Armenian letter representing the vowel [a]. In the ancient world, then, we are dealing primarily with consonantal, syllabic, and logographic writing systems, including combinations thereof. Akira Nakanishi’s Writing Systems of the World is an interesting book to say the least. This practice appeared relatively late in the development of Chinese writing as the number of homophones (words pronounced identically) increased. With the Greeks, who took the Phoenician consonantal alphabet, adapted it and included vowels, triggering not only clarity but also economy in writing. What if a writing system were created that graphically indicated the phonetics it was meant to represent? Obviously, the Chinese uses Chinese characters (where they are known as hanzi). A syllabary is a phonetic writing system consisting of symbols representing syllables. . Wikipedia article “Writing systems” So when did we first arrive at a purely phonetic alphabet, with one letter representing one sound? This symbol can be understood by speakers of all Chinese dialects regardless of how they may pronounce it. Among them only Chinese has survived into modern age. It is a syllable-based writing system in which each syllable consists of a consonant plus an inherent vowel. Mesrop Mashtots, a cleric in the Armenian royal court, invented the Armenian alphabet in order to translate the Bible into Armenian. When people are asked how many languages they think there are in the world, the answers vary quite a bit. Aramaic letter representing the vowel [a], Devanāgarī symbol representing the syllable [ka]. Writing was introduced to Japan by the Chinese civilization around 400 BC. Ancient African Writing Ancient Africa has the world's oldest and largest collection of ancient writing systems, and is home to the world's first identifiable proto-writing. The Arabic script is based on the Nabataean alphabet which was used to write the Nabataean dialect of Aramaic. Thus, the word hangeul consisting of ㅎㅏㄴㄱㅡㄹ is written as 한글. Abstract concepts like numbers and transactions began to take shape in the form of proto-writing. SIL Bibliography of Writing Systems, © 2014 - 2020. The Danube Valley Civilization script is the oldest writing in the world and predates the Sumerian Writings in Mesopotamia and the Dispilo Tablet. In alphabetic systems, there is usually some type of correspondence between graphic symbols and sounds. An alphabet is a writing system that is written as it is pronounced, with a symbol for each sound produced. By the 26th century BC, the cuneiform script had been adapted to write Akkadian, and from there to other languages such as Hittite (Turkey), Ugaritic (Syria) and Old Persian (Iran). It is an alphabet that consists of 24 letters. Consonant-based alphabets, or abjads, represent consonants only, or consonants plus some vowels. He discovered two different systems, which he called Linear A and Linear B. Complex scripts consist of symbols that often represent both sound and meaning. I first bought the Second Edition several years ago, and was fascinated by the tidbits of information that it offered up. It consists of 47 principal characters, 3… Examples of writing systems that employ a featural approach at least in part are the Korean Hangul script, created, according to tradition, by King Sejong in the 15th century, and Pitman shorthand, a system for rapid writing invented in Britain in the 19th century. Turkish,Swahili, Hausa, and Uzbek are among languages that used the Arabic script before they adopted either Latin or Cyrillic script. It consisted of 22 letters and was written from right to left, occasionally in boustrophedon (right to left, then left to right on the following line, and so on). Thus, the Greek alphabet was the first alphabet that included symbols to represent vowels. The first drawn representations of the natural world date back 30-40,000 years ago (in the upper Paleolithic), when humans started painting and graffitiing rocks and cave walls. Some think that religion was the motivating force, while others suggest that it was motivated by the need to keep business records. Clay tablets written in Ugaritic provided the first evidence of the ordering of letters in an alphabet. Give yourself a break by learning one of these languages that are easy for English speakers to master. Afterwards, we’ll look at some of the different writing systems of the world, and how they’ve influenced each other. Since Greece was a cluster of city-states with different dialects, the Greek alphabet varied locally, but the Ionic variant was eventually adopted by all city-states, while the Euboean variant travelled to the Italic peninsula, giving birth to the Latin alphabet and to the Cyrillic alphabet further to the east. The use of Aramaic as a lingua franca throughout the Middle East starting in the 8th century BC resulted in the adoption of the Aramaic alphabet for writing Hebrew. 