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Revista Universidad y Sociedad

versión On-line ISSN 2218-3620

Universidad y Sociedad vol.12 no.5 Cienfuegos sept.-oct. 2020  Epub 02-Oct-2020


Artículo Original

Structural-typological comparison of Sumerian and Turkic case systems

Comparación estructural y tipológica de los sistemas de casos del sumerio turco

1 Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University. Azerbaijan


The functional, structural semantic compatibility of morphological categories among the Sumerian and Turkish languages prove once again that these languages are from the same roots being the Summerian one of the oldest Turkic peoples. The phonetic, lexical and grammatical structures of the two languages can’t be so unique. The cases of these languages and their morphological signs, functional-semantic features are almost identical. There are nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumentative, prepositive, directive cases in both languages. In this research it is analyzed the case categories of these two languages showing there is a serious correlation between the Turkish case system and Summerian language.

Keywords: Turkic languages; Sumerian language; category of case; nominative case; parallels


La compatibilidad semántica funcional y estructural de las categorías morfológicas entre las lenguas sumeria y turca demuestra una vez más que estas lenguas tienen las mismas raíces siendo el summeriano uno de los pueblos turcos más antiguos. Las estructuras fonéticas, léxicas y gramaticales de los dos idiomas no pueden ser tan únicas. Los casos de estos lenguajes y sus signos morfológicos, rasgos funcional-semánticos son casi idénticos. Hay casos nominativos, genitivo, dativo, acusativo, instrumentativo, prepositivo, directivo en ambos idiomas. En esta investigación se analizan las categorías de casos de estos dos idiomas mostrando que existe una seria correlación entre el sistema de casos turco y el idioma summeriano.

Palabras clave: Lenguas de Turkic; lengua sumeria; categoría de caso; caso nominativo; paralelos


Although many studies have been carried out in Turkology, including in the linguistic of Azerbaijan about case category, there are still debates about the individual cases, the history of the morphological indicators and the development process of these cases that reflect the meaning and functionality of this system. One such controversial issue is the coherence between the Sumerian-Turkic case system and the ethnical-typological reason for this harmony. Although many studies have been attempted to investigate these issues in Turkology, as well as in Azerbaijani Linguistics, there is no consensus on the historical roots of the Sumerian and Turkic languages and the reasons for the numerous coincidences of morphological categories among them.

However, there is a very serious compatibility between the Sumerian language and the Turkish language system, and these conventions are chosen not only in terms of formal signs, but also in terms of content, grammatical function, and semantics. According to Kazimov (2003): "For six thousand years, this identity have amazed" (Ağacıoğlu, 2014). For this reason, Sumerian-Turkic and Sumerian-Azerbaijani relations are important for the research of world-class scientists. As the famous traveler scientist Tur Heyerdal said, Gobustan and Sumer Turkic culture belong to the same people - Azerbaijanis. Rich culture of Azerbaijan, which has not yet been studied, goes back to Mesopotamia for many years. This is also proofed due to the ancient names of Azerbaijan and scripts on rocks, which have not yet been fully explored, as well as ancient names such as "Kenger, Kish, Urud, Kur, Keldek" in different regions, as well as numerous lexical and morphological parallels in our language. Then the main goal of this paper is to analyze the similarities and differences of Turkic and Sumerian language case systems.


Researchers have shown that the Sumerian language developed and changed in the middle of the second millennium BC to modern Turkic languages. The Sumerian language has two dialects called "eme-gir" and "eme-sal", the second reflects new changes in the Sumerian language much more. Unfortunately, this dialect has not been fully studied, which can play a more important role in representing the Sumerian-Turkic ethnos. Kazimov (2003), who played a special role in the study of Sumerian-Turkish relations, rightly shows that the morphological structure of the Sumerian language is the same as the Turkic languages. Dyakonov and Suleymenov are of the opinion that the quantitative category in Sumerian is expressed in the same way, the "-q, -k" suffix that form a noun from verb productive but also the "-an" participle suffix in Turkic languages is used as "-en" in Sumerian language. We can also increase the number of similarities about this. But in this parallel, we want to focus attention on the case category of noun.

