By Mehmet Kurtkaya, Published on May 10, 2019
Sumerian is the first recorded language of humanity. Its relationship to other languages of the world is a very valuable linguistic information to trace the linguistic history of the world. However difficult it may seem at first, Sumerian will help reconstruct the first human language.
Thanks to ancient genome research of the last 20 years, especially the groundbreaking genetic studies of the last few years, a feat that seemed impossible for most may become a reality.
The search for human roots is as ancient as civilization itself, we know it from Sumerian and other creation myths.
The search for the roots of human language goes back to Renaissance Europe, the 1500s at least, to the works of Joseph Justus Scaliger. In the 1600s, Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn proposed the existence of a common language, he called "Scythian".
The Enlightenment Period in Europe has seen a jump in linguistic research. Rousseau, De Guignes, Gibbon, Bailly and others published works in search for the origin of languages and civilizations.
In their time, Sumerian civilization was unknown. Since the 1850s decipherement of the Sumerian cuneiform by Edward Hincks, researchers identified Sumerian to be related to many different existing language groups.
Suggested affiliations of Sumerian languageWikipedia has the following list:
Kartvelian languages (Nicholas Marr)
Munda languages (Igor M. Diakonoff)
Dravidian languages (see Elamo-Dravidian)
Uralic languages (Simo Parpola) or, more generally, Ural–Altaic languages (Simo Parpola, C. G. Gostony, András Zakar, Ida Bobula)
Nostratic languages (Allan Bomhard)
Sino-Tibetan languages, specifically Tibeto-Burman languages (Jan Braun, following C. J. Ball, V. Christian, and K. Bouda)
Dené–Caucasian languages (John Bengtson)
A late Paleolithic creole language (Høyrup 1992).
I should add others. First, the history of Sumerian Turkish comparisons as there are too many scholars who linked Sumerian to Turkish starting with Edward Hincks himself who deciphered the cuneiform script.
Others: Sumerian and Japanese: A Comparative Language Study by Roger Ahlberg, R. Yoshiwara published in 1991. Also Kartvelian and Sumerian language similarities by Anna Meskhi. Not a book or article, but an interesting internet post on Korean - Sumerian relationship
Nostratic almost covers the whole world. And the other linguistic suggestions together cover distant locations not only in Eurasia but also America.
Is it possible that all of the above associations are correct to varying degrees?
Using migration, mythological, linguistic and archaeological information, I had shown that for Etruscan language all linguistic associations were partially correct. For more please see Etruscan Origins.
In case of Sumerian, all of these associations together point at parts of a bigger truth, that these languages are connected via ancient migrations.
But, where is the evidence for these ancient migrations that span the whole world?
In search for the common human languageHow to proceed, which method to use? That is the question.
We should be able to find the place of origin and approximate time frame for the first human language using this method.
In 2013, a computer based researh using modern languages was published: Ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry across Eurasia Quote from the paper:
"Here we use a statistical model, which takes into account the frequency with which words are used in common everyday speech, to predict the existence of a set of such highly conserved words among seven language families of Eurasia postulated to form a linguistic superfamily that evolved from a common ancestor around 15,000 y ago."
The research showed the existence of a common Eurasian language from 15000 years ago, but we should note that they did not use ancient languages like Sumerian whose written records go back to 5000 years ago. Extrapolating back from Sumerian would give much more detail, more robust results.
The genetics science has shown the existence of previously unknown peoples dubbed as ghost populations and their migrations. On top of the list is ANE (Ancient North Eurasians) from 24000-15000 years ago which fits the time range of the above study.
It has also shown previously unknown migrations and population mixing for already known civilizations.
This is crucial in understanding the diversity of languages associated with the Sumerian language.
Apart from Sumerian comparisons, there are many linguistic comparisons that are deemed controversial or incorrect by main-stream archaeologists and scientists such as the below linguistic macro families:
Dravido-Koreo-Japonic, Ibero-Caucasian, Dene-Yeniseian, Dene-Caucasian, Eurasiatic, Uralo-Siberian, PaleoSiberian, Nostratic.
There are also many interesting linguistic suggestions published long before the genetics era, such as:
Finnish, Japanese, Mongolian, Quechua and Tamil "Duraljan Vocabulary: Lexical Similarities in the Major Agglutinative Languages" by Hannu Panu Aukusti Hakola
Turkish-Quechua by George Dumezil
And recent publications such as:
Chukotko-Kamchatkan Indo-European affinities by Gerhard Jager.
"The Japanese, Basque, and the Languages of Eurasia: The Question of Genetic Affiliation" by Ronald Thornton.
