Elamite language

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(name of the country: haltamti )

Spoken in

formerly in Iran
speaker none ( language extinct )
Official status
Official language in -
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Inscription Shilkhak-In-Shuschinak from Susa , around 1140 BC Chr.

The Elamite or Elamite language is the extinct language of the Elamites , an ancient oriental people in the southwest of today's Iran . Elamite texts date from 2400 to 350 BC. BC, so altogether there is a two thousand year history of tradition.

Elamish is not related to any other known ancient oriental language : it belongs neither to the Semitic languages (such as Akkadian ) nor to the Indo-European languages (such as Hittite or Old Persian ); it is certainly not related to the neighboring Sumerian either. Most researchers consider Elamite an isolated language , but some see genetic relationships with the Dravidian languages ​​of the Indian subcontinent.

The tradition Elamite texts took place in three different writing systems, two of which on Mesopotamian forms of writing to decline, while the third (the "linear script") is an Elamite-house development. The history of Elam can so far only be inferred from gaps and for certain phases mainly from Mesopotamian (Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) sources; Historical texts in the Elamite language, on the other hand, are relatively rare.

The science of the Elamite language, culture and history is called Elamistics .

The Elamers played at least since the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. An important role in southwestern Iran, for example in the area of ​​today's Chuzestan , Luristan and the central Zāgros Mountains . The main places were Anschan (now Tall-i Malyan) and Susa (now Shush). The economic basis for the development of the Elamite states was the great fertility of the Susiana at that time and its early importance as a transit area for the trade routes from Mesopotamia to Iran and the Indus Valley . The Elamite history is shaped by the constant political, warlike, but also cultural interaction with the neighboring states of Mesopotamia, which exercised sovereignty over the Elamian area in long phases and were mostly culturally the "givers". Nevertheless, the Elamites were able to maintain their independence in many areas compared to Mesopotamia, for example in a very special system of succession to the throne, in the use and adaptation of Mesopotamian writing systems and by preserving their language well into the first millennium AD.

The map shows the area of ​​the country Elam (in red).

Own and external names Elams

The Elamite name for the country Elam is haltamti or hatamti , this became Sumerian to elama , Akkadian to elamtu and Hebrew to 'elam . The self-designation of the language has not been handed down. The usual modern terms Elamite or Elamite (English and French elamite ) go back to Archibald Sayce , who coined the name elamite for people and language in 1874 according to the Akkadian model.

History of Elam and the Elamite language

So far, the Elamite story can only be presented in phases and can be divided into the following five sections:


From the Proto-Elamite period, around 3100–2600 BC. Chr., There is still no direct linguistic evidence for the Elamers. However, the following ancient Elamite period represented a culturally uninterrupted continuation of this period, which suggests that the carriers of the Proto-Elamite culture in the Susiana were also Elamites. During this period, based on the archaic Sumerian script, which was only a little older, the previously undeciphered Proto-Elamite pictorial script was developed and used for economic administration (finds mainly from the period 3050 to 2800 BC).

Old Elamish

The ancient Elamite period, around 2600–1500 BC. BC, includes the Elamite dynasties of Anwan , Simaš and those of the Epartids . Since the Akkad Empire (2340-2200), the Mesopotamian influence in Elam increased, after a short independence under King Puzur-Inšušinak (around 2200), the Sumerian Ur III dynasty regained suzerainty around 2100, while the Elamians decided the end of this same dynasty contributed to. Under the Epartid dynasty, Elam also retained a relative independence from the kingdom of Hammurabi and his successors (1900–1600). In the ancient Elamite period, the Elamans developed their own line script (only used for a short time around 2200) and adapted the Mesopotamian cuneiform script , which they greatly changed over the course of time (details on the Elamite scripts see below).

Middle Elamite

The Middle Elamite period covers approximately the period 1500–1000 BC. Under the dynasties of the Igehalkids and Šutrukids with the brilliant climax under Untaš-Napiriša with its capital city Dur-Untaš (today Tšogha Zambil) and probably the best preserved ziggurat in the whole of the Middle East. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar I ended this phase.

New Elamite

In the Neo-Elamite period, around 1000-550 BC. BC, Elam found a final climax in the so-called New Elamite Empire (760–640), which - weakened by the advance of Iranian peoples into the Elamite regions - was finally wiped out by the Assyrians .


In the Achaemenid period 550–330 BC Elam became an important part of the Achaemenid Empire , its language was one of four state languages ​​(besides Persian , Babylonian and Aramaic ), in Persepolis and Susa mainly Elamish scribes administered the state chancellery, and the accounts were largely kept in the Elamite language. The former Elamite capital of Susa became the administrative center of Achaemenid rule with new large palaces. While the written Elamite tradition in 350 BC B.C., Elamish was probably still spoken in Chusistan ("Chusi", "Chusisch") until the end of the 1st millennium AD ; however, the evidence is controversial.

Elamite scriptures and their decipherment

Reconstruction of the development of writing (starting before 3500 BC to 1000 BC ). With the hypothesis that Sumerian cuneiform writing is the older form of writing compared to Egyptian hieroglyphs (compare Cretan hieroglyphs , Luwian hieroglyphs ; Elamite scripts,
Indus script ).

