Difference between revisions of "SHEUM"

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'''S<small>HEUM</small>''' is a Book of Mormon hapax legomenon. It occurs in a list with food items, namely, corn, wheat, barley, [[NEAS|N<small>EAS</small>]] (another Book of Mormon hapax legomenon), and fruit seeds. Therefore, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' is a food item. Though it appears in a list of seeds and grains, the context in [http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/9.9?lang=eng#8 Mosiah 9:9] allows the possibility that '''S<small>HEUM</small>''', along with [[NEAS|N<small>EAS</small>]], need not be a grain or a seed.<ref>Corn, wheat, barley, and “all manner of fruits” are all preceded by “of,” indicating a genitive relationship with “seeds.” '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' and [[NEAS|N<small>EAS</small>]] are not preceded by “of” and therefore do not necessarily stand syntactically in a genitival relationship with “seeds.”</ref>   
 
'''S<small>HEUM</small>''' is a Book of Mormon hapax legomenon. It occurs in a list with food items, namely, corn, wheat, barley, [[NEAS|N<small>EAS</small>]] (another Book of Mormon hapax legomenon), and fruit seeds. Therefore, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' is a food item. Though it appears in a list of seeds and grains, the context in [http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/9.9?lang=eng#8 Mosiah 9:9] allows the possibility that '''S<small>HEUM</small>''', along with [[NEAS|N<small>EAS</small>]], need not be a grain or a seed.<ref>Corn, wheat, barley, and “all manner of fruits” are all preceded by “of,” indicating a genitive relationship with “seeds.” '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' and [[NEAS|N<small>EAS</small>]] are not preceded by “of” and therefore do not necessarily stand syntactically in a genitival relationship with “seeds.”</ref>   
  
The fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not translate this name, but rather transliterated it, indicates that he did not know of an English word for this grain or food item. Therefore, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' cannot be equated with any English names of seeds or grains attested by their English name in the Book of Mormon. Additionally, any suggestions for an etymology probably should also be narrowed to a New World food for which the Prophet would not have known the English translation. Thus, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' is probably not to be equated with wheat, barley, rye, oats, garlic,<ref>For a discussion of “garlic,” see below.</ref> onion, sorghum, millet, lentils, pulse, peas, squash, beans, perhaps even emmer wheat,<ref>Emmer wheat is not native to the Americas, although barley is: “…extensive archaeological evidence also points to the cultivation of little barley in the Southwest and parts of Mexico.” Michael T. Dunne and William Green, “Terminal Archaic and Early Woodland plant use at the Gast Spring Site (13LA152), Southeast Iowa,” ''Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology'' (Spring 1998), 8; [[John L. Sorenson]] and [[Robert F. Smith]], “Barley in Ancient America,” ''[[Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies|FARMS]] Update'', December 1983 and December 1984, reprinted in [[John W. Welch]], ed., ''Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The [[Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies|F.A.R.M.S.]] Updates'' (Provo: [[Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies|FARMS]]/[[Salt Lake City|SLC]]: Deseret Book, 1992), 130-132.</ref> etc. Native American grains or food items that Joseph Smith might not have been familiar with could include amaranth ([[John L. Sorenson|JLS]]), jocote (mombin), manioc (cassava) ([[Robert F. Smith|RFS]]), possibly quinoa ([[Paul Y. Hoskisson|PYH]]), chiles ([[John Gee|JG]]), etc.
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The fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not translate this name, but rather transliterated it, indicates that he did not know of an English word for this grain or food item. Therefore, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' cannot be equated with any English names of seeds or grains attested by their English name in the Book of Mormon. Additionally, any suggestions for an etymology probably should also be narrowed to a New World food for which the Prophet would not have known the English translation. Thus, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' is probably not to be equated with wheat, barley, rye, oats, garlic,<ref>For a discussion of “garlic,” see below.</ref> onion, sorghum, millet, lentils, pulse, peas, squash, beans, perhaps even emmer wheat,<ref>Emmer wheat is not native to the Americas, although barley is: “…extensive archaeological evidence also points to the cultivation of little barley in the Southwest and parts of Mexico.” Michael T. Dunne and William Green, “Terminal Archaic and Early Woodland plant use at the Gast Spring Site (13LA152), Southeast Iowa,” ''Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology'' (Spring 1998), 8; [[John L. Sorenson]] and [[Robert F. Smith]], “Barley in Ancient America,” ''[[Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies|FARMS]] Update'', December 1983 and December 1984, reprinted in [[John W. Welch]], ed., ''Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The [[Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies|F.A.R.M.S.]] Updates'' (Provo: [[Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies|FARMS]]/[[Salt Lake City|SLC]]: Deseret Book, 1992), 130-132.</ref> etc. Native American grains or food items that Joseph Smith might not have been familiar with could include amaranth, chili-peppers ([[John L. Sorenson|JLS]]), jocote (mombin), manioc (cassava), huauzontle, chia, teosinte ([[Robert F. Smith|RFS]]), possibly quinoa ([[Paul Y. Hoskisson|PYH]]), etc.
  
