Mar. 7th, 2016

ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
More about Emesal, the Sumerian "women's language" - or was it? Gordon Whittaker argues that Emesal should be understood as a literary device, not as the genderlect used by Sumerian women (in contrast with with the differences between male and female speech in other languages, including Japanese). He points out that although Emesal is used for the speech of goddesses in certain types of Sumerian compositions, "the evidence for mortal women and girls actually using Emesal still needs to be presented." Enheduanna, the "greatest known author of Sumerian cultic literature, did not write in Emesal... even when she is writing in the first person and identifying herself by name."

Whittaker also discusses the evidence for the gala-priest as eunuch - concluding "more evidence is needed". The gala uses Emesal when singing laments and so forth; some Sumerologists have suggested that he was a castrato. Whittaker counters: "no direct, or even reasonably cogent evidence has ever been proferred that the genitals of the gala suffered the fate of the pre-modern choirboy." He also notes the evidence of galas having children and passing on their profession to their sons (although they could have been adopted?) and a reference to a gala as puršum bitim "patriarch". (In Sumerian proverbs, the gala speaks Emesal "in everyday life", but this could be stereotyping and/or satire.)

The more I read about this stuff, the less certain everything becomes.

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Whittaker, Gordon. "Linguistic Anthropology and the Study of Emesal as (a) Women's Language". in S. Parpola and R. M. Whiting (eds). Sex and gender in the ancient Near East: proceedings of the 47th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Helsinki, July 2-6, 2001. Helsinki, Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2002.

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