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Basic types of phonographic systems

- abjad (consonant only)
- alphabetic (consonant and vowel)

- (entire syllables)

- ABUGIDA (syllabic but based on consonants w default vowel)


SYLLABIC systems

Syllabary: each symbol rep distinct syllable
- only used for languages w relatively small no. of possible syllables
- Mycenean Greek
- amahric
- Cherokee
- JAPANESE hiragana / katakana


ABJAD systems

Consonantary or Consonantal Alphabet

Name derives from First letters in the Arabic abjad: ʔ, b, j, and d.

- Arabic (no vowel points)
- Hebrew
- Phoenician

Egyptian mono-consonantal signs
Probably developed from logograms via rebus or acrophonic principles.
- Unlike modern abjads, used primarily as phonetic indicators in mixed representations.



Set of symbols representing both consonantal and vowel phonemes

- Latin
- English
- Thai

Enormously popular, possibly bc of utility


the "ideal" alphabetic system

Ideally, each symbol represent distinct phoneme, 1 to 1
- alphabets typically exploit systems which do not meet 'ideal'
- MULTIGRAPHS (2 or more com. for 1 phoneme)= 'SH'
- UNDER-DIFFERENTIATION (fail to differentiate between 2 distinct phonemes) = TH and TH



From ethiopian Ge'ez script, first 4 letters "a" "bu" "gi" "da"
- alphasyllabary or SYLLABIC ALPHABET

- Basic symbols represent a CONSONANT and INHERENT/DEFAULT VOWEL together: CV
- Diacritics added to indicate:
- that consonant w different vowel
- that consonant alone, as at end of syllable

DENVAGARI - used to write Hindi, Gujari, etc
> consonant only (diacritic can 'cancel' vowel
> Vowel-only syllables also have own symbols (ie when syllable doesn’t commence with consonant)


UTILITY: Size of the set of symbols

Given that languages have:
- thousands of words
- perhaps hundreds of distinct syllables,
- often <100 n 12 - 100 phonemes

LOGOGRAPHIC SYSTEM @ 1 symbol per word
= thousands of symbols

SYLLABIC SYSTEM @ 1 symbol per syllable
= maybe hundreds of symbols
- English has ~10k monosyllables…

ALPHABETIC SYSTEM @ 1 symbol per sound
= 12 - 60 symbols



Writing systems = sub-classified based on the placement / direction of symbols

eg Chinese, Japanese: Horizontal First or vertical First
eg Egyptian hieroglyphics: L-R or R-L.

Boustrophedon: reverse direction from one line to next. From Greek bous ‘ox, cow’ + strephein ‘to turn’ ‘as the ox plows’


Interpreting Unknown Writing

Rosetta stone
Egyptian Hieroglyphs
- Hieretic
- Demotic

1814 Thomas Young matched greek names w/cartouches - first sound/hieroglyphic match
Jean-François Champollion used Rosetta Stone to transliterate Egyptian, announcing his results in 1822


Current Controversy: WEST INDUS

4000 linear inscriptions on seals, miniature tablets, pottery, stoneware, copper plates, tools, weapons, and wood
- ave.5 symbols per transcription, max. of 17.
- Indus Valley civilization ca. 2600-1900 BCE.
- Approx. 400 distinct symbols n possibly suggesting a syllabic and/or logographic system.

Disputes include
- significance of the brevity of transcriptions
- the overall probabilities of sequencing vs non-linguistic systems



Rongorongo (Easter Island)
- after 400 CE
- Written in reverse boustrophedon:
- Left to right, but from bottom to top
- Alternate lines were written upside down.
- Decipherment is still problematic Few texts exist.