Over the years, several suggestions for an etymology of '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' have been proffered and have gained traction in some circles. The discussion here will treat these earlier suggestions before other possibilities are presented.  
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The closest known term available is in Sumerian cuneiform and was used throughout Mesopotamia as a primary word for “grain,” Sumerian ŠE (ŠE.PAD.MEŠ), ŠE.UM, ŠE.AM, <sup>ŋeš</sup>še, še, še-am, “barley; grain; length measure 3.33 cm; 1/180 GIN<sub>2</sub> [shekel of silver],”<ref>ePSD, 𒊺 .</ref> and long thought to have been borrowed as Old Akkadian  ''šeʼum'' “barley; grain; cereal; pine nut (pignolia); grain-measure,”<ref>a Sumerian loanword according to von Soden, ''AHw'', 1222; ŠE, ''šeʼum'', “barley, grain,” as in John Huehnergard, ''A Grammar of Akkadian'' (1997), 528; René Labat, ''Manuel d’épigraphie akkadienne'', rev. ed. (Paris: Libraire Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1976), 367; ''Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the Univ. of Chicago'' (Chicago: Oriental Institute/Glückstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1956-2010) = ''CAD'', “Š2” 17/2:345-355; Koehler & Baumgartner, ''HALOT'', III:1346a; J. L. Sorenson in D. Parry, D. Peterson, and J. Welch, eds., ''Echoes and Evidences'' (Provo: FARMS, 2002), 288, citing R. F. Smith, “Some ‘Neologisms’ from the Mormon Canon,” in ''Conference on the Language of the Mormons, 1973'' (Provo: BYU Language Research Center, 1973), 66, and Sorenson, “Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe!” ''Review of Books on the Book of Mormon'', 6/1 (1994):338-339, online at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/msr/ ; ''Encyclopedia of Mormonism'', I:173.</ref>  and Mari ''šeʼum'' “barley,”<ref>''CAD'' “Š” 14-15, citing A. Finet, ed., ''La voix de l’opposition en Mésopotamie'', March 20, 1973, Colloquium organized by the Belgian Institute of Higher Studies, 181 A.1153:16, coll.; J.-M. Dunand in ''MARI'', 5:669 (''Annales de Recherches Interdisciplinaires''); and K. R. Veenhof in ''NABU'' 1992/5 (''Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires'').</ref> though those Akkadian readings are now rejected.<ref>Alasdair Livingstone, "The Akkadian Word for Barley: A Note from the Schoolroom," ''Journal of Semitic Studies'' 42/1 (Spring 1997):1-5, objects that no such Akkadian reading is viable – cited by Christopher Smith in  http://chriscarrollsmith.blogspot.com/2008/12/sheum-in-book-of-mormon.html . However, since Sumerian affords an exact parallel, the Akkadian is unnecessary.</ref>  Naturally, that Sumerian logographic form would have to have been passed on to the Zeniffites and people of Zarahemla as part of Jaredite cultural baggage.  Zipora Cochavi-Rainey points to the same sort of "habitual spellings" used by Egyptian scribes writing Akkadian.<ref>Cochavi-Rainey, ''The Akkadian Dialect of Egyptian Scribes'', 37,74.</ref>
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Over the years, several other suggestions for an etymology of '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' have been proffered and have gained traction in some circles. The discussion here will treat some of these suggestions.  
  
