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Being and Motion$
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Thomas Nail

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190908904

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190908904.001.0001

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Writing II

Writing II

Alphabet

Chapter:
(p.300) Chapter 22 Writing II
Source:
Being and Motion
Author(s):

Thomas Nail

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190908904.003.0025

This chapter argues that the fourth major kinographic operation in the ancient world finally occurred when the graphisms created by tablets and the phonisms of speech entered into a mutual subordination to an abstract meaning or idea. In other words, once graphism was liberated from its concrete tokens, it could create abstract signs for anything, including the discrete sounds made in human speech called phonemes. The practice of connecting written graphisms to speech first emerged in Sumer around 3500–3390 BCE with the use of cuneiform, a written means of representing the Sumerian language. Egyptian hieroglyphics connected to language emerged around 3300 BCE. The earliest alphabet is traced to proto-Sinaitic inscriptions (c. 1850 BCE).

Keywords:   graphism, phonism, phonetic alphabet, Denise Schmandt-Besserat, writing, Mesopotamia, Sumer

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