Proto-Elamite pictorial writing

Plate in Proto-Elamite script

Shortly after the Sumerian writing invention , one can also find in Elam from 3050 and up to 2800 BC A written form that is very similar to the somewhat older archaic Sumerian from Uruk and, like this, uses almost only word and number characters, the Proto-Elamite pictorial writing . The main place of discovery is Susa with 1,600 clay tablets , there are a few finds throughout southwestern, but also scattered in eastern Iran. The writing has not yet been deciphered , but the tables are similar in structure and probably also in content to the archaic Sumerian tables, which were used exclusively for economic administration purposes. The Proto-Elamite script contains around 1000 characters, which appear in around 5000 variants.

The number system of these inscriptions is extremely complex, depending on the object being counted - similar to the Uruk texts - different units are used. The work of Englund 1989 and 1997 and Damerow 1989 result in the following different counting modes:

Different counting systems of the Proto-Elamite script

Property types Basic system Units used
People, animals decimal 1 - 10 - 100 - 1,000 - 10,000
discreetly inanimate sexagesimal 1 - 10 - 60 - 600 - 3,600
Grain rations (bi) sexagesimal 1 - 10 - 60 - 120 - 1,200
Measure of capacity (grain) mixed 1 - 2 - 4 - 12 - 24 - 60 - 360 - 3,600 etc.
Area dimensions mixed 1 - 6 - 18 - 180

Since different symbols were not used for each unit of the different counting systems, the numerical value of the individual quantity symbols depends decisively on the context in which they occur.

A reliable assignment of these texts to the Elamites would hardly be possible - even if they were completely deciphered - because of the high proportion of language-independent word characters . Robinson 2002 describes the current status of the deciphering of this document in detail.

Elamite line script

In the 23rd century BC The Elamans developed their own syllabary , which is called "Strichschrift" (English Linear Elamite ) because of its linear style . In 1961 the Göttingen Iranist and Elamist Walther Hinz published the basics of a decipherment of this written form and assumed an Elamite reading of these texts, which is reported in Hinz 1962, 1964 and 1969. This decipherment was carried out on the basis of an Akkadian-Elamite bilingual (the so-called stone inscription A) using the reading of proper names ( Inšušinak , Susa ) and the knowledge of the Elamite language from the previously deciphered Neo-Elamite and Achaemenid royal inscriptions. However, it has not been recognized by all experts. Texts in the Elamite line script are sparse and almost limited to the reign of Puzur-Inšušinak (late 23rd century). So far, around 20 stone and brick inscriptions have been found, one on a silver vase, the content of the line inscriptions is mostly dedicatory inscriptions.

The script has only 103 character forms - 40 of which are only used once - which suggested its interpretation as pure syllable script from the outset (word-syllable scripts such as Mesopotamian cuneiform require a much larger set of characters). As an example, the Elamite text used by W. Hinz for deciphering is cited in his reading and with its interlinear translation (the numbering corresponds to the columns of this inscription):

Elamite line inscription (so-called stone writing A, after Hinz 1969):

(1) te-im-tik-ki nap in-šu-ši-na-ik un-ki
(2) u ku-ti-ki-šu-ši-na-k zunkik hal-me ka
(3) hal-me-ni-ik šu-si-im-ki
(4) ši-in-pi-hi-iš-hu-ik
(5) ša-ki-ri nap-ir lik hi-an ti-la-ni-li

Interlinear translation:

(1) To the Lord God Inšušinak, have this wood (bolt)
(2) I, Kutik-I (n) šušinak, King of the Land (Elam),
(3) Governor of Susa,
(4) of the Sinpi-hišuk
(5) Son, truly dedicated to the deity as a foundation for the temple.

The name “Kutik-I (n) šušinak” is now generally read “Puzur-Inšušinak”.

The adaptation of the Mesopotamian cuneiform in Elam

Parallel to the line script, and especially after 2200, the Sumerian-Akkadian cuneiform script also increasingly prevailed in Elam, although most of the texts were initially still written in Akkadian (the scribes were possibly Akkader). Mesopotamian cuneiform was then increasingly simplified by the Elamers - since the Middle Elamian period - by reducing the number of characters, choosing mostly simple characters with as few wedges as possible and largely abandoning ideograms (logograms, word characters) and using an almost purely phonetic one Replace syllabary. The ambiguity of the Mesopotamian characters was greatly reduced, as a rule only one character was used for the same syllable (see table below). Thus, the Elamers succeeded in creating an independent, much “more logical” and simpler form of cuneiform writing, which, however , could hardly adequately reproduce the “subtleties” of Elami's phonetics (for example consonant clusters , nasalization , use of double consonants, etc.). In the Achaemenid period, the Elamite cuneiform script had only 132 characters, including 27 word characters and determinatives . The graphic differences between the Elamite wedge marks and their - now mostly identified - Mesopotamian predecessors are considerable.