 
'''S<small>HEUM</small>''' might not have an ancient Near Eastern language origin, i.e., it might have been borrowed into Lehite from an indigenous vocabel native to the Americas but unknown to Joseph Smith. In light of this possibility, the suggestion of Maya ''ixim'' (pronounced ''ishim'') “maize” would be intriguing<ref>Mark Wright in a personal communication, 9 October 2012. Bruce Warren has also suggested that ''ixim'' might stand behind some Book of Mormon names. See ''Meridian'', 2005, online at http://www.ldsmag.com/article/1/196.</ref> if it were not for the inclusion of “corn” in the same passage where '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' occurs.<ref>Though ''corn'' in the King James Bible always means “grain,” and can be assumed in one ([http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/9.14?lang=eng#13 Mosiah 9:14]) of the three passages where it appears in the Book of Mormon, the other two passages ([http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/7.22?lang=eng#21 Mosiah 7:22] and [http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/9.9?lang=eng#8 9:9]) do not lend themselves to mean “grain,” but rather “maize.” It must be admitted that ''maize'' comes into English through Spanish from Arawakan, the native American language group of the Carribean and much of South America.</ref>
 
'''S<small>HEUM</small>''' might not have an ancient Near Eastern language origin, i.e., it might have been borrowed into Lehite from an indigenous vocabel native to the Americas but unknown to Joseph Smith. In light of this possibility, the suggestion of Maya ''ixim'' (pronounced ''ishim'') “maize” would be intriguing<ref>Mark Wright in a personal communication, 9 October 2012. Bruce Warren has also suggested that ''ixim'' might stand behind some Book of Mormon names. See ''Meridian'', 2005, online at http://www.ldsmag.com/article/1/196.</ref> if it were not for the inclusion of “corn” in the same passage where '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' occurs.<ref>Though ''corn'' in the King James Bible always means “grain,” and can be assumed in one ([http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/9.14?lang=eng#13 Mosiah 9:14]) of the three passages where it appears in the Book of Mormon, the other two passages ([http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/7.22?lang=eng#21 Mosiah 7:22] and [http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/9.9?lang=eng#8 9:9]) do not lend themselves to mean “grain,” but rather “maize.” It must be admitted that ''maize'' comes into English through Spanish from Arawakan, the native American language group of the Carribean and much of South America.</ref>
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On the other hand, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' may be a Semitic or an [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] word used for a New World plant. Therefore, looking for a Near Eastern derivation, even if the meaning of the root does not match the parameters outlined above, is appropriate.
 
On the other hand, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' may be a Semitic or an [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] word used for a New World plant. Therefore, looking for a Near Eastern derivation, even if the meaning of the root does not match the parameters outlined above, is appropriate.
  
A tempting suggestion has been made that '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' might be derived from Old Akkadian ''šeʾum'' which has a wide range of attested meanings, including “barley, wheat, grain, cereal, pinenuts,” etc. There are two issues with this suggestion. First, for various reasons, if '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' were to be derived from Old Akkadian ''šeʾum'', it would have to have been brought to the Americas by the [[JAREDITES|J<small>AREDITES</small>]] during or shortly after the Old Akkadian period when ''šeʾum'' still retained the case ending ''u'', and the ''m'' of mimation. It would then have been passed to the Mulekites, and eventually given to the [[NEPHITE(S)|N<small>EPHITES</small>]].<ref>Old Akkadian ''šeʾum'' contains the nominative case ending ''u'' and the ''m'' of mimation. Neither the case ending nor mimation for a singular noun exist in biblical [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]]. Additionally, post Old Akkadian ''šeʾum'', i.e., Babylonian and Assyrian, lost the consistent use of the case ending and mimation, especially in the Iron Age of [[LEHI|L<small>EHI</small>]]’s day. To be more precise, by Middle Assyrian and Middle Babylonian times, the case endings were no longer being used correctly for case and number. In Neo-Assyrian times, “no syllabic writing of ''šeʾu'' is attested” (notice also the lack of mimation). The rare instances of Sumerian ŠE in Neo Babylonian should not be considered seriously because they are too late to have influenced [[LEHI|L<small>EHI</small>]], and because the sign ŠE is probably to be read as ''uṭṭatu''. See also ''Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the Univ. of Chicago.'' U & W. (Chicago: Oriental Institute/Glückstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1956-2010), 349, 356-357; Ibid, 17 “Š” Part 2:354-355; and Wolfram von Soden. ''Akkadisches Handwörterbuch.'' (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1965), 1222; Robert F. Smith  “Some ‘Neologisms’ from the Mormon Canon,” ''1973 Conference on the Language of the Mormons'', May 31, 1973 (Provo: BYU Language Research Center, 1973), 66, online at https://www.scribd.com/document/363522963/SOME-NEOLOGISMS-FROM-THE-MORMON-CANON .</ref> Second, there are some questions concerning the reading of the Sumerian sign ŠE from which Akkadian ''šeʾum'' supposedly derives, that make a direct borrowing from Sumerian unlikely.<ref>Sumerian ŠE lacks the nominative case ending ''u'' and the ''m'' of mimation that are necessary if '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' were to be derived from ŠE. In no case that I am aware of did [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] retain a case ending or mimation when it did borrow an Akkadian word that ultimately was a borrowing of a Sumerian word. The two best known examples of a borrowing of a Sumerian word through Akkadian into [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] are ''hêkal'' and ''kissē''. Additionally, there is some variance in how the sign ŠE is read when it means “barley, grain, etc.” Both ''šeʾu'' and ''uʾu'' are possible. See [[Rykle Borger, Mesopotamisches Zeichenlexikon. 2nd ed. AOAT 305. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2010.|''MZ'']] #579 (p. 374), middle of the page.</ref>
 
