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02 - September 17, 2013.docx

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Danny Harvey

JAL September 17, 2013 Cuneiform and Mesopotamian Writing – from this point until the second to last class – either looking at specific system or specific family of systems or region with different writing traditions Mesopotamia – where writing starts – early cities along Tigris and Euphrates Early urbanization areas of the world Before the Sumerians, people were writing on rocks, sticks, marks on objects – but it is in Sumer where that transitioned from pictorial picture writing to linguistic writing The Sumerian account of the invention of writing The story of how writing was invented was a story There was a political situation between Enmmerrkar and Lord of Arrata Arrata somewhere north of Sumer Correspondence between the two kings – messengers would memorize king’s message, rpeat the message verbatim War declaration Mythical fish creature – walks out of red sea – can trace Oanes to Vanna by sound changes Vanna is legendary Sumerian sage Uruk Period – Uruk is one of the big cities in Sumer in southeast of Iraq – 800 year span – Uruk period refers to all of these cities and towns How do we know Gradual process of writing Writing in Mesopotamia is a hassle – good in Egypt, where you have king records bout these kings and can track back approximately how far into the past certain dynasties are In certain domes of Egyptian tombs, have found cuneiform writing – diplomat from Uruk to Egypt – had it buried in tomb Cylinder seals – show in Egyptian tombs – not until 200 years later that we find Egyptian writing Cylinder seal rolls over clay to make an impression Acts as signature Earliest writing found People have dug through Uruk, lower as well – writing seems to be used to communicate between different territories – writing involved lots of different cities in the region In Sumer, but how do we know the language is Sumerian? One of the ways these early writing systems produced sentences and words is by using a Rebus effect. Eye Love Ewe – rebus effect Early cuneiform writing – look at picture, think about what other words it sounds like When done in Sumerian, it makes sense; but doesn’t make sense with other languages Precursors to writing Increasing cultural complexity Business transactions – there began to be a need for recording transactions – because if in barter economy and Clay tokens People started making clay tokens – tokens represent different goods that could be traded Some are pretty abstract Increasingly complicated methods that nobody’s fudging with the numbers – bulla – circular enclosement – those things falling out is tokens – Bulla – markings along edge of bulla – made by cylinder seals – extra layer of security Cylinder seal belonged to third-party – witness to transaction When sealed, cannot tell what is in the bulla – cannot break open risking voiding the transaction Make impressions of token on clay – impressions called calculus/calculi The important bit is the calculi – the contents of the envelope is – now calculi representing sheep, not the number of tokens in the bulla So just took flat tablets – put markings on it A very early tablet Early tablet – for the barley symbol, just drawing it; signature doesn’t have to be rolled, but rather written along the side Interlude Metrology – how things were counted Sumerians counted by sixties – base 60 Area counting system – Each profession has different system Beginnings of standardization – as writing is becoming more population – impressions on clay that is important – this point – looking at 900 different symbols – First textbooks – on clay – Symbol lists – offices, professions – Expanding capabilities Just picture writing – not a linguistic writing system yet Marking system will change to allow more and more linguistic, grammatical capability Complex accounting columns The look of the clay tablets have changed; geometrically and columns and lines – look like ledger book Next stage of cuneiform – looks like modern receipt Linguistic complexity: graphical complexity More geometrical – the next step is to get away from introducing language to describe what’s going on – actual writing at this point – left is ledger book, vertical script – just regular script – being linearized, ordered by speech rather than accounting logic Grammar fills in the relationships Earlier than 2800 BCE – receipt After 2800, grammatical suffixes at ends of these symbols 400 years later, putting the symbols in order of language’s syntax Word order in Sumerian is affecting thesymbol order on clay tablets – took 400 years from suffix to word order Usage timeline – Different from Egypt – Sumerian had transition in writing Egypt – A lot of the Mesoamerica – math, calendars, conquests Different cultures have different reasons for starting writing Business fo rMesopotamia Business only in Mesopotamia When talking about earliest form of writing – earliest that we can find – clay will last In Egypt – floods – papyrus China – bamboo books, silk, bark – do not last long Earliest form of writing = earliest that we can find – usually monumental, important tha the royal family thinks needs to be written permanently Cuneiform Three columns represent three different time periods Loss of iconicity By 2400, all the curved lines start to disappear – changed to wedges and straight lines Curves gone, more abstract 700 – symbols simplified Curves disappeared because changed the tool
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