Pronouncing pictures! - History of Writing Systems #4 (Rebus writing)

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Video

John Horgan
by NativLang
published on 12 October 2017

Watch ancient Sumerians figure out how to use pictures to write sounds for the first time in history. See why the Egyptians disagree with their approach.

Meaning writing (logographs) let early writers get civilized and document their thoughts. But what if you don't have a symbol for a word in your language? Just use the sound-alike rebus principle to invent one!

Exit the cave of pictographs and journey to Sumer, Egypt and Tenochtitlán! Marvel as ancient cultures use logographs to start writing not just meaning words, but sound words. Watch as Sumerian writers press a stylus into wet clay to make wedge shapes - cuneiform!

Ponder the tension this brings up: is writing phonetic or is it semantic? What will future scribes do to balance this tension between meaning and sound? Next time, travel East to find out how one early calligrapher balances that tension.

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Cite This Work

APA Style

NativLang, . (2017, October 12). Pronouncing pictures! - History of Writing Systems #4 (Rebus writing). World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/video/1295/pronouncing-pictures---history-of-writing-systems/

Chicago Style

NativLang, . "Pronouncing pictures! - History of Writing Systems #4 (Rebus writing)." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified October 12, 2017. https://www.worldhistory.org/video/1295/pronouncing-pictures---history-of-writing-systems/.

MLA Style

NativLang, . "Pronouncing pictures! - History of Writing Systems #4 (Rebus writing)." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 12 Oct 2017. Web. 03 Feb 2023.

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