 
But even given these possibilities, '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' cannot mean “barley” or “wheat” for the reasons already mentioned above, i.e., barley and wheat are included in the same verse with '''S<small>HEUM</small>'''.
 
  
The [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] noun ''sm'', however, seems to offer a possible etymology. It means “herb, herbage, vegetables, plants,” etc.<ref>Raymond O. Faulkner, ''A Concise Dictionary of Middle [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]]'' (Oxford: Griffith Institute, 1962), 225.</ref> In Demotic (a later script and dialect of [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] roughly contemporary with [[LEHI|L<small>EHI</small>]]) this noun appears as both ''sm'' and ''sym'',<ref>Wolja Erichsen, ''Demotisches Glossar'' (Kopehagen: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1952), 430.</ref> pronounced ''sim'' in Coptic ([[John Gee|JG]]).The [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] ''s'' appearing as a Semitic ''š'' would present no problems<ref>[[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''š'' is represented as an ''s'' in [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] 28% of the time (James E. Hoch, ''[[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] Words in [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period'' [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994] 433), and [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] ''s'' is a [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''š'' about 33% of the time (ibid., 436). The sound shifts are thus possible.</ref> ([[John Gee|JG]]). Thus '''S<small>HEUM</small>''', meaning a New World herb or vegetable for which Joseph Smith did not have a word in English, could have been derived from [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] ''sm''.  
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The [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] noun ''sm'', seems to offer a possible etymology. It means “herb, herbage, vegetables, plants,” etc.<ref>Raymond O. Faulkner, ''A Concise Dictionary of Middle [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]]'' (Oxford: Griffith Institute, 1962), 225.</ref> In Demotic (a later script and dialect of [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] roughly contemporary with [[LEHI|L<small>EHI</small>]]) this noun appears as both ''sm'' and ''sym'',<ref>Wolja Erichsen, ''Demotisches Glossar'' (Kopehagen: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1952), 430.</ref> pronounced ''sim'' in Coptic ([[John Gee|JG]]).The [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] ''s'' appearing as a Semitic ''š'' would present no problems<ref>[[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''š'' is represented as an ''s'' in [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] 28% of the time (James E. Hoch, ''[[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] Words in [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period'' [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994] 433), and [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] ''s'' is a [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''š'' about 33% of the time (ibid., 436). The sound shifts are thus possible.</ref> ([[John Gee|JG]]). Thus '''S<small>HEUM</small>''', meaning a New World herb or vegetable for which Joseph Smith did not have a word in English, could have been derived from [[EGYPT|E<small>GYPTIAN</small>]] ''sm''.  
  
