Cuneiform script - world’s first ever writing system

Baku, April 22, AZERTAC

The history of writing dates back to the times when people have not even invented language, trying to express their feelings and needs through symbols scribed on rocks, stones and cave walls.

Those symbols have then evolved through the course of time, forming the writing systems to make it easier for humans to build words and sentences.

Yet what is the world’s most ancient method of representing the verbal communication?

Scroll down to familiarize yourself with the world’s first ever system - the Cuneiform script.

Invented in the ancient Mesopotamia, a region located within the Tigris-Euphrates river system, in 3500-3000 BCE, this system of writing was widely used in the ancient Middle East.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it is to Sumerians, a people of unknown ethnic and linguistic affinity, who have inhabited Mesopotamia at the time that the first attested traces of cuneiform writing are conclusively assigned.

Yet such word writing was able to express only the basic ideas of concrete objects.

Moreover, numerical notions were easily rendered by the repetitive use of strokes or circles.

However, the representation of proper names, for example, necessitated an early recourse to the rebus principle—i.e., the use of pictographic shapes to evoke in the reader’s mind an underlying sound form rather than the basic notion of the drawn object.

This brought about a transition from pure word writing to a partial phonetic script.

Sumerian words were largely monosyllabic, so the signs generally denoted syllables, and the resulting mixture is termed a word-syllabic script.

The inventory of phonetic symbols henceforth enabled the Sumerians to denote grammatical elements by phonetic complements added to the word signs (logograms or ideograms).

Because Sumerian had many identical sounding (homophonous) words, several logograms frequently yielded identical phonetic values and are distinguished in modern transliteration—(as, for example, ba, bá, bà, ba). Because a logogram often represented several related notions with different names (e.g., “sun,” “day,” “bright”), it was capable of assuming more than one phonetic value (this feature is called polyphony).

In the course of the 3rd millennium the writing became successively more cursive, and the pictographs developed into conventionalized linear drawings. Due to the prevalent use of clay tablets as writing material (stone, metal, or wood also were employed occasionally), the linear strokes acquired a wedge-shaped appearance by being pressed into the soft clay with the slanted edge of a stylus.

Curving lines disappeared from writing, and the normal order of signs was fixed as running from left to right, without any word-divider.

Overall, since the discovery and decipherment of the cuneiform, the history of the Mankind has never been the same.

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