These researchers say that the relationship between cases in Sumerian language is expressed in special formations, which hold a medium position between case and postposition (Dyakonov, 1967). This situation, which existed in the Azerbaijani linguistics until the 40s and in many Turkic languages, has revealed a similarity in the Sumerian-Turkish era. Dyakonov (1967), with the command explanation of the fact that the "şe" in the old times were independent names, writes that "they are related to other names" in the designated structure, expressing an independent meaning. For example, the words "lugal" were sometimes translated as "leading side" meaning "leader, next to the leader" (p. 55). Saying that the commutative "da" is both commutative case and as an independent meaningful word (side), Kazimov (2003), associates the "tə" form with the old commutative "da".

In a number of studies, along with the general grammatical structure of the Sumerian language, wrong and unilateral ideas about the state system are taking place. In such investigations, sometimes, the Sumerian case is presented as prefixes, and the presence of prefixes in the Sumerian language is one of the key features distinguishing it from Turkish. From this point of view Dyakonov's ideas about the Sumerian language have naturally affected Kazimov's ideas. Dyakonov (1967), writes: “Verb is not justified on the subject of the action and the subject matter (independent object). It is also expressed in terms of nouns and case of place within the sentence and conceivable by all means (non-self-contained) objects and pronouns"(p. 86). Kazimov (2003), consider the author's attitude as a "falsification” and write: It turns out that the case suffixes are processed with names, and we come across signs of cases in verbs. Also, these indicators are used as prefix before the verbs (as it is in our modern language, verbs can’t be linked with genitive case). Therefore, Dyakonov (1967), grouped "prefixes" by cases and presented them with a schedule. In the table, "prefixes" are grouped according to locative, directional, commutative, ablative, elite, allitative, locative-terminological cases. Later, Kazimov (2003), refused the idea that the same suffixes could be used by names and verbs was not true: “It can be compare with the way of forming personal suffixes from personal pronouns. However, when you pay close attention to the issue, another view is taken. "Let's look at case suffixes before they were used as suffixes. There are the following elements that represented personal pronouns (case suffixes that were called "prefix"):

  • I p. singular ma plural me-de

  • II p. singular (z)e plural me(ze)

  • III p. singular n,b plural e-ne-ne, a-ne-ne

Without forcing looking at them, it is clear that these are the prerequisites of the personal pronouns, but they had not been written entirely, the basic elements were given" (Kazimov, 2003). Author also notes that mentioned case suffixes that are added to the pronouns between the subject and the verb, using of words with suffixes in different cases after the words that mean subject in modern language and that those words are presented as object or adverb in the sentences. "So the mentioned are not verb prefixes, but are objects and place meaning words" (Dyakonov, 1967, p.121). When describing the Sumerian-Turkic parallels, Agasioglu presents the similarity between the case suffixes as follows:

  • Cases Sumerian Turkic

  • Nominative Ø Ø

  • Dative -e -a,-ə

  • Prepositive -ta -dan, (-da-n)

  • Commutative -da, -be-da -la, (bı-la)

  • Comparative -gim,-gi -gibi, kimi”.

As we have seen, from the presented cases, the nominative, Dative cases are present in our language and are selected only by phonetic differences in the Sumerian language. Commutative case was also shown in the grammar of Azerbaijani language, which was later removed from our textbooks, but still remains in the majority of Turkic languages. Comparative case also is found in modern Turkic languages. The representative suffixes (as ilə, -la, -lə;) of both cases are used in our modern language as postposition. Linguistics shows that there were ten cases in the Sumerian language:

  1. Absolute case: no suffix;

  2. Ergative case: -e;

  3. Genitive case: -a(k);

  4. Dative case: -ra;

  5. Allative case -(e) şe/eş;

  6. Accusative case: -e;

  7. Locative case: -a;

  8. Ablative case: -ta;

  9. Commutative case: -da (de,ta);

  10. Ecvative case: -gi (gim, gimi).

Looking at the sequencing of cases and the morphological indicators, by deducting some additional cases, it seems clear the similarity of case system in our language. Nominative case appeared under the name absolute case as starting form without suffixes. This feature has been manifested in the Turkic languages since ancient times, and except some cases basically presented without suffixes. For example: Nin-gir-su e-zu maradu. “Ninqirsu, sənin evini mən tikdim”. In Sumerian language according to nominative-absolute case adresat was used without suffixes. The enumerated words in this language are also used in absolute case, without any suffixes. Compared to other cases, the rarely processed in the Sumerian language, ergative case with suffix "-e" (gala-e balağ nutum “müğənni baraban gətirmədi) that only belongs to the third person, gradually disappeared as the type category formed and indicates that the direct contact between the object and the motion is formed (Kazimov, 2003).