 
It might be tempting to equate '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' with [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sěʾâ'', a grain measure. [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sěʾâ'' is cognate with Akkadian ''šeʾatum'' "milled-grain," and ''sūtum'', "a measuring vessel,"<ref>Hayim ben Yosef Tawil, ''An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological-Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic''. (Jersey City: [[(Jewish Publisher)|KTAV]], 2009), 255, citing “S.” ''Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the Univ. of Chicago.'' (Chicago: Oriental Institute/Glückstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1956-2010), 420a; Wolfram von Soden. ''Akkadisches Handwörterbuch.'' (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1965), 1064a.</ref> which (like ''šeʼum'') are ultimately derived from Sumerian ŠE.<ref>Akkadian ''sūtu'', cognate with biblical ''sĕʾâ'', meaning “a measuring vessel,” occurs in the same context in a cuneiform text with the word for (barley) grain, ''šeʾum''. See Hayim ben Yosef Tawil, ''An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew'' (Jersey City, NJ: [[(Jewish Publisher)|KTAV]] 2009),  255.</ref> However, it is unlikely that [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sĕʾâ'' (Akkadian ''sūtu'') and Akkadian ''šeʾum'' are related. While ''sūtu'' is middle weak, ''šeʾum'' appears to be final weak. Additionally, ''samakh'' and ''shin'' are not easily mistaken. Therefore, [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sĕʾâ'' is probably not the origin of '''S<small>HEUM</small>''', especially since ''sĕʾâ'' does not explain the final ''m''.
 
It might be tempting to equate '''S<small>HEUM</small>''' with [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sěʾâ'', a grain measure. [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sěʾâ'' is cognate with Akkadian ''šeʾatum'' "milled-grain," and ''sūtum'', "a measuring vessel,"<ref>Hayim ben Yosef Tawil, ''An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological-Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic''. (Jersey City: [[(Jewish Publisher)|KTAV]], 2009), 255, citing “S.” ''Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the Univ. of Chicago.'' (Chicago: Oriental Institute/Glückstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1956-2010), 420a; Wolfram von Soden. ''Akkadisches Handwörterbuch.'' (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1965), 1064a.</ref> which (like ''šeʼum'') are ultimately derived from Sumerian ŠE.<ref>Akkadian ''sūtu'', cognate with biblical ''sĕʾâ'', meaning “a measuring vessel,” occurs in the same context in a cuneiform text with the word for (barley) grain, ''šeʾum''. See Hayim ben Yosef Tawil, ''An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew'' (Jersey City, NJ: [[(Jewish Publisher)|KTAV]] 2009),  255.</ref> However, it is unlikely that [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sĕʾâ'' (Akkadian ''sūtu'') and Akkadian ''šeʾum'' are related. While ''sūtu'' is middle weak, ''šeʾum'' appears to be final weak. Additionally, ''samakh'' and ''shin'' are not easily mistaken. Therefore, [[HEBREW|H<small>EBREW</small>]] ''sĕʾâ'' is probably not the origin of '''S<small>HEUM</small>''', especially since ''sĕʾâ'' does not explain the final ''m''.

Latest revision as of 22:12, 20 November 2019

Lehite noun 1. Grain or Herb used by Zeniffites for food, ca. 200 BC (Mosiah 9:9)

Etymology

SHEUM is a Book of Mormon hapax legomenon. It occurs in a list with food items, namely, corn, wheat, barley, NEAS (another Book of Mormon hapax legomenon), and fruit seeds. Therefore, SHEUM is a food item. Though it appears in a list of seeds and grains, the context in Mosiah 9:9 allows the possibility that SHEUM, along with NEAS, need not be a grain or a seed.[1]

The fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not translate this name, but rather transliterated it, indicates that he did not know of an English word for this grain or food item. Therefore, SHEUM cannot be equated with any English names of seeds or grains attested by their English name in the Book of Mormon. Additionally, any suggestions for an etymology probably should also be narrowed to a New World food for which the Prophet would not have known the English translation. Thus, SHEUM is probably not to be equated with wheat, barley, rye, oats, garlic,[2] onion, sorghum, millet, lentils, pulse, peas, squash, beans, perhaps even emmer wheat,[3] etc. Native American grains or food items that Joseph Smith might not have been familiar with could include amaranth, chili-peppers (JLS), jocote (mombin), manioc (cassava), huauzontle, chia, teosinte (RFS), possibly quinoa (PYH), etc.