The late New Elamite and Achaemenid Elamite syllables

Ka Ke Ki Ku aK iK uK
ba be . . . . .
pa . pi pu ap ip, íp .
. . gi . . . .
ka 4 . ki ku ak ik uk
. te ti do, do 4 at it ut
there . . you . . .
sa . si see below as is (us)
za . zi . . . .
šá, šà še ši šu áš .
ma me mi must at the in the around
n / A . ni nu on in, en U.N
la . left lu . el? ul
ra . ri ru (ar) ir ur
Ha . Hi hu Vh Vh Vh

Note: / Vh / means that this character stands for the syllables / ah, ih, uh /. Accents or indices indicate different cuneiform characters with the same syllable sound value. Note that only two different characters were used for the syllables / ip, ša / and / tu /, so the late Elamite script reproduces the syllables of the language almost unambiguously - in contrast to the spelling of Sumerian or Akkadian. (For the lack of opposition " voiced " to " voiceless " see the section on phonology.)

In addition to the syllable characters in the table, there were the five vowel characters / a, e, i, u, ú / and some KVK characters (characters with the sound value consonant-vowel-consonant), the reading of which, however, was not clearly determined, such as spelling variants tup -pi-ra and ti-pi-ra "Schreiber" show. Sometimes KVK signs were determined by "explanatory spellings", for example tan-an next to tan and da-an or gal-li and gal-lu next to gal .

The deciphering of the Neo-Elamite cuneiform

The basis for deciphering all cuneiform scripts - and thus also other ancient oriental writing systems  - was the large trilingual Darius inscription by Behistun from 519 BC. In the languages ​​Elamite, Old Persian and Babylonian . After Georg Friedrich Grotefend and his successors first deciphered the ancient Persian cuneiform script and interpreted the ancient Persian text (in a language that is closely related to Awestern ), the Behistun trilingual could be used to decipher the other two scripts.

At first it made sense to examine the second part of the inscription, as this type of writing only used 111 different characters and was therefore much simpler than the third script with its several hundred characters (as we know today, the third script is the Babylonian cuneiform, which could only be deciphered after and with the help of the deciphering of the Elamite script). With only 111 characters, it was obvious that this second script - the Neo-Elamite cuneiform script, as was later recognized - was essentially a syllabic script . Grotefend - who already played a major role in the deciphering of the ancient Persian cuneiform script - discovered in 1837 that male personal names were marked by a vertical wedge in front of them. This opened the door to the basic idea of ​​decipherment, namely the equation of proper names in the Neo-Elamite and Old Persian versions (an idea that Jean-François Champollion had already used when deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs ). After the complete publication of the Elamite version of the inscription in 1853, 90 proper names were available from which the syllable values ​​of most of the neo-Elamite characters could be determined by comparing them with the names of the old Persian text. With the help of the translation of the old Persian version, the meaning of around 700 Elamish words could be determined and the main features of the Elamish grammar clarified.

The reading and interpretation of the Middle and Old Elamite cuneiform script

On the basis of the now relatively well-known Neo-Elamite script and language, the older Elamite cuneiform inscriptions could gradually be read and interpreted through comparison and combination. The Middle Elamite cuneiform contains even more determinants and ideograms than the New Elamite and is more complicated overall. Help from Akkadian-Elamite bilingualism was only available in a few and insignificant cases. The limited vocabulary obtained from the Achaemenid-New Elamite royal inscriptions was not sufficient to open up the much more extensive lexicon of the ancient and middle Elamite inscriptions, and the changes in the language over a period of more than a thousand years still lead to considerable difficulties in the interpretation of the older Elamite texts. There are Elamite texts in which every second word still poses a riddle or the meaning of entire sentences remains completely obscure.

Text transmission

Overall, the tradition of Elamite texts lags far behind that of Sumerian and Akkadian texts in terms of quality and quantity. The surviving Elamite material is not extensive and varied enough to be able to achieve a comprehensive understanding of Elamite texts - despite today's relatively easy reading. In particular, the development of the vocabulary has hardly succeeded, only about 700 Elamite words have been reliably interpreted. As long as one does not find a larger Sumerian-Elamite, Akkadian-Elamite or Old Persian-Elamite word list, nothing will change in this situation. However, the tradition of Elamite is so extensive that a relatively clear picture of the Elamite grammar and language structure can be obtained.

The origin of the texts

Most of the Elamite texts come from today's southwestern Iranian provinces Chuzestan and Fars , the most important sources are Susa, Persepolis and Anshan (today Tall-i Malyan). These texts were written between the 24th and 4th centuries BC. Achaemenid, multilingual monumental inscriptions , which also contain Elamite versions, can be found in western Iran and eastern Turkey in the Lake Van area ; they date from 520 to 450 BC. . BC Elamite clay tablets dating from the 6th century BC were - in - outside Iran Nineveh (in present-day Mosul ) in the Urartu found fortresses eastern Turkey and Armenia, some Elamite clay tablet fragments from this period come even from Kandahar in present-day Afghanistan .

Old Elamite texts

Most of the cuneiform texts of the ancient Elamite period (around 2400–1500) are written in Akkadian or Sumerian, only a few have survived in Elamite. This includes three fragmentary student texts - which one could call "literary" in the broadest sense - a contract between an unknown Elamite king and the Akkadian king Naramsin (from the 23rd century, for translation see Koch 2005) and four Elamite royal inscriptions from the 18th century . In addition, Elamite names and isolated words have come down to us in Sumerian and Akkadian texts. If the Elamite character of the line script can be definitively proven (see above), these few texts naturally also belong to the Old Elamite inventory.