One of the most intriguing and controversial issues of the Sumerian language, as well as the Turkish language, perhaps the first one is Genitive case. According to some researchers, including Serebrennikov and Dmitryev, Genitive case didn’t exist on the first stage of the Old Turkic language. According to Dmitriev, there is enough evidence to prove that "genitive case didn’t exist on the first stages of old Turkic language”. It replaced by construction called “ezafe”. The two names, one of which is designated and the other is determined combined with a simple approach. The second noun accepted affiliate suffix, and this pointed the connection between designate and determined.

Among modern Turkic languages only the Yakut language has preserved this ancient state, because genitive case didn’t form in this language. Let's compare: in Yakut language at baha (at başı) and in Tatar language - at başı. It should be noted that in the other Turkic languages, the area of use of “ezafe” structure is much stronger and the area of use of genitive case is limited in the Indo-European languages (Dmitriev, 1969).

It is impossible to disagree with this idea, because there are enough facts showing that the genitive case existence is present in the old Turkic language system and has a very active role. Qıpchaq (1996), who tried to prove this idea with many scientific proofs and language facts, examined structural-typological compatibility with the Elam language to explain the very rare using of genitive case suffix in ancient Turkic written monuments and the reasons for its absence in the modern Yakut language. Kazimov didn’t agree with that genitive case didn’t exist in old language belonging to Turkic languages, and he studied case indicators in the Sumerian language, showing that genitive case is presented by "-ak", but mainly by "-k" suffixes. For example: lugal-kalam-ak. In this unity, the word "lugal" is used as meaning "head, leader, tsar," and the word "kalam-qala" is used both in the meaning of "stay" as verb and "fortress, city, country" as noun, but "-ak" was used as suffix of genitive case. Combination of “Başçı ölkənin” is in the meaning of “the leader of the country” (Kazimov, 2003) or e-lu-ak (e-ev, lu-man, -ak- genitive case) evi adamın→adamın evi (house of man-man’s house).

The investigation of genitive case indicators "-ak, -iq" in Sumerian language proves that in the earliest times of the Turkic languages genitive case existed, as in the modern era, but not in the suffixes of "-ın, -nın", the suffixes "-ık, -ak" or the various allomorphs of this suffixes in Sumerian language. The study of the ancient written materials of the Turkic language shows that, in the scripts of Turkic Khaganate, the variant of Genitive case "-ığ" was used. For example: bodunığ (xalqın). Shukurlu presented the following examples: he showed the fact that in the ancient Turkic monuments are written the suffiesx "-ığ, -iğ" and were used in genitive case and dative case. Türk bodunığ atı küsi yok bolmazun. (KTb 25) Türk xalqının adı, şöhrəti yox olmasın. Ak adğırığ udlıkın suyi urtı (KTb 36) Ağ ayğırın onbası sındı” (Shukurlu, 1993).

Sadigov (1977), noted that Genitive case in modern Azerbaijani language used with the suffixes "-ın//-nın", but in scripts and dialects was shown as "-ıŋ// -nıŋ" and in ayrum accent was shown as "-ık, -ığ" variants, and presented this sign of the Kipchak tribal language. Azizov, who repeats the examples of Shukurlu and connects the restricted handling of the "-ıq, -ığ" "suffix variants in Orkhon-Yenisey manuscripts with their dialectal character, noted that "-ık, -ik, -uk, -uk" variants of this suffix is kept in Ayrim accent: Kosa arvadık baldırınnan yapışdı, elə bildi ki, keçəldi” (Azizov, 2016, p. 149) The scientist, showed the fact that this suffix still exists in the personal pronouns in I, II and III singular and I, II plural forms. Also in genitive case in the following ways: mənik, sənik, onuk, bizik, sizik” (Azizov, 2016, p.149). B. Khalilov (2000), also shows -ık as a variant of genitive case in Ayrum accent of the Azerbaijani language. K.Bashirov writes that "in a number of morphemes, parallel processing with the "-n "element of the "q” element is the most typical aspect of proto-Turkic for different Turkic languages" (in our opinion, the expression "different Turkic languages in proto-Turkic" is not fulfilled - Y.Q.) (Bashirov, 2018). The author demonstrate the "k" - "n" variation of our historic language in the form of "oğlununq-oğlunun, anasınınq-anasının, yürəqiqə-ürəyiqə" with case suffixes, in "görünmək-görükmək, ərinmək-ərikmək" words with the copular verbs. Islamov also noted that the suffix "-ıq, -ık" was used in Sheki and but Mammadli noted in Shamkir (Dallar, Duyarli, Tatar, Zayam), Basarkechar (Marzha village).

