Pub. date: 2012 | Online Pub. Date: May 31, 2012 | DOI: 10.4135/9781452218458 | Print ISBN: 9781412981767 | Online ISBN: 9781452218458| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Cuneiform and Origins of Writing: Prehistory to 1250: Middle East
Peter T. Daniels
The first writing system ever invented came to be used, over more than 3,000 years, for many languages centered on Mesopotamia. The language for which, almost certainly, writing was first invented was Sumerian, and that was no accident: people everywhere draw pictures to communicate meanings; any little, perhaps stylized, picture is a pictogram. A pictogram that carries a meaning, an idea, is an ideogram. But only very rarely—just twice in the Old World—do ideograms turn into true writing. Writing is a system of conventional visible signs by which an utterance (a stretch of language) can be conveyed to and understood by a reader without the intervention of the utterer. Writing cannot represent only meanings—cannot be ideographic—partly because not all meanings can be pictographically represented, but primarily because all languages include items that have no meaning at all, notably proper names, especially foreign names. Thus all writing systems must include, or ...