Cuneiform: The Language before Letters

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  • Topic: Cuneiform script, Sumerian language, Mesopotamia
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  • Published : October 26, 2011
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The Language before Letters
The Cuneiform script is an early form of language consisting of pictographic symbols. Cuneiform was first created by the Sumerians and later built on by other cultures. Cuneiform symbols were drawn on wet clay tablest with a long reed crafted into a writing instrument which was called a stylus. The stylus created wedge shapes, which is why they named the shapes Cuneiform.(translates to “wedge shaped”.)

Some languages included in the Cuneiform classification were Sumerian, Akkadian, Elamite, Hittite, Luwian, Hattic, Hurrian, and urartian. Cuneiform was primarily used during the time period that lasted between the 30th century BC to the 1st century AD.

The first symbol picture that was in cuneiform was the word “great”. The second was of the word “man”. This pictorial writing then later developed into a series of wedges and hooks. (cuneiform). The wedges representing whole Sumerian words are described as ideographic.

Cuneiform was primarily used in Mesopotamia until the century before the birth of Christ. This was a very important factor in the history of Mesopotamia because it allowed laws to be written and also made it easier to make detailed accounts of history and historical happenings. Much of what we know about this ancient culture we would not know if the people were not able to communicate through cuneiform.

One of the more important languages written in the cuneiform style was Sumerian. The Sumerian society was one of the earliest societies to form and Sumerians developed the Cuneiform system that would influence scripts in the area for the next 3000 years. This was the first recognized written language, and would later be used as a basis for other languages. The invention of the Sumerian writing system came about because the Mesopotamians realized they needed a way to keep track of the clay tokens that they used as money.
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