When examining the issue, it is clear the idea of accepting the "-ık, -ığ" as an element of Kipchak tribal language or any tribal element in ancient Turkic written monuments, as well as in the dialects of Azerbaijan and a number of modern Turkic languages. This suffixes are the traces of the grammatical morphine, which is the main expression tool of the ancient Sumerian-Turkic history.

It can be said that case category was in the oldest Turkic state system, and the morphological indication of this phenomenon was in the Sumerian language as "-ik, -ığ". The correct logical result of Kazimov is that, "it seems that, in some stage of history, in the Sumerian" "-a (k)" disappeared and then gradually formed "-ın, -in, un, -ün" suffixes. Or, perhaps, the consonant "-nk" of suffix "-ak" was pronounced by nose and gradually changed to "-n (-ın)" suffix. As in our language, in Sumerian language case category has an attributive character, and means possessiveness" (Kazimov, 2003). Morphological indication of dative case in the Sumerian language is "-ra": luqal-ani-ra “öz ağası-(n)a”. It is known that the "-ra", which is the expression of the direction in Sumer language, is also historically used in the Turkic languages and in the historical periods of our language, it has been actively involved in the creation of a number of independent meaningful words (yuxarı, irəli, dışarı, hancarı etc.), Kaneva (1996). The suffix "-ra" is used in modern Turkic as one of the main forms of expression of direction, as well as in Sumerian languages. Noting that there are other phonetic variants of Dative case in Uzbek, Kazakh and Turkmen languages, Cabbarzadeh (1959), stressed that this element means the place, space and area, and therefore is considered as an ancient figure of dative case. Also the suffix "-ra, -rə" was used as a direction, placed in a number of Turkish languages.

Talking about “-ra” morpheme Tanriverdi (2010), writed: "The morpheme "-ra ", which is an indication of dative case in the Sumerian language, combines with the "-ra" part of the word "ora, bura" meaning the direction of person or subject in the Azerbaijani language". Speaking about dative case it will be discussed in more detail.

Direction case (e-aş ba-te - O, evə yaxınlaşdı) that is observed in historical and modern Turkic languages existed in Sumerian language from ancient times and expressed by "-(e) şe/eş" forms. This case, which has shown itself in the form of "-aş, -eş, -iş,-uş" as a result of the fall of the last vowel, has historically been meaningful to the content of the direction. In addition to the directional content, dative case which also reflects the cause and time is gradually stabilized in the form of "-e" as a result of the decline of "ş" consonant. In our opinion, Kazimov is absolutely right in his view of this affair. He expressed: "Undoubtedly, historically consonant of the suffix has fallen and is associated with the" -e "affiliate of the location-oriented case" (Kazimov, 2003). Suffix of place-direction case in Sumerian language (Ki-e um-ma-te) “yer-ə yaxınlaşdı” expressed different content, direction, time, tools and means of action, etc. This case has been actively used in the Sumerian language (Kazimov, 2003). Although Dyakonov links the origins of this suffix to ergative case, Kazimov does not agree with this idea.