Excerpts from the ancient Elamite Naramsin Treaty (translation after Koch 2005):
Hear Goddess Pinengir, Divine Good of Heaven, Humban, Il-Aba ... (a total of 37 Elamite and Akkadian gods are invoked): I will not allow hostile ventures against the Lord of Akkade. My general will protect the Lord from hostile acts. Naramsin's enemy is my enemy too, Naramsin's friend is my friend! ... I will not take in a defector. ... Your statue should be honored here. ... May your wife be fertile! May God Simut always keep her! May she bear a mother's son as heir to the throne. ... Peace is cherished here! The kings swear their oath to the gods. … The king loves the sun god Nahiti, he is subject to the god Inšušinak. ...

Middle Elamite texts

The Middle Elamite texts (1350–1100 BC) mostly consist of short royal inscriptions and administrative documents (175 texts mostly from Susa, Dur-Untaš and Malyan in Fars ), written on bricks, steles, reliefs, statues and votive objects. Among them is a single bilingual Akkadian-Elamite building inscription and a long campaign report by King Šutruk-Naḫḫunte II (approx. 1185–1155). Elamish words and titles can also be found on Akkadian inscriptions by Haft Tepe during this period . Middle Elamite is considered to be the "classical" period of the Elamite language and culture.

Neo-Elamite texts

Neo-Elamish is represented by dedicatory inscriptions and administrative and legal texts from the 8th to 6th centuries BC. Represents. From the time 750 to 650 BC About 30 royal inscriptions on bricks and steles come from Susa and some rock inscriptions by local Elamite rulers in Chuzestan . From the time after 650 a small group of legal texts and an archive with 300 short administrative texts from Susa as well as some letters from Susa , Niniveh and Armavir Blur in Armenia have come down to us.

Achaemenid-Elamite texts

The Elamic language of the Achaemenid period is best passed down, especially - as mentioned above - through the multilingual royal inscriptions of Darius I and his successors. These royal inscriptions in the languages ​​Elamish, Old Persian and Babylonian still form the most important documents of Elamistics (translation of the three versions by Borger-Hinz 1984, the oldest trilingual inscription Darius I is reproduced in Koch 2005). In Behistun , only the Elamite version initially existed, the other two were added a little later, which underlines the special importance of Elamite in the Achaemenid period. Later monumental inscriptions always contain an Elamite and a Babylonian version in addition to the old Persian version; these texts correspond very closely in terms of content, so that simultaneous translations are possible.

From the introduction to the Behistun inscription (translation after Borger-Hinz 1984):
(§ 1) I am Darius, the great king, king of kings, king in Persia, king of the countries, the son of Hystaspes, the grandson of arsame, an Achaemenid. (§ 5) Darius the king announces: According to Ahuramazda's will I am king. Ahuramazda gave me kingship. (§ 6) These are the countries that came to me: Persia, Elam, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, the sea inhabitants (the inhabitants of sea country = Cyprus?), Lydia, Jonia, Media, Armenia, Cappadocia, Parthia, Drangiana (Sistan in eastern Iran), Areia (Herat, north-west Afghanistan), Khoresmia, Bactria, Sogdia, Gandhara (north-east Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan), Scythia, Sattagydia (Punjab in north-west India), Arachosia (Kandahar, south Afghanistan), Maka (Mekran in Balochistan), a total of 23 countries.

Several thousand Elamite administrative texts are from the time between 500 and 450 BC. Received from the archives of Persepolis, written by the Elamite scribes and accountants of the Achaemenid Imperial Chancellery. Fragments of this group of texts from Kandahar in Afghanistan show the wide distribution of these texts.

An order to an official for a settlement (PF 1858, translation after Koch 2004):
Speak to Merduka, Mrnčana sends a message: May your salvation be brought about by the gods and the king! I had previously told you: “One of our colleagues is on the way to Elam, where I am not going myself now. There he will do the accounting. ”But he cannot come now. As a replacement I'll send the Humaya out, he'll arrive there and do the accounting. You finish everything there and hand over the reserve stocks of cattle, barley, wine and grain, he should send them here!

Relationships with other languages

One reason for the difficulty of interpreting Elamish texts is that Elamish as a language is obviously isolated and etymological comparisons with related languages ​​are therefore not necessary. Early attempts to link it to Sumerian were quickly abandoned; however, a certain structural similarity between the two languages, which is due to their geographical proximity, has recently been emphasized again (Steiner 1990), which does not say anything about a genetic relationship between the two languages. A comparison with the also dating the Iranian Bergland languages Kassitisch and Gutäisch already redundant due to the extremely low level of knowledge of these languages. On the other hand, the hypothesis of a relationship with the Dravidian languages ​​was regarded as very promising.

