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I cannot find anywhere that has a phonetic definition of the numbers.

  • 2
    Why would you? Do you pronounce the "MMXVII" year at the end of the movie, or just say "2017"?
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11, 2017 at 20:10
  • 3
    Yes... YOU would as an English speaking person. How did Sumerian's say, "2017"? In Rome they wouldn't say, "two thousand seventeen", they would say, "duo milia septemdecem".
    – SQLMason
    Apr 11, 2017 at 20:16
  • 2
    Well, the question specifically asks how "you" would pronounce it. If you meant to ask how an ancient Sumerian would pronounce it, you should edit your question to ask that question... which is basically unanswerable, because how would anyone possibly know? There aren't any 4,000 year old Iraqis we could ask, and archaeological records do a poor job of preserving sound. Apr 11, 2017 at 20:49
  • @HopelessN00b - I started to make the same point, then decided to just put it in an answer when it got large and started to demand links and formatting. It seemed as obvious to me as it looks like it did to you, but perhaps those not steeped in the mechanics of historical linguistics don't know that we can't figure out such things?
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11, 2017 at 21:10
  • 1
    We know how ancient Egyptians' sounded their words via the Coptic peoples. There are other languages which we have at least a good guess at what they sounded like event through they are long dead. The story of Egyptian hieroglyphs is quite entertaining.
    – SQLMason
    Apr 12, 2017 at 4:24

2 Answers 2


Some, though not all, of the Sumerian numbers are known from syllabic spellings. There is an overview here alt link

  • Good find! The reference is to a mathemetician's page, not a linguist, but he does appear to be an expert on the Babylonian number system.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 12, 2017 at 13:25
  • 2
    So, there might be an answer, somewhere? How about elevating this essentially 'link-only answer' to a proper one by quoting from that site you linked to? Aug 23, 2019 at 22:27
  • 3
    Please summarize.
    – MCW
    Aug 24, 2019 at 20:30
  • The link is now a 404 not found. I would also like to know the sounds of the numbers. Could you possibly supply a newer link?
    – Pedroski
    Sep 6, 2022 at 2:37
  • Using wayback machine: here's the link to syllabic rendering of Sumerian basic numbers. Dec 3, 2022 at 23:07

Sumerian has been a dead language for nearly 4,000 years, and had no known linguistic descendants, predecessors, or relatives.

Its printed form was logographic, which means each word was represented by a symbol. So there's no phonological content to be gleaned from their writing either.

So we don't know for sure how any of it was pronounced.

  • I'm not entirely sure this is a subtle enough point to actually merit an answer, but I found I couldn't quite fit a good explanation into a comment.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11, 2017 at 21:08
  • 7
    This answer is wrong. Sumerian uses a mixture of logographic and syllabic spellings. They also had lexicographic texts where the pronunciation of logograms is indicated syllabically. We know a lot about the pronunciation of Sumerian, but obviously not everything.
    – fdb
    Apr 11, 2017 at 22:46

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