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A Short History of Writing: Ouaknin. A presentation by David Tscheschke and Sam Fletcher. Basic Definitions. “Writing only started when an organized system of signs or symbols was created that could record and fix all that the writer was thinking, feeling, and capable of expressing.”

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a short history of writing ouaknin
A Short History of Writing: Ouaknin

A presentation by David Tscheschke and

Sam Fletcher

basic definitions
Basic Definitions
  • “Writing only started when an organized system of signs or symbols was created that could record and fix all that the writer was thinking, feeling, and capable of expressing.”
  • “The alphabet can be defined as a system consisting of a limited number of signs expressing the basic sounds of the language, through which it is possible to record in writing whatever the user wishes to express.”
cuneiform the oldest form of writing
Cuneiform: the oldest form of writing
  • Signs imprinted on clay with wedge shaped stylus
  • Developed from pictures (unlike “Tokens, A New Theory”)
  • Invented by Sumerians, then adapted by Akkadians (Assyrian & Babylonian), Elamites, and Hittites
  • Eventually, Sumerian died as a common language but remained “the language of scholars”. Babylonian became the international language of the Near East.
egyptian hieroglyphs third millennium
Egyptian hieroglyphs (third millennium)
  • The Four types
  • The formal kind found on stone monuments
  • A linear form written on wood or papyrus
  • A hieratic form which was less formal and used for everyday writing by priests
  • A demotic form: more stylized and less figurative
other hieroglyphic scripts third millennium b c to second century a d
Other hieroglyphic scripts (third millennium B.C. to second century A.D.)
  • Hittite: both ideographic and phonetic, boustrophedon direction
  • Proto-Indian: never deciphered
  • Cretan: also used stylus/clay tablet, four types have been identified
  • Chinese: always pictographic & ideographic, never phonetic
  • Pre-Columbian American: represent words or symbols
alphabetic scripts second millennium b c
Alphabetic Scripts (second millennium B.C.)
  • Unlike hieroglyphs, emerged from a common Semitic origin
  • Two systems: Ugaritic & Proto-Sinaitic
  • Ugaritic
  • Included consonants and three vowels: a, e, u
  • Obsolete
proto sinaitic
  • Origin of western scripts, modern Hebrew, and modern Arabic
  • Came from Hebrews at the time of the Exodus
  • Abandoned pictographs as a result of discovering monotheism
  • Ugaritic script & Canaanite people were heavily influenced by Proto-Sinaitic
  • Proto-Sinaitic developed into Proto-Phoenician, then Phoenician (origin of Greek, Latin, and modern western scripts)
  • Greek introduced vowels, which became a part of all western writing
  • Meanwhile, Phoenician developed into Aramaic (origin of modern “square” Hebrew script & Arabic) which never adopted vowels
  • Why do you think hieroglyphs were eventually replaced by alphabetic scripts?
  • What do you think about Ouknin’s claim that monotheism changed Hebrew writing into a less pictographic and more symbolic script? Is it true?
  • What are some of the drawbacks to alphabetic scripts which don’t include vowels?
  • Write a brief sentence on a piece of paper without including vowels (like Hebrew or Arabic). Then, trade papers with a partner. How does this vowel omission affect your ability to understand accurately?
  • Look at the chart on pgs. 22-23 of the reading. Do you think that this pictographic evolution of cuneiform is correct? Do you agree with the token theory instead? Explain
the end
The End
  • Thank you for listening
  • Have you taken the Plagiarism training that Dr. Adkins has sent to your email?
  • What does Bergmann caution researchers about at the onset of the chapter?
  • Name one web resource for researchers that Bergmann discusses in chapter 5
  • Describe the “flow chart” for keyword searches that Bergman uses (very similar to the process Martin described)
brief bio
Brief Bio
  • Born in 1957
  • Son of a Rabbi
  • PhD in Paris
  • Rabbi and Philosopher
  • Examines Levinas

Write a brief note using one of the alphabets here.

  • Pass to the person next to you to decode