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The Sumerian Word for Goose 𒊻

Here I shed light on the semantics, morphology and etymology of the Sumerian word for goose _ 𒊻.


We know that the Sumerian pictograph 𒊻 ( pronounced uz) is a combination of two pictographs or symbols _ 𒊺(pronounced še ) and 𒄷 ( pronounced mušen). 𒊺 is the Sumerian word for barley or grain. The pictograph 𒄷 in Sumerian usually functions as the determinative refering to birds as a cateogry. In other words, it follows words like eagle, sparrow, duck etc. to indicate this preceding word is a bird. The pictograph 𒄷 can stand also in Sumerian as a noun meaning the word bird. On the other hand, the word 𒊻 in Sumerian stands for a duck or a goose.

The semantic correlation between 𒄷 and 𒊻 is obvious and it is equal to the semantic correlation between the words bird and goose. However, I wonder whether from the point of view of Sumerians or their experience there was a connection between the duck or goose on the one hand and barley or grain on the other hand.

While there are still things to discover and reach in regard to the semantical and morphological aspects related to𒊻, its etymological path seems to be much clearer. It is a loanword which kept its pronunciation in Akkadian (uz). The word continued to appear in other semitic language and is still in use in some languages like Hebrew אווז , Levantine وز and Modern Standard Arabic إوزة. The word is currently pronounced avz in Modern Standard Hebrew due to the fact the Sound system in Modern Hebrew has several sounds which pertain to Indo-European languages like V which has replaced the Cannanite semivowel 𐤅 (waw). Unlike Hebrew, Levantine and Modern Standard Arabic are safegurding the 𐤅 (waw) glide or semivowel and hence sustaining the Sumerian original pronunciation.

Rami Ibrahim ©

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