Gutian language

Jump to navigation Jump to search
RegionZagros Mountains?
EthnicityGutian people
EraBronze Age (EBA IV)
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Gutian (/ˈɡtiən/; also Qutian) is an extinct unclassified language that was spoken by the Gutian people, who briefly ruled over Sumer as the Gutian dynasty in the 22nd century BCE (middle chronology). The Gutians lived in the territory between the Zagros Mountains and the Tigris. Nothing is known about the language except its existence and a list of names of Gutian rulers in the Sumerian King List.


Gutian is included in a list of languages spoken in the region found in the Sag B tablet, an educational text from the Middle Babylonian period possibly originating from the city of Emar.[1] This text also lists Akkadian, Amorite, Sutean, "Subarean" (Hurrian) and Elamite. There is also a mention of "an interpreter for the Gutean language" in a tablet from Adab.[2]

The Gutian king names from the Sumerian list are:[3]

Thorkild Jacobsen suggested that the recurring ending -(e)š may have had a grammatical function in Gutian, perhaps as a case marker.[4]

Tocharian theory[edit]

In a posthumously-published article, W. B. Henning suggested that the different endings of the king names resembled case endings in the Tocharian languages, a branch of Indo-European known from texts found in the Tarim Basin (in the northwest of modern China) dating from the 6th to 8th centuries CE.[5] Henning also compared the name Guti with Kuči, the native name of the Tocharian city of Kucha, and with the name of the Yuezhi, pastoral nomads described in Chinese records as living to the east of the Tarim in the 2nd century BCE,[5] although the latter name is usually reconstructed with a *ŋʷ- initial in Old Chinese.[6] He also compared Tukriš, the name of neighbours of the Guti, with the name twγry found in Old Turkish manuscripts from the early 9th century CE and thought to refer to the Tocharians.[5] Gamkrelidze and Ivanov explored Henning's suggestion as possible support for their proposal of an Indo-European Urheimat in the Near East.[7][8] However, most scholars reject the attempt to compare languages separated by more than two millennia.[9]


  1. ^ Heimpel, Wolfgang (2003). Letters to the King of Mari. Eisenbrauns. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-57506-080-4.
  2. ^ Wilcke, Claus (2007). Early Ancient Near Eastern Law: A History of Its Beginnings : the Early Dynastic and Sargonic Periods. Eisenbrauns. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-57506-132-0.
  3. ^ "The Sumerian king list". The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. 308–334.
  4. ^ Jacobsen, Thorkild (1973) [1939]. The Sumerian King List (PDF). University of Chicago Press. p. 207, n. 40. ISBN 0-226-62273-8.
  5. ^ a b c Henning, W.B. (1978). "The first Indo-Europeans in history". In Ulmen, G.L. (ed.). Society and History, Essays in Honour of Karl August Wittfogel. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 215–230. ISBN 978-90-279-7776-2.
  6. ^ Baxter, William H. (1992). A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 806. ISBN 978-3-11-012324-1.
  7. ^ Gamkrelidze, T.V.; Ivanov, V.V. (1989). "Первые индоевропейцы на арене истории: прототохары в Передней Азии" [The first Indo-Europeans in history: the proto-Tocharians in the Near East]. Journal of Ancient History (1): 14–39.
  8. ^ Gamkrelidze, T.V.; Ivanov, V.V. (2013). "Индоевропейская прародина и расселение индоевропейцев: полвека исследований и обсуждений" [Indo-European homeland and migrations: half a century of studies and discussions]. Journal of Language Relationship. 9: 109–136.
  9. ^ Mallory, J.P.; Mair, Victor H. (2000). The Tarim Mummies. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 281–282. ISBN 978-0-500-05101-6.