The Elamo-Dravidian Hypothesis

As early as 1856, RA Caldwell suspected a relationship between Elamite and the Dravidian languages. This hypothesis was taken up again in the 1970s and mainly represented by David W. McAlpin, who in his summarizing main work from 1981 assumes an Elamo-Dravidian language family, which is also called "Zagrosian", after their hypothetical original home in the Zāgros Mountains . The following correspondences between Elamite and Proto -Dravidian are cited as a reason for the Elamo-Dravidian relationship (the first two, however, are purely typological and therefore cannot contribute much to the genetic question ):

Nonetheless, Elamists and Dravidologists alike viewed the Elamo- Dravidian hypothesis with great reluctance, if not with rejection (Reiner 1992 and 2003, Steever 1998, Krishnamurti 2003).

If the thesis put forward by other researchers (e.g. WA Fairservis 1992, A. Parpola 1994) is correct, that the - previously unknown - language of the Indus culture is also Dravidian, there would also be a relationship between Elam and the Indus culture, especially the Proto-Elamite pictorial writing (see above) of the early 3rd millennium has many similarities in the stock of characters with the - so far undeciphered - script of the Indus culture (most recently presented in detail by van Driem 2001).

Afro-Asian and Nostratic Hypotheses

V. Blažek criticized most of McAlpin's Elamish-Dravidian word equations in the 1990s and for his part established over a hundred etymologies that were supposed to prove a relationship between Elamish and Afro-Asian languages . Since he does not deny the morphological Elamo-Dravidian similarities found by McAlpin , he moves Elamish into the larger context of the Nostratic macro-family , which in his view also includes the Afro-Asian language family in addition to the Dravidian, Indo-European , Ural , Altaic and Cartwian languages (the latter is often viewed by nostratics today as independent). This extended hypothesis also found few supporters outside the circle of the “nostratics” (see Blažek 1999 and 2002).

Starostin's criticism

Of great importance is the extensive article by George Starostin On the Genetic Affiliation of the Elamite Language (2002), which examines and criticizes both the work of McAlpin and the theses of Blažek. He also interprets the Elamo-Dravidian morphological similarities (like Blažek) in the context of a much more extensive nostratic relationship instead of a bilateral Elamo-Dravidian relationship. It shows, for example, that the case suffixes cited by McAlpin are actually used in a similar form and function in the Ural, Altaic and Cartelian languages. The word equations of both authors - that is, both the Elamo-Dravidian McAlpins and the Elamo- Afro-Asian Blažeks - are almost all unconvincing.

Instead, on the basis of Morris Swadesh's 100-word list , he presents an examination of the 54 terms on this list that occur in Elamite , and tries to find Nostratic, Afro-Asian and Sino-Caucasian parallels. The result is - as expected - a very wide gap between Elamite and Sinocaucasian, a relatively wider - roughly the same - gap between both Nostratic and Afro-Asian. In particular, Elamian and Dravidian - a branch of Nostratic - have only very little in common, there are only two acceptable word equations. Starostin does not rule out a primordial relationship between Elamite and these macrogroups , but it would have to be based on a very distant past. The main result is the factual refutation of the specific Elamo-Dravidian hypothesis, which, according to McAlpin's work, was no longer explicitly supported by anyone.

So it makes sense - especially on the basis of the results of Starostin, but also the critical work of the Dravidologists and Elamists - to continue to understand Elamish as an isolated language of the ancient Orient .

Linguistic characteristics

This representation can only work out a few key points of the Elamite grammar . She essentially follows M. Krebernik 2005 and MW Stolper 2004.


The adapted from the Elamites Mesopotamian cuneiform ( syllables types V, KV, VK and a few KVK - V represents a vowel , K stands for a consonant ) was only partly able to adequately reproduce the Elamite language. For example, the consonant clusters that are relatively common in Elamite could only be implemented approximately and imperfectly by inserting silent vowels. Nasalization - the existence of which one can guess from the spelling variants te-em-ti and te-ip-ti for tempti "Lord" - is usually not representable. The phoneme inventory of Elamite, which obviously differs greatly from that of Sumerian or Akkadian, can only be reconstructed from the script with difficulty . There is obviously no opposition " voiceless " to " voiced "; H. no difference in the pronunciation of the characters for / p / - / b /, / t / - / d / and / k / - / g /, which led to fluctuations in the spelling: for example du-ni-h and tu- ni-h for "I gave". Which pronunciation was actually used by the Elamers can be seen from the spelling of Elamish proper names among the Babylonians and Assyrians : after that, the voiced variant is more likely to be assumed (W. Hinz 1964 comments on this: "The Elamers have spoken word .").

There are only four vowels in Elam, namely / a, i, u, e /. A simplified overview of the reconstructable consonants (in [] different pronunciation) is shown in the following scheme from Stolper 2004.

The consonants of Elamite

p / b [b]   t / d [d]   k / g [g]
    s š  
  (w / v / f)     h [x]
m   n    
    l r  

The transliteration signs / h / is ancient oriental / h /, so it will be like the German / ch / pronounced. (However, this only applies to the older language phases, in New Elamite / h / is often mute and can be omitted.)

In Krebernik 2005, the consonants / b /, / d / and / g / are omitted from the spelling ( transliteration ) , instead phonemically relevant double consonants (geminatae) / pp, tt, kk, hh, šš, ll, rr, mm, nn are used / added - which, however, are not all certain - as well as the consonants / z / (with / zz /) and / ŋ / (with / ŋŋ /) and the semi-vowel / j /.


