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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Story of the Alphabet               57
logograms. A pictogram is a more or less simplified picture of an
object which can be so represented A logogram may be (i) a pictorial
symbol substituted for something which we cannot easily represent
by a picture 3 (n) any sign used to indicate an attribute of a group
(red, age, movement, noise, wef), or a direction for action., such as Haltf,
Major Road Aheadf, or Go Slow*
British traffic signs (Fig. 6) for motorists illustrate all such symbols
A thick line for the main road with a thinner one crossing it is a
pictogram for a cross-road The conventionalized picture of the torch
of learning is a pictorial logogram which stands for school The triangle
and circle which stands for Stop* has no obvious association with any
other picturable object. Like the number 4, it is a pure logogram.
We still use some logograms in printed books Besides numbers, we
have signs such as &, £, and $. The signs & ?, and $ in books
on astronomy stand for Mars, Venus, and Mercury In books on
biology they stand for male, female, and hermaphrodite The plural
forms are $$ (males),, etc Similarly the Chinese use the sign ^ for
tree, and write % fc for forest Such signs as $, ?, $ mean the same
to astronomers and biologists all over the world, whether they do
or do not speak the same language,
The expression picture-writing, in contradistinction to logographic
writing, is a little misleading. Anything which we can properly call
writing., in contradistinction to cave-painting, sculpture, or other ways
of recording events visibly, must be made up of something more
than conventional drawings of picturable objects When we speak of
picture-writing as the most primitive level of script (Figs 5 and 7-10),
we mean a more or less explicit record or instruction set forth in
symbols, most of which are either pictograms or logograms of the
School Ahead type If it is not possible to represent elements of speech
by simple pictures, it may be possible to suggest them represented
by the picture of an object which we associate with them Thus we
hopefully associate (Fig 6) the torch of learning with a building
used for scholastic purposes The Chinese sign for not is &,
originally a hue drawn over the top of a plant This suggests that
something got in the way of its growth—obstruction, not progress,
not getting bigger, just not.
When we speak of logographic writing, we mean writing in which
symbols for picturable objects, general characteristics, or directions
for action have lost their explicit pictorial meaning We can no longer
guess what they do mean unless we have some key. This does not