be returned?"(4, 156: 7-9)


A comprehensive synchronic description of a language is a huge puzzle, particularly in the case of a long-dead language. The accumulation of various syntactic facts gathered from OB texts keeps growing, thanks to text editions that provide much of the basis for this growth. AbB 14, with the numerous truly wonderful examples it contains, is such an edition. Its importance for the syntactic description of OB therefore by far outweighs its shortcomings.


AbB = Altbabylonische Briefe in Umschrift and Ubersetzung. Leiden 1964-

AHw = Wolfram von Soden. Akkadisches Handwbrterbuch. Wiesbaden 1965-81.

ARM = Archives Royales de Mari. Paris 1946-

Aro, J. 1961. Die akkadi.sch.en Infi.nitivkonstrukiion.en. Studia orientalia 26. Helsinki.

CAD = The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. 1956-.

CDA = Jeremy A.Black, et al. A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian. Wiesbaden, 2000.

Cohen, E. 2004. Paronomastic Infinitive in Old Babylonian. JEOL 38: 105-12.

--. 2005a. The Modal System of Old Babylonian. Harvard Semitic Studies 56. Winona Lake,Ind..

--. 2005b. Addenda to Non-verbal Clauses in Old Babylonian. JSS 50: 247-79.

--. 2006. The Tense-Aspect System of the Old Babylonian Epic. ZA96: 31-68.

--. Forthcoming. Old Babylonian Paronomastic Infinitive in -am. JAOS 126.

Deutscher G. 2000. Syntactic Change in Akkadian: The Evolution of Sentenial Complementation.Oxford.

GAG = von Soden, W. 1995. Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik(3)Rome.

George, A.R. 2003. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic. Oxford.

Goldenberg, G. 1987. Syntactic Relations and Typology in Semitic Languages. In Following Polotsky's

Teachings: Lectures in Honour of H.J. Polotsky on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday. Jerusalem. Pp. 7-18. [In Hebrew; English translation in Goldenberg 1998: 138-47.]

--. 1998. Studies in Semitic Linguistics. Jerusalem.

Izre'el, Sh., and E. Cohen. 2004. Literary Old Babylonian. Lincom Europa Languages of the World/Materials 81. Munich.

Kraus, F.R. 1984. Nominalsatze in altbaby lonischen Briefen und der Stativ. Mededelingen der Koninglike Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde, Nieuwe Reeks, deel 47/2. Amsterdan,

Loesov, S. 2004. T-Perfect in Old Babylonian: The Debate and a Thesis. Babel und Bibel 1:83-181.

Streck, M. 1999. Das 'Perfekt' iptaras im Altbabylonischen der Hammurapi-Briefe. In Tempus undAspekt in den semitischen Sprachen, ed. N. Nebes. Jenaer Kolloquium zur Semitischen Sprachwissenschaft. Wiesbaden. Pp. 101-26

Washerman N.2006. The Modal Particle tusa in Old Babylonian. In Egyptian, Semitic and General Grammar: Workshop in Memory of H. .J. Polotsky (8-12 July 2001), ed. G. Goldenberg and A. ShishaHalevy. Jerusalem. Pp. 149-68.

This is a review article of: Letters in the Louvre. By K.R. VEENHOF. Altbabylonische Briefe, vol. 14. Leiden: BRILL, 2005. Pp. xxxix + 232. $99.

(1.) Notation without volume number refers to letter number and line(s) in the AbB 14 volume. Notation with volume numbers only refer to the other volumes of the AbB series.

(2.) The sign # marks a syntactic boundary.

(3.) This pattern is also discussed in Izre'el and Cohen 2004: 92-93, but its function is somewhat different in literary OB.

(4.) Underlined vowels signal plene writing.

(5.) Two or three cases have not been analyzed here due to insufficient context: 31: 5; 48: 10; and perhaps 48: 20.

(6.) Whereas the standard paronomastic infinitive construction consists of one clause, the structure described here is bi-clausal (protasis and apodosis).

(7.) Outside the letter corpus, one can mention the famous dannum ensam ana la habalim ("in order for the strong not to wrong the weak" CH I: 37-39).

(8.) The same occurs occasionally even with kima clauses: awilum kima ya'um ul tide ("Don't you know that the man is mine?" 9, 198: 5-6), where awilum is extraposed to the kima clause.

(9.) It seems that nasakum 'flatten' is better suited lexically than nazaqum 'worry'; thus innassiku 'be flattened.' nasqussu "how flat/fallen it is; that /whether they are flat," etc. Incidentally, the lexical notes at the end of the volume (n. e to the translation) fail to contain the promised entry for nazaqum.

(10.) For a description of this group, see Cohen 2005a. chapter 2.

(11.) Asseverative paris has a non-future value.

(12.) The cases not discussed here are: 1, 122: 10-11; 2, 108: 4-6;9, 63: 16-19; 10, 148: 8-12; 12, 100:12: Sumer 14 p. 42, no. 19: 5-8. The two broken contexts are 6, 63: 2'. 4' and 8, 107: 9.

(13.) Due to the paucity of examples, it is quite difficult to judge the morphological constitution of the forms; note that in the 3rd pers. it is probably the 3rd pers. nominative pronouns that occur (< *manna + si), but the 1st person occurs with the genitive pronoun, and might be a secondary derivation.

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Author:Cohen, Eran
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
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Date:Oct 1, 2006
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