Elamish is an agglutinating language that uses suffixes , en klitika and postpositions . Case suffixes developed from postpositions only existed in the late Elamite period, the older language levels only differentiate a case in personal pronouns ( nominative and accusative , see below). There is no article . Elamish is not an ergative language ; the same subject forms are used for transitive and intransitive sentences . On the other hand, it cannot be called a typical nominative-accusative language, since this case distinction initially only affects the pronouns and is only documented in a very late phase by secondary formations for nouns. The question of the ergativity of Elamite has long been debated.

Syntactic relationships are created through word order , but above all through so-called meaning and congruence markers . Here is an example from nominal morphology :

X sunki-r hatamti-r ... "X, the king (sunki-) of Elam (hatamti-) , ..."
u sunki-k hatamti-k ... "I, the King of Elam, ..."

In the first phrase , sunki- is the class of meaning Delokutiv ("er class", a statement is made about the king), which is marked with the suffix / -r /. This suffix is ​​added to the hatamti- attribute , which braces the noun phrase into a unit. In the second phrase, the phrase head sunki- um is the locutive (“I class”) - marked by / -k / -, which is also taken up again in the attribute. The form and function of the various meaning and congruence markers is explained and documented in detail in the section on nominal morphology.

Noun phrases always have the sequence phrase head - attribute, whereby the attributes can be nouns (in German " genitive "), adjectives , possessive pronouns and relative clauses . Except for the relative clauses, attributes are bracketed with the phrase head in the manner described above using congruence markers.

The set subsequence is because of the lack of case distinction strictly defined and essentially follows the SOV schema ( subjectobject  - predicate ). Between subject and predicate direct and indirect objects can adverbial rules, negation particles and resumptive pronouns (including a reference back to the subject or object involve) to be inserted. Example:

u (TITEL) B kuši-h G1 ak G2 ap-uin tuni-h
"I (TITLE) built the B-I (kuši-h) , the gods G1 and G2 - they (ap) I (u) it (in) - I gave (tuni-h) "
"I (TITEL) built (building) B and donated it to the gods G1 and G2"

The enclitic particle / -a / marks the end of phrases and sentences, sentence-introducing particles are rarely used in the older language levels.

Nouns and their classes of meaning

In Elamish, all nouns are initially divided into two main classes ( grammatical genders ), namely the person class (PK) or subject class (SK). In addition, they are assigned to one or more classes of meaning . This assignment takes place implicitly (without recognizable identification by a suffix ) or explicitly by a meaning class suffix .

Some examples of an implicit (suffix-free) assignment are the nouns Ruh "man", atta "father", amma "mother", iki "brother", sutu "sister", šak "son", pak "daughter", zana "mistress “, Elt (i) “ eye ”, siri “ ear ”, kir or kur “ hand ”, pat “ foot ”, kik “ heaven ”, mur (u) “ earth ”, hiš “ name ”and hutt “ work ”. The respective meaning class of these unmarked nouns only becomes visible in the congruence with an attribute or predicate .

The explicit meaning markers (suffixes) are / -k, -t, r, -p, -me, -n; -m, -š /. With the exception of the last two / -m / and / -š /, these are all used as congruence markers (see below for an explanation and examples).

The four markers / -k, -t, -r, -p / play a special role in the nouns of the person class: they are used to denote the locutive (Ich-Klasse), allocutivs (du-Klasse) and Delocutive (he / she -Class), where the delokutiv distinguishes singular and plural . The following table shows the exact use.

The marked meaning classes for nouns from the person class

designation suffix example meaning
Locutive -k sunki-k I, the king
Allocative -t sunki-t you the king
Delocative sg. -r sunki-r (he, the) king
Delocative pl. -p sunki-p (they, the) kings

The marker / -me / has an abstracting function, as the following examples show:

sunki-me "royalty"; too sunki- "king"
lipa-me "service"; to lipa- "servant"
husa-me "forest"; to husa- "wood, tree"

The marker / -n / marks places and place names, for example siya-n "temple" (to siya "look"; the temple is the "place of looking", which corresponds exactly to the meaning of the Latin templum .) Many Place names -  Anwan, Anshan, Shusha (n)  - contain the suffix / -n /. The function of the other markers - which are not used for marking the congruence - can no longer be defined in general.

In the following some examples show the application of the meaning and congruence markers:

X sunki-r hatamti-r
"X, the king (sunki-) of Elam (hatamti-) ..." (Delokutiv sg.)
u sunki-k hatamti-k
"I, the King of Elam ..." (Lokutiv)
takki-me u-me
"My (u) life (takki) " (me class)
takki-me sutu hanik u-ri-me
"Life sister (sutu) loved (hanik) I (u) - her (ri) - reference to takki through -me "
"The life of my beloved sister"
siya-n G zana hute-hiši-p-ri-ni
"Temple (siya-n) of the G, mistress (zana) of the noble ones (hute-hiši-p) - reference to zana through ri (Delok.) - reference to siya-n through ni (n-class)"
"The temple of the goddess G, mistress of the noble ones"

Personal pronouns and possessive education

The personal pronouns already differentiate between two cases in ancient Elamite times, the nominative and the accusative, which is usually formed by adding a / -n /. There are older and younger forms, the older ones mostly have the vowel / i /, which in the New and Late Elamite forms changes into / u / (a sound shift generally observed in Elamite ). The following table shows the more recent forms of the personal pronoun.