As we have already noted above, it draws on the idea that dative case suffix "-e" carrier from the same root as -"eş" direction case of Sumerian. There is no doubt that suffix has been transformed from semi closed "e" into an open vowel (the "-e" indicating the orientation of dative case) and that is a variant of "-a,-ə" (Kazimov, 2003) in the modern language. The idea is also completely justified and convincing. The morphological indicator of the locative case in the Sumerian language is suffix "-a". The role and position of the case is unreplaceble which expresses the place or area of the item, the place of work, the state, the place and time of the action, as well as a number of other meanings, content. It seems that the "-a", which is a means of expression locative case in the Sumerian language, is a basic form of expression dative case in a number of modern Turkic languages, including the Azerbaijani language. The fact that in the ancient historical sources, as well as in modern dialects and accents, there is a replacement of dative case by locative case, the morphological sign of these two cases has historically been derived from the same root, and the meaning and function between them were observed until the process of differentiation is processed completely.

In Sumerian language, as well as in the Turkic languages, locative case expresses different content such as the point of departure, space, time and reason. For example: Laqaş-ta - Laqaşdan; Elam-ta - Elamdan; lu-ta -adamdan and etc.

In the historical sources of the Turkish language, as well as in the Azerbaijani language, also in the dialect and accents there are numerous examples of how suffixes "-da, -də, -ta, -te, -ra, -re" etc. are used in dative case and preposition case.

Thinking about preposition case that formed later than other cases of nouns Shukurlu notes: "It is not accidental that locative case was used in the place of preposition case performing the grammatical task in the ancient Turkic written scripts. Therefore, Turkologists have come to such a conclusion that suffixes preposition case "-dan, -dən, -dın, -din" are formed by locative case suffixes "-da, -də" (Kazimov, 2003). This is the opinion of Kazimov, who agrees with Shukurlu, expressing that the idea of suffixes "-dan, -dən" were formed by suffixes "-da, -də" is interesting. The author writes: "Sumerian language materials indicate that, in the first place, the suffix "-da, -də" presented preposition case then locative case. Hence, «Book of Dede Korkut» is ancient. However, the suffix "-da, -də" also performs the function of preposition case in «Book of Dede Korkut», means that it is closer to Sumerian" (Kazimov, 2003, p. 120)

Case with the suffixes "- da (de, ta)" in Sumerian language are still present today in many Turkic languages, under the name of commutative case. In our opinion, those who say that suffix "-la, -lə" in the words "bacımla, qələmlə, bellə, bıçaqla" is the shorten form of postposition "ilə" and here is observed "d>l" formation. This idea of scientist is correct. The concept of unity is expressed in the words of our accents, with the suffixes "-nan, -nən", for example: pıçaxnan, anannan; (Western Group dialects of the Azerbaijani language) the latest case of noun in Sumerian language is comparative case and the expression of this case is "gi (gim, gimi)" suffix and this suffix is close to the postposition “kimi”. For exmaple: Lu-gim - adam kimi, e-gim - ev kimi etc. The using of postposition “kimi” as comparative case in modern Turkic languages are the same to the indicators of postposition "gibi" in Sumerian language in comparative meaning. Kazimov points out that "gim (kimi)" in Sumerian language is widely spread, and Dyakonov notes that this postposition is read as "-gin, -gi, -gim, -gimi", written as GIM. According to the author, "Perhaps the ancient form of preposition case in Sumerian is "(givin) (gimi) i-(-gi)". (Dyakonov, 1967, p. 57)


There is a very serious alignment between the Sumerian language and the Turkic language system. The consensus in the Sumerian-Turkish system is not only in terms of formalities, but also in terms of content, grammar, and semantics.

Researchers have shown that the Sumerian language developed and changed in the middle of the second millennium BC to acquire modern Turkic languages. The Sumerian language has two dialects called "eme-gir" and "eme-sal", but the second reflects new changes in the Sumerian language in a bigger extent. Unfortunately, this dialect has not been fully studied, which can play an important role in representing the Sumerian-Turkic ethnos.

The above-mentioned as well as the comparisons of case category once more prove that the parallelism between the Sumerian and Turkic languages is not just a similarity or compliance. The uniqueness of the two oldest languages morphological categories in terms of functionality, semantics and formalities once again proves that these languages are from the same root, and one of the oldest Turkic-speaking tribes come from the Sumerians.

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Received: May 15, 2020; Accepted: July 21, 2020

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Los autores han participado en la redacción del trabajo y análisis de los documentos.

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