One major branch of linguistic investigation that has been particularly useful in the study of languages recovered from text-artifactual sources such as the cuneiform record is language typology. Recent work on language typology largely stems a seminal paper by Joseph Greenberg, "Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements," (Greenberg 1963). Since Greenberg's description of language typology relies on implicational universals (if a language exhibit some phenomena A, then it must also exhibit some phenomena B), it is particularly useful in testing present-day analyses of ancient languages for which no native speakers remain. Although language typology has played a leading and explicit role in work by G. Steiner (1990; 1994) and, more recently, Jarle Ebeling (2004), it most important consequences have come to reside in nearly all of the most important work on Sumerian grammar in the past few decades such as Yoshikawa's work on grammatical aspect and Michalowski's description of split ergativity.
Basic word order in Sumerian
Sumerian is a verb-final language (sometimes described as SOV in the older literature) in which the verb rarely if ever appears anywhere in a clause other than the final position.
- Greenberg, Joseph. 1963. Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements. In Universals of Language, pp. 73–113. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Steiner, G. 1990. Sumerisch und Elamisch: Typologische Parallelem. Acta Sumerologica 12: 143-176.
- Steiner, G. 1994. Die sumerischen Verbalpräfixe mu= und e= im sprachtypologischen Vergleich. In ZDMG Suppl. 10, pp. 32-48