Friday, February 17, 2017

Doctor Ammondt - "Three Songs in Sumerian" [2001]

Artist: Doctor Ammondt
Title: Three Songs in Sumerian
Genre: Folk, Oldies
Country: Finland
Release date: 2001

Track List:
  1. Gilgamesh
  2. Blue Suede Shoes
  3. Satumaa
Another really odd and unusual release coming from Finland. Jukka Ammondt, an University of Jyvaskyla lecturer on literature and an Elvis Presley fan, has recorded cover versions of Elvis' famous hits with lyrics translated to Latin and Sumerian. While modern music with lyrics in Latin isn't particularly rare (heck, even Krypteria and MDB have songs in Latin), I haven't heard about any attempts to sing in Sumerian before I found out about this EP.

A brief info on this release can be found here. As for the pronunciation problems, which Dr. Ammondt has correctly pointed out, I can say that "his" Sumerian indeed sounds too similar to Finnish for me, but we'd never know how the "true" spoken Sumerian sounded like anyway - so, as he put it, we can only hope that "we are not terribly far from the original pronunciation in our reconstructions". Out of 3 songs featured on this EP, the first one is based on the authentic verses from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the second is an Elvis Presley cover, and the last one is a "Sumerian" version of a popular Finnish tango.

Bottom note: Finland, Hungary and especially Estonia apparently have their fair share of crackpots claiming their languages to be descended from Sumerian, Etruscan, or other "prestigious" ancient languages that don't have apparent modern descendants. Same problem with the FU minorities in Russia - ordinary people just don't have much interest in their cultures, and those who do have such interest quite often are crackpots who believe they've descended from ancient aliens or something like that. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to accuse Dr. Ammondt of holding any unscientific beliefs, yet there are people who genuinely believe that Finno-Ugric languages are related to Sumerian. While I can see an appeal of claiming oneselves to be descendants of (arguably) the very first civilization on Earth, so far I don't see any scientific reasons to believe Sumerian being related to any living language.

From what I know about Sumerian, it was an ergative language with a rather complex verb morphology, thus being similar to some other ancient non-Semitic languages of the Middle East (Hattic, Hurrite, Elamite) that have no apparent relatives as well. The only language isolate in Europe - Basque - also shows these traits. The two language families of North Caucasus have these properties too (and they probably have originated somewhere near Mesopotamia as well). However, even those most likely candidates haven't shown to be related to Sumerian so far, let alone the FU languages that are much more distant (both geographically and typologically) from Sumerian.

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