Layout and Intertwining: Qualitative Differences of Glossed Manuscripts and Bilinguals

Szilvia Jáka-Sövegjártó, University of Heidelberg

It is widely accepted that the boundaries between manuscripts with Akkadian glosses and bilinguals is vague (Cooper 1969:10). Whenever a longer passage of a Sumerian text is accompanied by an Akkadian version, these texts are regarded and also edited as bilinguals without further considerations. It was even proposed that bilinguals might emerge from glosses through an evolutionary development (Krecher 1980:127). In this paper I aim to challenge this view and demonstrate that glosses and translations are two separate, contemporaneous means of textual criticism or text hermeneutics based on formal as well as on functional criteria.

First of all, I aim to present the types of Old Babylonian bilinguals and outline their correspondences with the formal types of glosses. Based on some concrete examples I will show that the difference between complete and incomplete bilinguals results from scribal strategies or generic specifics and consequently neither are the Akkadian versions intended to be incomplete nor are the bilinguals constructed arbitrarily. In contrast, Akkadian glosses, even if they are provided virtually to every single unit of a line, are not meant to form a complete Akkadian version.

Thereafter I will present the model of Johanson (2013) on the interaction of written languages. The phenomenon described with his model is called intertwining and deals with code-switching in bilingual texts when the two languages have an asymmetrical relationship. With the help of this model I aim to demonstrate that Sumero-Akkadian manuscripts with glosses differ substantially from bilinguals, not only in their form but also in their function.



Cooper, J. 1969. Sumero-akkadian Literary Bilingualism. Ph.D. Diss., Chicago: The University of Chicago.

Johanson, L. 2013. “Written language intertwining.” In P. Bakker – J. Matras (eds.), Contact Languages. A Comprehensive Guide, 273-331. Boston – Berlin: De Gruyter.

Krecher, J. 1980. “Interlinearbilinguen.” Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie Bd. 5, 124-128. Berlin – New York: De Gruyter.