The closest known term available is in Sumerian cuneiform and was used throughout Mesopotamia as a primary word for “grain,” Sumerian ŠE (ŠE.PAD.MEŠ), ŠE.UM, ŠE.AM, ŋešše, še, še-am, “barley; grain; length measure 3.33 cm; 1/180 GIN2 [shekel of silver],”[4] and long thought to have been borrowed as Old Akkadian šeʼum “barley; grain; cereal; pine nut (pignolia); grain-measure,”[5] and Mari šeʼum “barley,”[6] though those Akkadian readings are now rejected.[7] Naturally, that Sumerian logographic form would have to have been passed on to the Zeniffites and people of Zarahemla as part of Jaredite cultural baggage. Zipora Cochavi-Rainey points to the same sort of "habitual spellings" used by Egyptian scribes writing Akkadian.[8]


Over the years, several other suggestions for an etymology of SHEUM have been proffered and have gained traction in some circles. The discussion here will treat some of these suggestions.

SHEUM might not have an ancient Near Eastern language origin, i.e., it might have been borrowed into Lehite from an indigenous vocabel native to the Americas but unknown to Joseph Smith. In light of this possibility, the suggestion of Maya ixim (pronounced ishim) “maize” would be intriguing[9] if it were not for the inclusion of “corn” in the same passage where SHEUM occurs.[10]

On the other hand, SHEUM may be a Semitic or an EGYPTIAN word used for a New World plant. Therefore, looking for a Near Eastern derivation, even if the meaning of the root does not match the parameters outlined above, is appropriate.


The EGYPTIAN noun sm, seems to offer a possible etymology. It means “herb, herbage, vegetables, plants,” etc.[11] In Demotic (a later script and dialect of EGYPTIAN roughly contemporary with LEHI) this noun appears as both sm and sym,[12] pronounced sim in Coptic (JG).The EGYPTIAN s appearing as a Semitic š would present no problems[13] (JG). Thus SHEUM, meaning a New World herb or vegetable for which Joseph Smith did not have a word in English, could have been derived from EGYPTIAN sm.

It might be tempting to equate SHEUM with HEBREW sěʾâ, a grain measure. HEBREW sěʾâ is cognate with Akkadian šeʾatum "milled-grain," and sūtum, "a measuring vessel,"[14] which (like šeʼum) are ultimately derived from Sumerian ŠE.[15] However, it is unlikely that HEBREW sĕʾâ (Akkadian sūtu) and Akkadian šeʾum are related. While sūtu is middle weak, šeʾum appears to be final weak. Additionally, samakh and shin are not easily mistaken. Therefore, HEBREW sĕʾâ is probably not the origin of SHEUM, especially since sĕʾâ does not explain the final m.

Other possible starting points in HEBREW are not particularly fruitful. For example, HEBREW has not produced any appropriate words built on šʾm, šʿm, š̴ām, š̴īm, or š̴ūm (for this latter root, “garlic,” see below). The HEBREW noun šōham has been defined on the basis of Akkadian siāmu (“red, brown”), as meaning “red, brown, redness,” a plausible name for a grain or herb. Less fruitful would be Akkadian šâmu, “to buy.” šiʾāmu, “to determine, establish.”

A long shot is the HEBREW word for garlic, šūm, from a root šûm, with a medial waw or long u vowel (Akkadian šūmu, Sumerian SUM, Arabic tˍūm, Aramaic tūmâʾ). It only occurs in the plural in the HEBREW Bible.[16] Besides the obvious philological problems, this suggestion is unlikely because Joseph Smith would have been able to provide the translation “garlic” instead of a transliteration.

Several other EGYPTIAN nouns are distant possibilities, namely, šmʿ meaning "rush”[17]; šmʾ.t, "granary;"[18] and šmʿ, "southern," which is used to refer to a type of grain.[19] The final weak nature of all three and the feminine ending on the second one make these suggestions unlikely.

