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Tema 3 (16) Lingstica Written Language

We can define writing as the symbolic representation of language through the use of graphic signs.

Writing is a relatively recent phenomenon, we can say the precursors were the cave drawings (20,000 y
ago), the clay tokens (10,000 ya), there are evidences of a type of writing called cuneiform (5,000-6,000
ya) and about 3,000 years ago we found ancient script.


Cave drawings were like pictograms, but they are more considered as art than written messages. Modern
pictograms are language-independent and can be understood with the same meaning in a lot of different


Ideograms reflect physical forms of objects but their meaning goes beyond those objects. The difference
between pictograms and ideograms is a difference in the relationship between the symbol and the entity,
pictograms are more picture-like forms and ideograms are more abstract, but both do not represent words or
sounds in a particular language and they can be understood in a lot of countries.


Symbols used to represent words in a language; an example is the cuneiform writing, the system used by
Sumerians, an arbitrary word-writing system. Modern logograms in English are forms such as $, &, @.

The writing system used in China is also based in written symbols or characters to represent words, one of
the advantages of this systems is that two Chinese speakers cant understand each other talking but they can
read the same text but the main disadvantage is that there are a large number of different written symbols,
Chinese dictionary contains almost 50.000 characters but in modern language they use 2.500 characters.

Phonographic writing

These symbols represent sounds of the words and by the rebus principle we can combine these symbols to
represent new words, so that symbol representing an entity is used whenever that sound occurs in any words.
So with pictures of objects whose names sound like the intended syllables of other words.

Syllabic writing

Syllabic writing employs a set of symbols, and each symbol represents the pronunciation of a syllable.
Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian had logographic writing systems which used to represent spoken syllables
but the Phoenicians were the first to use a fully syllabic writing system, taking many symbols from Egyptian
writing. Nowadays theres no purely syllabic writing system, but in modern Japanese they had something
called hiragana that have a partially syllabic writing system.

Alphabetic writing

An alphabet is essentially a set of written symbols, each one representing a single type of sound and in a
perfectly regular system there is one grapheme for each phoneme but nowadays this perfect system fails.
There is a frequent mismatch between forms and sounds in spoken English, there is a lot of variation in how
each sound of contemporary spoken English is represented in writing. /i/ -> i, ie, ei, ea, ee,eo,ey,e (digraph)
but it occurs because of the history of the language, it took many things from many other influential
languages. In contrast we find some languages as Italian, Spanish or Finnish which have a very regular

The early version of Semitic alphabetic script originated the writing system of the Phoenicians, Phoenicians
alphabet were used as a model by the Greeks who added letters for vowels, creating a new system with the
single-symbol to single-sound correspondence, and the Romans took this alphabet to Western Europe but
modifying it, another line of development of the Greek alphabet was the Cyrillic alphabet, the basis of the
writing system used in Russia today.