Saturday, January 15, 2011

History Mystery: The First Written Word Part. II

Around 1700 BC, the Canaanites of the Levant took a revolutionary step. A number of single consonant Egyptian hieroglyphs were assigned the sound of the beginning of a Canaanite word- for example, the hieroglyph for ‘house’ betu in Canaanite, gave the sound ‘b’. These signs formed the first alphabet, from which many other writing systems developed, including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Brahmi. The ancient Greeks introduced symbols for vowels, creating the basis of most of the later European scripts.

Chinese script was invented by the Shang dynasty in about 1700BC. By 1200BC, it was being used to inscribe bones for divination. Its pictographic signs, which signify whole words and syllables, were not developed into an alphabet. As a result, modern Chinese script, still based around the same system, uses thousands of characters.

The Indus civilization invented a script which has not been deciphered- partly because it died out when the civilization declined, and partly because the inscriptions, mostly on seals, are very short. Many symbols probably represent names or official titles. Patient detective work and computer analysis have revealed the direction of writing (writing right to left), the probable type of script combining syllables and words, rather than alphabetic, and the fact that it probably belonged to the Dravidian language family still spoken in parts of India. It may prove impossible to go much further in cracking the Indus code.

Around 500BC, Central American cultures began using signs to record dates. Later civilizations such as the Aztecs developed scripts that could record information such as names, but only the Maya developed a script that fully recorded spoken language. Maya script is still being deciphered, in the process revealing the history of Kings and cities. The script uses devices such as puns, but is largely syllabic, formed by highly ornate glyphs and pictograms

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.