Iberian and Uralic by Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens
On Certain Aspects of Distance-based Models of Language Relationships, with Reference to the Position of Indo-European among other Language Families
Are all agglutinative languages related to one another? by Hungarian math professor Alfred Toth. He also suggests that the world's first language is Sumerian and others derive from it.
The only way to validate these claims is to use genetics and linguistics data together. It is also important to add archaeological and mythological info.
The biggest surprise in ancient genome studies: A previously unknown, "ghost population" identified: Ancient North Eurasians (ANE)The Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) lineage is defined by association with MA-1, or "Mal'ta boy" who lived during the Last Glacial Maximum, 24,000 years ago and Afontova Gora 2 who lived 15000 years ago.
ANE was an important genetic contributor to Central Asians, Native Americans, Europeans, South Asians, and a minor contributor to East Asians as shown with Lazaridis et al. (2016) Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East
ANE is a major contributor to Yamnaya people. And it is also found in Neolithic Iran and Caucasian hunter gatherers. The estimated dates for this contribution are around 10,000 BC.
Which language did the Ancient North Eurasians (ANE) speak ?If we can find out this language spoken in Upper Paleolithic (around 24-15000 BC) then we would basically solve the problem, and reconstruct the first human language.
The methodology should involve two components. Computer based solution, database mining with statistics, and Sun Language Theory. We can always use one to confirm the other yet there are other redundancies that can be added to confirm the outcome of this endeavor.
Two sets of comparison lists can be built one for Sumerian-Other languages and the other for controversial macrofamilies.
Botai, Northern Kazakhstan and Kelteminar, Central Asia with ANE ancestryI had already identified Central Asia as the original home of the Sumerian civilization and Siberia as their ancestral home. Sarazm Tacikistan as their initial center, and Turkmenistan sites as their original home. The most interesting ancestral component to these sites were the Botai whose ancestry according to Characterizing the genetic history of admixture across inner Eurasia by Jeong et al: "The ancient Botai genomes suggest yet another layer of admixture in inner Eurasia that involves Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in Europe, the Upper Paleolithic southern Siberians and East Asians." May 2018.
There is significant Ancient North Eurasian ANE ancestry in Botai culture. I had placed original homeland of the Sumerians between Lake Baikash, Altai Mountains and Lake Baikal. The genetic research regarding Botai culture and its related Kelteminar culture fits my research published in my book Sumerian Turks: Civilization's Journey from Siberia to Mesopotamia.
Map of Migrations of Sumerian Turks: Siberia - Central Asia - Mesopotamia - Syria - Turkey / Anatolia - Minoan Greece - Egypt - Bahrain
(Click to see full size image)
Sumerian Migrations on Eurasian Map
Common Origin of Human Language and its spread on Eurasian Map
(Click to see full size image)
Origin and Spread of Languages on Eurasian Map based on my books and Genetics Research as of May 2019
(Click on the image for the answer)
The above is another evidence for the Siberian ANE and Botai origins of the Sumerian civilization. It is now known that Steppe Maykop was formed from Botai and Turkmenistan - Steppe Maykop metallurgy link was already established. Hence the the migration connection between the two golden bulls found in Maykop and Turkmenistan is firmly established.
Botai related Genetics InfoThe Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia by Vagheesh M Narasimhan et. al., March 2018, is a major research paper with many important finds and comments regarding the analysis of the "genome wide ancient DNA from 357 individuals from Central and South Asia including the first from eastern Iran, Turan (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan), Bronze Age Kazakhstan, and South Asia".
There are many, but some of the key quotes and findings from the paper, very relevant to Sumerian research:
"Three individuals from the West Siberian forest zone with direct dates ranging from 6200 BCE to 4000 BCE play an important role in this study as they are representatives of a never-before reported mixture of ancestry that we call West_Siberian_HG: ~30% derived from EHG, ~50% from Ancestral North Eurasians (defined as being related deeply to 22000-15000 BCE Siberians (29, 30)), and ~20% related to present-day East Asians."
"We observe significant West Siberian hunter-gatherer related ancestry (also related to Ancient North Eurasians (ANE) and Eastern European HGs (EHG)) in individuals from Iran and Turan during the EN period.
Of particular note is that the samples from Tajikistan from the site of Sarazm, directly radiocarbon dated to the mid-4th millennium BCE, have about 23% of their ancestry attributable to this source."
These finding are nothing short of ground-breaking. They mention Sarazm as part of Kelteminar culture, the native hunter gatherers of the region who covered a vast area of Central Asia long before BMAC (2300 BC). The Kelteminar culture (5500–3500 BC) was sedentary and they depended on fishing and hunting for living.
In May 2018, Peter de Barros Damgaard et. al. reported some important findings in their research paper The first horse herders and the impact of early Bronze Age steppe expansions into Asia.
