Lecture17 - Writing Systems of the World Lecture 17 1...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
1 Lecture 17 March 21, 2007 During the second millennium BCE, speakers of West Semitic languages developed a num- ber of closely related writing systems, each with fewer than 30 graphs. As we’ve already learned, the East Semitic languages ( Akkadian and its descendants) came to be written in cuneiform . In the West Semitic writing systems, each individual graph represented a single consonant. The earliest apparent examples of West Semitic writing date from shortly after 2000 BCE. The pictographic origins of many of the graphs are still evident. Each graph represented the initial consonant of the word denoting the object depicted—the acrophonic principle at work. Egyptian influence is suspected because some of the early West Semitic graphic signs bear a striking resemblance to hieroglyphs. For example: Egyptian hieroglyphic O early West Semitic logogram for /p-r/ ‘house’ phonogram for /b/ biconsonantal phonogram for /p-r/ (< /baytu/ ‘house’) Also, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suppose that the use of the acrophonic principle to represent single consonants was inspired by a knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Semitic languages have morphological and phonological characteristics that make consonant-only writing a viable option. As we’ve already learned, the morphology of Semitic languages (and of the related ancient Egyptian language) makes it seem natural to represent only consonants. Remember that re- lated words often have different vowels in a shared consonantal “skeleton” . For example, these Arabic examples all share /k t b/ . /kataba/ ‘to write’ /kitaab/ ‘book’ /kaatib/ ‘clerk’ /kutubii/ ‘bookseller’  These languages also have a phonotactic restriction that requires every syllable to begin with a consonant. As a result, there’s no danger that the first consonant in a word might be preceded by an unrepresented vowel. The technical term for a consonant-only writing system is abjad . This term is based on the first four letters in the oldest form of the Arabic system, which represent the consonant phonemes / ʔ b ǰ d/ . The two vowels have been added to make a pronounceable word. Of
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 04/02/2008 for the course TRAD 101 taught by Professor Weiner during the Spring '08 term at Arizona.

Page1 / 5

Lecture17 - Writing Systems of the World Lecture 17 1...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online