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The Syllabic Origins of Writing and the Alphabet (English Edition) [Kindle Edition]

Andis Kaulins

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The recent Uluburun (viz. Ulu Burun) shipwreck discovery, as noted by Jo Marchant in Nature magazine, may transform our understanding of ancient times, casting also new light on the origins of writing.

One artifact recovered from what was likely a Phoenician vessel was the oldest writing board set ever found: a dyptich -- two plates attached on a hinge.

Moreover, there were hundreds of large oxhide-shaped copper ingots and buns, some marked with signs duplicating those in scripts from Cyprus and Crete.

One must note here that David W. Packard, co-founder of computer giant Hewlett-Packard, wrote his college dissertation on an undeciphered ancient script of Crete.

What is the connection between ancient writing and the modern digital world?

Handheld devices and computer hardware such as PCs operate by means of software code that converts human language information into machine language.

Ancient signs, characters and symbols were similar inventions that converted "spoken" language into "written" language.

The discovery of writing had far-reaching consequences for everyday life on our planet. Literacy brought humanity into a richer world. It opened up new vistas of individual potential and tapped what has proven to be a seemingly endless reservoir of human talents and abilities.

Moreover, the written word not only promoted communication but also permitted recordation of human expression and knowledge. Writing was thus the ultimate invention that led to modernity.

As Packard well understood, our era is an age of digital signs and characters. A study of the origins of writing proved useful.

Nevertheless, the origins of writing are not well understood by researchers active in the humanities. There is, on the one hand, a seeming acceptance in parts of the scholarly community that seafaring Phoenicians may have spread the alphabet throughout the ancient world, but, on the other hand, there is certainly no agreement concerning where these ancient commercially trading seafarers obtained that alphabet, an alphabet whose distant (and foreign) origin is related by Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC - 17 AD), a pupil of famed Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor.

In "Ancient Inventors", Tale 277 of his Fabulae, Hyginus writes at CCLXXVII. First Inventors: "The Parcae, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos invented seven Greek letters - A B H T I Y. Others say that Mercury invented them from the flight of cranes, which, when they fly, form letters. Palamedes, too, son of Nauplius, invented eleven letters; Simonides, too, invented four letters – Ó E Z PH; Epicharmus of Sicily, two - P and PS. The Greek letters Mercury is said to have brought to Egypt, and from Egypt Cadmus took them to Greece. Cadmus in exile from Arcadia, took them to Italy, and his mother Carmenta changed them to Latin to the number of 15. Apollo on the lyre added the rest."

What really happened?

The Uluburun Shipwreck supports Hyginus in verifying the great extent of ancient seafaring, trade and technology transfer. It does not resolve the question of origin.

In The Syllabic Origins of Writing and the Alphabet, various different ancient language sources are compared and analyzed in a syllabic grid, suggesting that the ancient and modern art of writing via the alphabet originated in syllabic signs for consonants and W-based syllabic vowel forms (mater lectionis).

The compared syllabic signs are taken from Sumerian, Pharaonic Egyptian, Old Elamite, Luwian (viz. Luvian, formerly Hieroglyphic Hittite), the Cypriot Syllabary, Linear B script, as well as the Phaistos Disk (viz. Disc) and the Axe of Arkalochori from Minoan Crete.

Some suggestions -- based on the evidence of the syllabic grid -- are also made for correction of the reading of ancient signs, for example, in the case Linear B script, adding the "L" phoneme.

It is shown graphically how Phoenician, Greek and Latin alphabet "letters" derived out of ancient syllabic signs -- signs tracing to

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

J.D. Stanford University 1971. The present author won the men's championship at his golf club when he was over 60. Analyzing ancient scripts is a lot like golf. You have to be able to read the greens and putt. Obviously, that is meant "metaphorically". Such "figurative" language is called "literary trope". Written characters are in a way also like "figures" of speech, representing speech by signs. This book is an analysis of the origins of such signs and symbols. Regrettably, the origins of writing are placed by many academics in the realm of distant unreachable legend, rather than being viewed as a solvable puzzle of antiquity. This makes it difficult to present new ideas to people conveniently following established schools of thought. What qualifies this author to take up this task? My J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence viz. Juris Doctor) is a law degree from Stanford University Law School. Thereafter, I was an associate at Paul Weiss et al., a leading international law firm in New York City -- contemporarily represented by three Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, all three of whom were summer associates at Paul Weiss in early years, as I was. Subsequently, I taught law, legal writing and legal research at a German university law school. Moreover, I am a co-author of the leading Langenscheidt Routledge German-English Dictionary of Business, Commerce and Finance. In other words, law and language have been this author's bread and butter. What is the connection between law, language, dictionaries, ancient writing systems and the alphabet? Consider that the most famous linguist of all time, Jacob Grimm, also studied law before discovering Grimm's Law, a "language law" which was the main turning point in the study of modern linguistics. Simple observation and the neutral analysis of the evidence were the keys to his discovery. Law teaches lessons to anyone involved in research. My mentor at Stanford, the late Professor John Kaplan, who was a legend for his brilliance at Harvard and later clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, taught "Evidence" and oft repeated: "Do not rely solely on the authorities, who are often wrong. Always go to the original sources." I do. The original sources are THE PROBATIVE EVIDENCE. All the rest is "authority-based" interpretation -- and not necessarily "evidence-based". The reader may not agree with all the conclusions drawn in this book, but many new things will be learned. Enjoy. After all, the book is written for YOU.

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