3- The Greeks The Greeks adopted the Phoenicians’ writing system but … Scholars tried to figure out this writing system after it had been dead for close to 1,500 years. Writing has been around for over 5000 years, but there is a wider variety of unique writing systems than you might think. The Nabataean alphabet contained only symbols for consonants. These scripts have a similar appearance. In it, the God Theuth invents writing and communicates his discovery to King Thamus with great excitement, praising its ability to “make the Egyptians wiser” and to “improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom.” But King Thamus is not amused, and accuses Theuth of the exact opposite, saying that because writing allows individuals to store information on paper, they won’t commit it to memory. The exact number of unwritten languages is hard to determine. Berkeley SEI Several other unrelated languages use the Arabic script including Persian, Pashto, and Urdu which use an adapted version of the Arabic script, called Perso-Arabic. It is an excellent corrective to observe other writing systems of the world. The character for “horse,” 媽 (mā), is the same for “mother.” In order to differentiate it, there needs to be a semantic component next to the phonetic one. Chinese writing is the oldest system in the world that has hardly changed in the last 4,000 years. Here is how the name of Japan’s capital Tokyo is written in the three systems: Omniglot guide to writing systems of the world The Brahmi script is the ancestor of many scripts found in South, Southeast, and East Asia. On a later trip to the excavations at Knossos on the island of Crete, he recognized one of the symbols from his stones and began a study of the engraved tablets being uncovered at various sites on the island. The precise definition of the “ancient world” is of course open to interpretation, and in any event covers a period measured in millennia, but for practical reasons I have h… Each symbol is read as a syllable (hiragana: ま ma, み mi, む mu, め me, も mo; katakana: マ ma, ミ mi, ム mu, メ me, モ mo), making Japanese a syllabic system (as well as logographic, with the added Kanji, where one ideogram represents one concept/word). As a cuneiform system, it consisted of wedge-shaped marks inscribed with styluses on clay tablets. Evidence of such dates to pre-historic time and can be found in various regions of the continent. 24 Juli 2018. In this case, 女 (nǚ), or “female” in Chinese, indicates that we are talking about a woman. The study of writing systems, to a large extent, consists of establishing correspondences between these marks, or symbols, and units of the spoken language such as individual sounds, syllables, morphemes (smallest units of … ORACLE BONE SCRIPT. The study of writing systems, to a large extent, consists of establishing correspondences between these marks, or symbols, and units of the spoken language such as individual sounds, syllables, morphemes (smallest units of meaning), or words. The term ‘alphabet‘ isn’t, as many of us are taught to think, the word for any particular set of letters in a language.In fact, it refers to specific types of writing systems. Not ready to learn a whole new alphabet? Few individuals would be able or willing to memorize such tedious details, let alone pass them on to other people. There are different kinds of writing systems, with symbols that represent different things: logographic, syllabic and alphabetic. Vowels are written differently, depending on whether they are independent or if they follow a consonant. The Tiberiadic system consists of dots, combinations of dots, and small dashes. Terms of Use The Etruscans chose certain letter shapes of the Greek alphabet and changed a few sound values of the letters to better represent their own language. The Early Aramaic alphabet is an extremely ancient writing system derived from the Phoenician alphabet, a consonant-based writing system, during the 10th or 9th centuries BC. In order to take stock of land, grain and cattle, early farmers used shaped clay tokens with incised carvings to describe property owned or transacted. Scholars still debate whether these were merely paintings, pictures illustrating a story or whether they were part of religious/spiritual rituals or ceremonies. Vowels and consonants combine into syllables that consist of letters arranged in a square block, rather than linearly. However, Africa's oldest known writing system is over 6,000 years old. It’s a reference book that presents 29 languages across the world and their unique scripts. The earliest known logographs, or pictograms, were inscribed on oracle bones. PBS series “The Writing Code” Nuno is a puppeteer and scriptwriter who spends his time twiddling his thumbs inside and outside puppets' heads. This is what Chinese achieved around 1600 BC with its writing system, accumulating thousands of ideograms which today can range from the basic 300 characters required to pass the official Elementary Chinese language test (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì, 汉语水平考试) Level 2, to the more than 80,000 encompassed in the Dictionary of Chinese Variant Form (Zhōnghuá zì hǎi, 中华字海). This script is written and read from left to right and can be easily recognized by its circular-like shapes and straight-lined outlines. Since then, the script has undergone several modifications. Hangul is used to write Korean. The Arabic script is written from right to left in horizontal lines. Thus, it is better known today as the Hebrew alphabet. The examples of newpaper front pages for many of the major languages is a great way to see the various writing systems in modern use. A syllabary is a writing system consisting of symbols representing syllables which usually consist of a consonant + vowel or a single vowel. There are many languages in Indian