Among them, the finding that Botai people in Kazakistan derive from an Ancient North Eurasian (Siberian) ancestry. Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) is a frequently used term to denote a population group based on the genome of a 24,000 year-old Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer from South Central Siberia, known as Mal'ta boy who had basal Y-DNA R. They were Siberians.
Hence, the people who first domesticated the horse are related to Native Americans, Yeniseians, Eskimos and other Far Eastern Siberian populations.
Quote from the research article:
"...They form part of a previously undescribed west-to-east cline of Holocene prehistoric steppe genetic ancestry in which Botai, Central Asians, and Baikal groups can be modeled with different amounts of Eastern hunter-gatherer (EHG) and Ancient East Asian genetic ancestry represented by Baikal_EN."
Lake Baikal is the area I had included along with the Lake Balkash and Altai mountains as the ancestral homeland of the Sumerian Turks, while noting the connection to the 24,000 year-old Mal'ta boy from the same region.
Another important quote from that paper:
"Intriguingly, we find that direct descendants of Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers of Central Asia, now extinct as a separate lineage, survived well into the Bronze Age."
Other Genetic and Linguistic studies:Major Genetics Research Paper Published on September, 21 2018: Most Uralic speakers have ancestry from Siberia, ancestral home of the Turks. This study also adds additional evidence to the already established nature of the Sumerian language. Most word and grammatical morphem matches are with the Turkish, then with Hungarian language, and then with the Finnish language. Sumerian was classified as Uralic by Parpola even though he had stated that genetic relationship with Turkish seemed likely due to highest number of word matches! Kenanidis had classified it as r-Altaic. I had shown that Sumerian is largely an Ugur Turkish language, hence Ugric, but also related to Altaic Uguz/Oguz Turkish. See Sumerian Language Turkish comparisons and analysis
This study also confirms Ural-Altaic linguistic continuum mediated via Turkish in the Altai region!
Steppe Maykop Botai connection
On the origins of the Sakhas' paternal lineages: Reconciliation of population genetic / ancient DNA data, archaeological findings and historical narratives Tikhonov et. al.
Paleo-Eskimo genetic legacy across North America
Flegontov et al. (2015) shows that global maximum of ANE ancestry occurs in modern-day Kets, Mansi, Native Americans, Nganasans and Yukaghirs
The origin of Sino-Tibetan languages: Sino-Tibetan language family revealed by Sagar et. al, and Phylogenetic evidence for Sino-Tibetan origin in northern China in the Late Neolithic Menghan Zhang et.al. (Yangshao)
Peter Revesz' paper Sumerian Contains Dravidian and Uralic Substrates Associated with the Emegir and Emesal Dialects
Ancient North Siberians (ANS)In my book Sun Language Theory Proven!, I had suggested haplogroup P1 as the probable haplogroup of ancient Turks!
The findings from the following groundbreaking study shows two oldest remains in Northeastern Siberia from 31000 years ago, with haplogroup P1, as ancestors of ANE (Ancient Northern Eurasians) whose descendants are found in ancient graves around Eurasia thereby surprising genecicists who were not familiar with Sun Language Theory and hence were not expecting to see ANE (plus haplogroup Q of Siberians, and Native Americans) among ancient genomes found in Caucasia, Iran, Central and South Asia and more!
This reconfirms linguistic relationship seen among supposedly unrelated language families such as Altaic, Indo-European and Uralic. Moreover this provides further genetic evidence for the Sun Language Theory that I had proven long ago.
The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene by Martin Sikora et.al.
Sumerian SocietyCharles Burney stated that Sumerian were great administrators! That's a very important statement. We know from genetics Central Asian cities were cosmopolitan (research by David Reich, Harvard Med lab) and Sumer too was cosmopolitan. We know it not from genetics but from written sources. Cosmopolitan but linguistically quite conservative. Sumerians incorporating new people and words within society but within solid grammar. Three major features are SOV, addition (agglutinatination) and vowel harmony which I showed to be vowel hierarchy even within hard and soft vowels. And let's not forget ergativity which is a quite important feature linking many distant languages.
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Discover groundbreaking revelations on the roots of modern civilization in one short book. How did we arrive to where we are? How ancient civilizations a world apart, Sumer and Maya were connected. An overview that covers a wide range of topics from human migrations 50000 years ago to Gobeklitepe, the first temple in history, the first matriarchal society with written records, Elam, and to the Sun Cult of the Hattis. Their origins and influence on other ancient civilizations including their neighbors, distant relatives: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Hurrian, Scythian, Oguz, Kassite, Gutian, Hyksos and more. (Many of my articles on this website included)