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EN 1006 Lecture Notes - Syllabary, Sumer, Anglo-Saxons

Course Code
EN 1006
Rosita Georgieva

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Lecture 3 Notes
1. Comparison between Oral and Literate cultures and styles
a brief summary from previous lecture
oral composition – main features: relies on mnemonic devices,
composition in performance; interaction between audience and performer
spoken word vs. written word vs. print
2. Origin and evolution of writing – historical survey
The origin of our alphabet:
The first alphabet -- the Egyptian, 2000 BC.
The Phoenician letters (1000 B.C. that sprang from the first Egyptian alphabet) were
copied by the Greeks (in 800 B.C.);
The Greek letters were copied by the Etruscans (700 BC) who lived in Italy;
the Italians copied them from the Etruscans as Rome conquered Italy;
the Roman alphabet -- spread in Roman Europe;
the Anglo- Saxons (in 600 AD) adjusted the Roman letters to their tongues.
writing systems
--the earliest writing systems were the word writing systems:
Example: those that used word signs about 3000 BC– the hieroglyphic writing of ancient
Egypt and the cuneiform writing of the ancient Sumerians
--Word-syllabic writing systems: a simplification of the word writing system. The
Sumerians and the Egyptians developed also signs for syllables (speech units made of
consonants and containing a vowel sound), which they used in combination with word
--Purely syllabic writing systems. It uses signs that stand for syllables
Example: the Semitic peoples of Syria and Palestine; these are simpler systems where
word signs were eliminated; their signs stood for groups of consonants plus a vowel.
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--phonetic writing system -- the alphabet we know, our Roman alphabet, where we use
symbol-for-a sound code. It has signs (letters) for every individual speech sound
(phoneme) in a language.
3. Transition between Orality and Literacy in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece -- the cultural space where the two worlds (of oral communication and
the presence of writing) overlap, and although rhetoric existed in many early societies, it
was there, in ancient Greece where it was studied and shaped into a discipline.
A historical journey through ancient Greece provided by:
A timeline of the history of Greek civilization before the BC that concerns our study
about emergency of writing should involve a few important dates:
1450 BC – Linear B writing (1450-1180), a syllabic script used by Mycenaean culture
● 1250-1200 Trojan War
● 800 The Greek adapted the Phoenician letters into their own alphabet
● 750-700
- Invention of Writing
- Written versions of Homer (manuscripts in circulation in 6th c; in 5-4
Alexandrian scholars had it on 24 papyrus rolls)
● 497-479 Persian Wars
[Herodotus ca. 484-425]
[Gorgias ca. 485-380]
[Thucydides ca. 460-395]
[Plato 428/427 BC – 348/347]
● 431-404 Peloponnesian Wars
[Alcidamas 4th century]
● 399 Death of Socrates
Residual orality and Classical Greece
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