Proto-Sinaitic script and Proto-Canaanite script The earliest known alphabetic or "proto-alphabetic" inscriptions are the so-called Proto-Sinaitic or Proto-Canaanite script sporadically attested in the Sinai and in Canaan in the late Middle and Late Bronze Age. The script was not widely used until the rise of new Semitic kingdoms in the 13th and 12th centuries BC.
A few of these details are laid out below. You probably know that Sumerian is written in cuneiform. But what does that mean, exactly? How does cuneiform work? To the best of our knowledge, people started using symbols on small clay objects to represent legal contracts between people.
We have some artifacts from circa BC that show things like sheep and oxen, with rudimentary counts and numbers. Our best guess is that this kind of visual symbology lead, eventually, to the desire to express more abstract ideas in clay as well. By BC, we start seeing more interesting symbols being written down, and more complex ideas being represented.
It is still very difficult to know what all these artifacts mean, or even how we should interpret many of the individual symbols. There is a lot of work yet to be done on this topic - but very important work!
Writing has only developed independently four or five times in the course of human civilization, and we really would like to understand that process better. Unfortunately, we are at a great disadvantage being so temporally removed from early Sumerian, as well as not really understanding Sumerian itself, making early decipherment even more tricky.
By BC or so, we see a complete and fully-formed writing system - nothing like the clunky logographs of the past. Now, we have symbols that are purely phonetic, as well as taxogramswhich are not pronounced at all, but are purely to assist in the reading and writing of the text!
But even in this well-formed state, there are quite a few open questions about the system, and quite a few problems inherent in the script itself that make understanding both cuneiform and the language it is trying to represent quite difficult. If you enjoy a good mystery, Sumerian cuneiform is one of the best.
It is a testament to the skill and intuition of the early Sumerologists that we know as much as we do today, considering the paucity of data they had to work with! Problems with Cuneiform and Sumerian[ edit ] Some of the problems we have with Sumerian cuneiform are rooted in the origins of the script.
If you draw a picture of a sun rising above the horizon as a representation of day, how do you represent dawn?
Also, how do you draw the concept of resolve? Help from Sumerian[ edit ] We get some helpful clues from Sumerian itself, when written in cuneiform.
It turns out that the Sumerian word ud, which is the word for day, is also a homophone for the preposition when. So instead of finding a whole new cuneiform symbol for when, they just re-used the sun-rising-over-the-horizon symbol. In this way, we can find out a lot about Sumerian phonology - we can learn which words were homophones very easily, as they use the same picture for different words that sound alike.
Of course, they also had different symbols for homophones, too - Sumerian lil meant fool, written one way, but it meant breeze when written a different way.
Another huge source of information comes from the purely phonetic symbols. Lucky for us, Sumerian scribes liked to "chain" sounds together when adding particles. The "l" sound at the end of lugal was chained to the vowel in the next syllable to make la.
How can we figure out what these symbols mean? Help from the Akkadians[ edit ] A huge source of information comes to us from Akkadian-speaking scribes. As time went on in Sumer, the Sumerian language died out in favor of Akkadian as the mother tongue. Whatever the case, we do know that the Akkadian-speaking kings of the region liked to use Sumerian writing for official documents, probably because it came with a great sense of grandeur, having been used by the great kings of old, and hopefully instilling anything the new kings had written with a sense of authoritarianism and entitlement.
Regardless of motivation, the reality was that a bunch of Akkadian speaking scribes were being forced to write in Sumerian, almost a dead language by this point.
We have found some of these tablets, and as we have a pretty firm understanding of Akkadian, we are automatically treated to a huge list of Sumerian words that Akkadians used.
Now, of course, these are all just translations, and translations from any language to another invariably lose some nuances, and we even see some scribal errors here and there, but by and large these bilingual texts contribute enormously to our understanding of Sumerian cuneiform. Some words that occur very infrequently in Sumerian texts would be almost untranslatable without these lexical lists.
It evolved greatly over time, morphing to serve the desires of the scribes using it. When Akkadians usurped the system to write their own language, for instance, we see great changes in writing styles and symbols, as well as changes in the meanings of some symbols.
This transition was not a simple one, as Sumerian and Akkadian are from completely different language families, meaning many syntactic constructs had to be completely abandoned, and many new words and particles created to fill the gaps. This trend only increased as the script was modified and distributed to even more regions around Mesopotamia - when the Hittites and Old Persians got hold of it, the script needed to serve the Indo-European languages as well.
Finally, someone in Ugarit got fed up with the whole thing, and decided to invent an "alphabet" of sorts - Ugaritic texts are found with a fairly good representation of an alphabet, with one symbol per sound. Questions about Sumerian Cuneiform[ edit ] One important question remains unanswered regarding the earliest origins of cuneiform.
We assume, by and large, that the Sumerians invented cuneiform, as it is the first language that we can definitively identify to be written in cuneiform. But, as we know, early writing was just symbols on clay - it really could have been any language at all being written!
There was no syntax, no grammar in those early texts to point to one language versus another.Proto-Elamite is a derived writing system originating from the Uruk invention of writing in southern Mesopotamia during the middle of the 4th millennium BC.
Scribes in Susa in southwestern Iran took over a majority of the numerical signs as well as many of the numerical systems from the older proto-cuneiform system. Educational page of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative Project concerning the Proto-cuneiform writing that appears in southern Mesopotamia at the end of the fourth millennium BC.
(c. BC) on clay tablets, of administrative and economic content and which preannounces the development of Sumerian cuneiform.
Writing is a form of communication through the act of preserving text on a medium, with the use of signs or symbols. It is in principle the representation of language, rather than images of thought directly. Cuneiform is a system of writing first developed by the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia c.
BCE. It is considered the most significant among the many cultural contributions of the Sumerians and the greatest among those of the Sumerian city of Uruk which advanced the writing of cuneiform c. BCE.. The name comes from the Latin word cuneus for 'wedge' owing to the wedge-shaped.
They listed their court activity. They listed their sales and purchases.
The story was told in pictures, in cuneiform, and in another writing similar to an East Indian language that Henry Rawlinson already could read and write.
The same story was told in three different ways so that most probably, in ancient times, everyone could understand. The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around BC, is the oldest verified grupobittia.com Phoenician alphabet is an abjad consisting of 22 letters, all consonants, with matres lectionis used for some vowels in certain late varieties.
It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a .