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LINA02H3 Lecture Notes - Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Northwest Semitic Languages, Abjad

Course Code
Chandan Narayan

of 3
Writing: link between sounds and symbols
Logographic: logos + graphos (words +writing)
Egyptian hieroglyphics, Mesopotamian cuneiform
Phonographic: phonos + graphos (sound + writing)
Syllabic writing
Alphabetic writing
Pictographic pictograms: symbols for objects and concepts
Three kinds of brand new writing
Sumerians in Mesopotamia (3000 BC)
Chinese (1500 BC)
Mayan (500 BC)
Developped by Sumerians and Akkadians
Means ‘wedge shaped’ because of the shape of its original pictograms
o Made by pressing a stylus into soft clay
o Combination of straight lines because curved lines are hard to make with
Some words were morphographic: represented morphemes. Other
phonographic, syllables usually.
Egyptain (Afro-Asiatic) hieroglyphics
May have been influenced by cuneiform
Hieroglyphics = pictograms
System a mixture of morphographic pictograms and phonographic symbols
Influenced by Egyptian and Akkadian
Abjad: Main symbols represent consonants only
o Later diatrics added vowels
Completely phonographic
Writing spread throughout the area as Aramaic (Northwest Semitic) become the
lingua franca across the Middle East (Assyrians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and
Persians adopted Aramaic as the official language of their empires.)
Modern Hebrew and Arabic continue to be abjads; which are well-suited to the
structures of Semitic languages
Other syllabics
About 4000 years old
Symbols represent words, not syllables
o Different from Sumerian
Originally pictographic/icographic morphed to become morphographic as well,
with words for a morpheme
Expanded in certain order
o Phonetic extension provides info about pronunciation of corresponding
morpheme. The character is extended to write a similar sounding but
different word.
o Semantic extension character for one morpheme is extended to apply to
another morpheme with similar meaning
o Semantic-Phonemic Compounds one part of the compound is used for
phonemic value and another for the semantic phonemic
Modern Chinese Characters
Can be decomposed into two elements
o Radical (signific): may hint at meaning
o Phonetic: may give clue to pronunciation
o Need to distinguish between homophones
o Need to share across dialects
o Hard for computer processing/telecommunications
Other logographic systems
Have been influenced by Chinese System
o hiragana and katakanaare used alongside Chinese characters, called
Square pictographic glyphs
Morphographic and phonographic elements
o Phonographic supports morphographic
Abandoned after Spanish conquest
Alphabetic system
Alphabet: set of symbols for each distinctive sound
First true alphabet by the Greeks, developed from the Semitic system
o Still used by Greeks today
Developed the abjad into full alphabet
o Symbols for consonants and vowels
o Had a lot less consonants than the Phonecian abjad
Other alphabetic
Roman alphabet borrowed alphabet from Greeks
o Developed basis of common Roman alphabet
Cyrillic based on same symbols of Roman
o Used by Russians, Ukranians, Bulgarians, Serbs
Other writing systems
English orthography
Symbols represent individual consonants and vowels
No one-to-one relationship between symbols and phonological elements