Re: Egyptian Hieroglyphics

whittet (
22 Jan 1995 17:52:22 GMT

In article <3fhcpi$>, (scharle) says:
>In article <3fgvot$>, rhuss+@EDRC.CMU.EDU (Robert Huss) writes:
> ...
>|> |>
>|> |> And, of course, without knowing it, he has discovered the reason for
>|> |> heiroglyphics in our oldest languages; without spoken speech, the idea
>|> |> of a pheonetic alphabet could not possibly have occurred to anybody.
>|> Without a written language the idea of a phonetic alphabet wouldn't
>|> have occured to anybody either. It makes sense to me that the first
>|> visual representations would be pictograms, rather than phonetics.
> ...
> Egyptian Hieroglyphics partially reflected the sound of the spoken
>language. They weren't just pictures of things, but a full way of
>representing the spoken speech. For example, for a word which wasn't
>easily pictured, a homonym or group of homonyms could be used (sort of
>like rebus writing).
> I am happy that he agrees that without spoken speech, the idea of a
>phonetic (to be pedantic about it, that should be "phonemic", but let's
>not quibble) alphabet wouldn't occur to anyone. For it is just as true
>that without spoken speech the idea of Hieroglyphics wouldn't have
>occured to anybody.
> Someone with better knowledge than I would have to comment on the
>Sumerian cuneiform writing (slightly older than Hieroglyphics), but I
>suspect that it had phonemic elements, too.

Your concept of the evolution of writing as independent of lanquage
seems to ignore the use of non verbal communications and gestures,
which overlap both.

It certainly seems reasonable that some of the first glyphs evolved as
tribal totems or logos or brands associated with marking territory or
property. Seals on amphora, or copper ingots, or hides, scratchings on
the standing stones used as a tribes boundary stele, or notches on a piece
of bone or knots in a rope to keep a count of trade goods.

If writing was not an invention, or discovery, but a long gradual
evolution coming from the sort of subliminal iconographic consensus
that makes sign language possible, the subtlety of Hieroglyphics in
breaking down sylabic sounds into phonetic consonants with unstated
associated vowels and determinatives of the general catagory of
disscussion is truly profound, and some evidence of the Egyptian
obsession with doing things according to Maa't, or in the way that
was right and proper.

> Quite contrary to the hint that lack of an alphabet suggests the
>non-existence of a spoken language, there is ample evidence that spoken
>languages can exist indefinitely, even with writing systems, without the
>idea of an alphabet occuring to the speakers.
> Of course, if someone has a "time machine" by which he can go back
>before the time of phonemic elements in writing, and tell us that there
>was no spoken language then, I can't argue with that.
>Tom Scharle
>Room G003 Computing Center |
>University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 46556-0539 USA