The younger forms of personal pronouns

person Nom.sg. Battery sg. Nom.pl. Akk.pl.
1 u U.N) nuku nuku (-n)
2 nu now numi numi (-n)
3 PK ir ir ap (pi) appin
3 SK in) in) . .

/ ir / and / in / stand as resumptive pronouns that give a reference back to the subject or object, prior to finite verb forms , depending on the conjugation type as subject or direct object .

Following personal pronouns become possessives by using the congruence markers (see above) . The following examples:

phrase translation Explanation
napi-r u-ri my God Delocative sg.
napi-r nuku-ri our God Delocative sg.
napi-p u-pi my gods Delocative pl.
takki-me u-me my life me class
rutu ni-ri your wife Delocutive sg., Rutu without suffix
ayani-p nika-p (i) our relatives Delocative pl.
siyan appi-me her (pl.) temple siyan here me class
takki-me pooh nika-me-me the life of our offspring double me class

The last example has a double -me suffix, since reference is made to both puhu “progeny” - which itself implicitly belongs to the me class - and takki “life”.

Verbal stems

Many roots can be used nominally and verbally in Elamite , for example me "back" and "follow", do "property" and "take". Most verbal stems end in a vowel, in the older language phases there are also consonantic endings.

By reduplicating the initial syllable, plural subject or object , but also “plurality” of the action ( i.e. its repetition) can be expressed in some verbs (Steiner 1990, although this interpretation is not generally recognized). This can lead to phonetic changes such as elimination of the stem vowel. Some examples of these tribal modifications by reduplication of the initial syllable are compiled in the following table.

Examples of verbs with tribal modification

left lili give
ta tatta put
hapu hahpu Listen
hutta huhta do
kazza kakza / i forge
kela kekla command
kuti kukti wear
kuši kukši build
peli pepli establish
pera pepra read
turu tutri say
tallu tatallu write

Verbal morphology

Elamish has three simple conjugations , which in the literature are called conjugation I, II and III. All three conjugations have the categories person (1-2-3) and number (singular and plural).

The conjugation I is formed directly from the verbal stem (simple or modified) with verb-specific suffixes for person and number (this is why it is also called "verbal conjugation"). The forms of the other two conjugations are derived with the nominal congruence suffixes / -k, -t, -r, -p / (see above) from extended stems, which are also called participles : Conjugation II is based on a / -k / - Extension, conjugation III on a / -n / extension of the stem.

Today in Elamistics there is extensive, but by no means complete, agreement on the meaning of conjugations ( tense , mode , aspect , transitivity , diathesis ). The following table shows the assessment of Stolper 2004 (similar to Krebernik 2005), but the information about the meaning should be understood with the addition “mostly applies”.

Formation and meaning of the three Elamite conjugations

Conjug. Base Suffixes Diathesis Transitive. aspect Tense
I. tribe verbal rather active transitive neutral past
II Stem + k nominal passive intransitive perfective past
III Stem + n nominal rather active neutral imperfectively Present, future

Conjugation paradigm

The following tables show the three Elamite conjugation paradigmata . Since there are no plural forms for locutive and allocative (see above, meaning classes ), the forms for the 1st and 2nd person plural are omitted in conjugations II and III. (They were supplemented by paraphrases in the Achaemenid period.)

Conjugation I using the example of kulla "praying"

person Singular Plural
1 kulla-h kulla-hu
2 kulla-t kulla-ht
3 kulla-š kulla-h-š

Conjugation II using the example of hutta "to do"

person Singular Plural
1 hutta-kk .
2 hutta-kt .
3 hutta-k (-r) hutta-kp

Conjugation III using the example of hutta "to do"

person Singular Plural
1 hutta-nk .
2 hutta-nt .
3 hutta no hutta-np

Note: Not all specified forms have been used so far.

Notes on the modes

Elamish also has the modes optative (desired form), imperative (command form) and prohibitive (prohibited form). Forms of conjugations I and II with the suffix / -ni / (or / -na /) have an optical meaning, for example kulla-h-š-ni “may they pray”.

In Middle Elamic, the 2nd person of conjugation I has an imperative function (for example hap-t (i) “hear!”), In Achaemenid Elam it the 3rd person of conjugation I. Prohibitives are denoted by conjugation III with the prefix (! ) anu- or ani- formed, for example horn anu hutta-nt (i) “do n't do that (horn) ”.

All further details of the Elamite grammar can be found in the literature given.



  • Walther Hinz : The kingdom of Elam. Urban books. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1964.
  • Heidemarie Koch : Women and Snakes. The mysterious culture of the Elamites in ancient Iran. Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2007, ISBN 3-8053-3737-X .
  • Ernst Kausen : Elamish; Grammatical sketch of Elamite . In: The Language Families of the World. Part 1: Europe and Asia . Buske, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-87548-655-1 , p. 290-304 .


