History of Writing

Gradually, however, we get continuous texts that more unequivocally represent natural Sumerian, a language of unknown affiliation which later disappeared as a spoken language. In the midsecond millennium BC, the direction of writing becomes fixed from left to right in horizontal lines. …

The system became even more complex when it was employed to write other languages, such as the Semitic language Akkadian, which gradually replaced Sumerian after around 2800 BC. Now Sumerian signs were used to write Akkadian words, but since Akkadian also borrowed many Sumerian words, the same sign often represented both a Sumerian and an Akkadian word.

Cuneiform writing was in use for more than 3000 years, the last known text dating from 74 AD.

In addition to Sumerian and Akkadian, it was used to write the Semitic languages Babylonian and Assyrian, the Indo-European languages Hittite and Persian as well as Elamite and Hurrian, both of unknown affiliation. Some of these, especially Persian, make little use of logograms, and basically use cuneiform as a syllabic or sometimes even phonemic writing system. (8, 17)

Writing systems based entirely on phonographic principles seem to have evolved in the middle of the second millennium BC. The most famous and influential example is the Phoenician alphabet and its Canaanite predecessors. The Phoenician writing system consists of 22 consonant signs, usually listed in a specific order… (8,19)

As already mentioned, the Phoenicians wrote horizontally from right to left, like the Egyptians and unlike the users of cuneiform writing. (8,20)

To the Phoenicians, the letter names functioned as a reminder of the pictographic origin of the letters, although the pictorial nature of the signs was no longer readily recognizable. To the Greeks, letter names like alpha, beta, gamma, delta did not carry any other meaning and the last traces of pictographic writing was lost. (8,20)

As early as the 14th century BC, the inventors of the Ugaritic writing system (which was cuneiform in shape but Phoenician in underlying principles) had split the original ‘a1leph sign in three, purportedly representing the vowels /a/, /i/ and /u/. This, however, is hardly correct, since the three signs in question did not represent the vowels as such, but the consonant /// (glottal plosive) plus one of these vowels. Vowels following any other consonant were still left unmarked. To this day, other writing systems derived from the Phoenician alphabet or its close relatives continue to privilege consonants over vowels. (8,20)

fromLinguistics for Students of Asian and African Languages.

All the above were quotes.
This is just me.

The Ugaritic writing would have been the kind of writing Dielli did. The time is right. She’s from there. I need to see if I got the number of consonants right. And check on the verbs, too.

1 thought on “History of Writing

  1. Walter Ong has a fascinating book on the historical transformation from orality to literary, which I have just started. It is called “Orality and Literacy:The Technologizing of the Word.” So, far it is very insightful and deeply learned.

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