See also Sheum Variants

Variants

Deseret Alphabet: 𐐟𐐀𐐊𐐣 (ʃiːʌm)

Notes


  1. Corn, wheat, barley, and “all manner of fruits” are all preceded by “of,” indicating a genitive relationship with “seeds.” SHEUM and NEAS are not preceded by “of” and therefore do not necessarily stand syntactically in a genitival relationship with “seeds.”
  2. For a discussion of “garlic,” see below.
  3. Emmer wheat is not native to the Americas, although barley is: “…extensive archaeological evidence also points to the cultivation of little barley in the Southwest and parts of Mexico.” Michael T. Dunne and William Green, “Terminal Archaic and Early Woodland plant use at the Gast Spring Site (13LA152), Southeast Iowa,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology (Spring 1998), 8; John L. Sorenson and Robert F. Smith, “Barley in Ancient America,” FARMS Update, December 1983 and December 1984, reprinted in John W. Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Provo: FARMS/SLC: Deseret Book, 1992), 130-132.
  4. ePSD, 𒊺 .
  5. a Sumerian loanword according to von Soden, AHw, 1222; ŠE, šeʼum, “barley, grain,” as in John Huehnergard, A Grammar of Akkadian (1997), 528; René Labat, Manuel d’épigraphie akkadienne, rev. ed. (Paris: Libraire Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1976), 367; Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the Univ. of Chicago (Chicago: Oriental Institute/Glückstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1956-2010) = CAD, “Š2” 17/2:345-355; Koehler & Baumgartner, HALOT, III:1346a; J. L. Sorenson in D. Parry, D. Peterson, and J. Welch, eds., Echoes and Evidences (Provo: FARMS, 2002), 288, citing R. F. Smith, “Some ‘Neologisms’ from the Mormon Canon,” in Conference on the Language of the Mormons, 1973 (Provo: BYU Language Research Center, 1973), 66, and Sorenson, “Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe!” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 6/1 (1994):338-339, online at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/msr/ ; Encyclopedia of Mormonism, I:173.
  6. CAD “Š” 14-15, citing A. Finet, ed., La voix de l’opposition en Mésopotamie, March 20, 1973, Colloquium organized by the Belgian Institute of Higher Studies, 181 A.1153:16, coll.; J.-M. Dunand in MARI, 5:669 (Annales de Recherches Interdisciplinaires); and K. R. Veenhof in NABU 1992/5 (Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires).
  7. Alasdair Livingstone, "The Akkadian Word for Barley: A Note from the Schoolroom," Journal of Semitic Studies 42/1 (Spring 1997):1-5, objects that no such Akkadian reading is viable – cited by Christopher Smith in http://chriscarrollsmith.blogspot.com/2008/12/sheum-in-book-of-mormon.html . However, since Sumerian affords an exact parallel, the Akkadian is unnecessary.
  8. Cochavi-Rainey, The Akkadian Dialect of Egyptian Scribes, 37,74.
  9. Mark Wright in a personal communication, 9 October 2012. Bruce Warren has also suggested that ixim might stand behind some Book of Mormon names. See Meridian, 2005, online at http://www.ldsmag.com/article/1/196.
  10. Though corn in the King James Bible always means “grain,” and can be assumed in one (Mosiah 9:14) of the three passages where it appears in the Book of Mormon, the other two passages (Mosiah 7:22 and 9:9) do not lend themselves to mean “grain,” but rather “maize.” It must be admitted that maize comes into English through Spanish from Arawakan, the native American language group of the Carribean and much of South America.
  11. Raymond O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle EGYPTIAN (Oxford: Griffith Institute, 1962), 225.
  12. Wolja Erichsen, Demotisches Glossar (Kopehagen: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1952), 430.
  13. HEBREW š is represented as an s in EGYPTIAN 28% of the time (James E. Hoch, EGYPTIAN Words in EGYPTIAN Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994] 433), and EGYPTIAN s is a HEBREW š about 33% of the time (ibid., 436). The sound shifts are thus possible.
  14. Hayim ben Yosef Tawil, An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological-Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic. (Jersey City: KTAV, 2009), 255, citing “S.” Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the Univ. of Chicago. (Chicago: Oriental Institute/Glückstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1956-2010), 420a; Wolfram von Soden. Akkadisches Handwörterbuch. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1965), 1064a.
  15. Akkadian sūtu, cognate with biblical sĕʾâ, meaning “a measuring vessel,” occurs in the same context in a cuneiform text with the word for (barley) grain, šeʾum. See Hayim ben Yosef Tawil, An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV 2009), 255.
  16. Compare the Samaritan Pentateuch šuwwamәn.
  17. Wolja Erichsen. Demotisches Glossar. (Kopehagen: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1952), 508.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid, 509.
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