  • Margaret Khačikjan: The Elamite Language. Documenta Asiana. Vol. 4. Istituto per gli studi micenei ed ege-anatolici, Rome 1998. ISBN 88-87345-01-5
  • Manfred Krebernik : Elamish. in: Michael P. Streck (Ed.) Languages ​​of the Ancient Orient. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2005. ISBN 3-534-17996-X ( online )
  • Erica Reiner : Elamite. In: WJ Frawley (Ed.) International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. 2nd Edition. Oxford 2003. ISBN 0-19-513977-1
  • Georg Steiner: Sumerian and Elamite - typological parallels. In: Acta Sumerologica 12, 1990, pp. 143-176. ISSN  0387-8082
  • Matthew W. Stolper : Elamite. in: Roger D. Woodard (Ed.): World's Ancient Languages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004. ISBN 0-521-56256-2


  • Walther Hinz, Heidemarie Koch: Elamish dictionary. 2 vols. Reimer, Berlin 1987. ISBN 3-496-00923-3

Writings and deciphering

  • Peter Damerow , Robert K. Englund: The Proto-Elamite Texts from Tepe Yahya. Cambridge Mas 1989. ISBN 0-87365-542-7
  • Robert K. Englund: Proto-Elamite. In: Encyclopaedia Iranica. Vol. 8, New York 1997. ISBN 1-56859-058-X
  • Walter A. Fairservis: The Harappan Civilization and its Writing. Leiden 1992. ISBN 90-04-09066-5
  • Johannes Friedrich : Deciphering lost languages ​​and scripts. Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg / New York 1966.
  • Walther Hinz: To decipher the Elamite line script. In: Iranica Antiqua 2, 1962. ISSN  0021-0870
  • Walther Hinz: The kingdom of Elam. Urban books. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1964, pp. 25-34.
  • Walther Hinz: The Elam font. In: U. Hausmann (Ed.): General principles of archeology. Beck, Munich 1969.
  • Asko Parpola: Deciphering the Indus Script. Cambridge 1994. ISBN 0-521-43079-8
  • Andrew Robinson: Lost Languages. The Enigma of The World's Undeciphered Scripts. McGraw-Hill, New York 2002, pp. 200-217. ISBN 0-07-135743-2


  • Václav Blažek: Elam. A Bridge between Ancient Near East and Dravidian India? in: Archeology and Language. Vol. 4. Routledge, London 1999. (Repr. In: Mother Tongue ) 7, 2002. ISSN  1087-0326
  • Václav Blažek: Some New Dravidian - Afroasiatic Parallels. In: Mother Tongue 7, 2002. ISSN  1087-0326
  • Bhadriraju Krishnamurti: The Dravidian Languages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2003. ISBN 0-521-77111-0
  • David W. McAlpin: Proto-Elamo-Dravidian. The Evidence and its Implications. The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia 1981. ISBN 0-87169-713-0
  • George Starostin: On the Genetic Relation of the Elamite Language. In: Mother Tongue 7, 2002. ISSN  1087-0326
  • Sanford B. Steever: The Dravidian Languages. Routledge, London / New York 1998. ISBN 0-415-10023-2
  • George van Driem : Languages ​​of the Himalayas. Brill, Leiden / Boston / Cologne 2001. ISBN 90-04-10390-2 (Chapter The Elamites and the Dravidian Indus. )
  • G. Steiner: Sumerian and Elamish: Typological Parallels . In: Acta Sumerologica 12, 1990, pp. 143-176.


  • Rykle Borger , Walther Hinz: The Behistun inscription Darius' the great. In: Otto Kaiser (Ed.) Texts from the environment of the Old Testament. Historical-chronological texts. Vol. 1. Mohn, Gütersloh 1984. ISBN 3-579-00060-8 (simultaneous translation of the three versions - Old Persian, New Elamite, Babylonian - with the discussion of all deviations and variants.)
  • Heidemarie Koch: Texts from Iran. In: Bernd Janowski, Gernot Wilhelm (ed.) Texts from the environment of the Old Testament. New episode. Vol. 1. Mohn, Gütersloh 2004. ISBN 3-579-05289-6 (Contains mainly Elamite administrative texts from the Achaemenid period.)
  • Heidemarie Koch: Texts from Iran. In: Bernd Janowski, Gernot Wilhelm (ed.) Texts from the environment of the Old Testament. New episode. Vol. 2. Mohn, Gütersloh 2005. ISBN 3-579-05288-8 (Contains the ancient Elamite contract with Naramsin, the Middle Elamite campaign report from Šutruk-Nahhunte I and the oldest trilingual inscription Darius I from Persepolis in separate versions.)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Walther Hinz : Das Reich Elam , 1964, p. 19 online
  2. Rocznik orientalistyczny , volumes 41-43, Polskie Towarzystwo Orientalistyczne, Polska Akademia Nauk. Komitet Nauk Orientalistycznych, Polska Akademia Nauk. Zakład Orientalistyki, 1979, p. 40 online
  3. ^ Geoffrey Barraclough, Norman Stone: The Times Atlas of World History. Hammond Incorporated, Maplewood, New Jersey 1989, ISBN 978-0-7230-0304-5 , p. 53. ( [1] on archive.org)
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on June 24, 2006 in this version .