and Southeast Asia that have distinctive writing systems, but they're all descended from the Brahmi script … So “mother” in Han characters is written as the compound 女媽, with the phonetic character 媽 read out loud and the semantic radical 女 unread, merely indicating context and intention. It’s sometimes challenging enough to understand other languages and cultures, let alone graphic representations of the sounds they carry and convey. At the end of the 6th century BC, the Early Aramaic alphabet was replaced by the Hebrew Square Script. The script had undergone several reforms over time. Don’t assume you’re saying the right name; it’s just an approximation of what we know!). It is highly complex - both in the written and the spoken form - and its writing system can consist of up to 100,000 different symbols! While both writing and speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs in also being a reliable form of information storage and transfer. Plato recounts the Egyptian-origin myth of writing in Phaedrus, one of his famous Dialogues. Ugaritic symbol for [a]. These systems use characteristic marks – or letters – to signify all the phonemes (basic component sounds) of a given word. Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri, collectively known as Khutsuri (ხუცური, or “church script”), were used together to write religious manuscripts, with the Asomtavruli serving as capital letters.The oldest examples of Georgian writing are an Asomtavruli inscription in a church in Bethlehem from 430 CE. Devanagari script is considered an alphasyllabary system of writing. At the other extreme, there are languages such as English and French that exhibit a great degree of irregularity. Different languages, different scripts: writing systems around the world. Different languages, different scripts: writing systems around the world. These are the various alphabets of the world, from heiroglyphs to Korean to Linear A to ancient Mayan. Written language is a way of recording language using any of various instruments and material, such as pen and paper, chisel and stone, or computers.The language itself is either spoken or signed, so written language develops as a way of representing what has been said.In many cultures, community languages are unwritten (such as Pirahã in Brazil).. The change from drawing/pictography to writing came about when hunter-gatherer societies developed agriculture and settled down in encampments. A syllable is often made up of a consonant plus a vowel or a single vowel. So they chose some Semitic consonants to represent Greek consonants and then used the extra Semitic consonant symbols for Greek vowels. Let’s begin with myth, and then chip away at it in order to sculpt a more accurate truth. The Korean writing system is not as hard to learn as many others. The famous Egyptian writing system, surfacing around 3200 BC, might have been influenced by the Sumerian one (through merchants and commercial contact), but the evidence is inconclusive. The modern alphabet, called Mkhedruli (მხედრული, “secular” or “military writing”), first appeared in the 11th century. A writing system, also referred to as script or orthography, is a convention for representing the units of a spoken language by making marks on rocks, leaves, clay, bark, metal, or paper. Alphasyllabic writing systems are even younger. Devanāgarī is written from left to right in horizontal lines. If one considers the development of writing systems to indicate progress (a debate for another article), what would the next step after phonetic alphabets be? In 1893, British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans purchased some ancient stones with mysterious inscriptions on them at a flea market in Athens. As a result, the first true alphabet was developed by the Semitic people of the Sinai Peninsula some time between 1,500 and 1,000 BC. Take the word ‘cat’, for example. It is used for writing Amharic, Tigrinya, Tigre and a number of other Semitic languages, some of which have now switched to adapted versions of the Latin alphabet. ... Greek and Cyrillic are but three of the hundreds of scripts or writing systems that exist or have existed around the world. Korean letters are formed with strokes from top to bottom and left to right. Promulgated in 1446, it was immediately successful due to its simplicity and elegance. You can still learn a new language today. (Note that the 19th-century term syllabics usually referred to abugidas rather than true syllabaries.) Such scripts usually contain a large number of symbols. / MustGo.com. "The Languages of the World" was obviously a labor of love on the part of its author, the late Kenneth Katzner. Syllable-based systems are common for the languages of India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Well, not completely, since Semitic languages such as Hebrew or Arabic include matres lectionis (mothers of reading), symbols that may mark the presence of a vowel or function as a consonant, depending on context. The origin of writing is the story of religious myth, archaeological fact and academic dispute. Each symbol represents a consonant + vowel combination. (It does create ambiguity though: when scholars don’t know what the vowels are, they tend to use E to fill the gaps; hence “nfr” becomes “nefer” as in Nefertiti! 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