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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

j6                  The Loom of Language

from trade contacts It probably reached Scandinavia during the third
century A D The letters illustrate the influence of the materials used
They are the sort of marks which are easy to chip on wood We
can recognize them as such in some of the Runic dog almanacs still in
existence The first surviving specimen (Fig 30) of Runic comes from
Gallehus in Schleswig It is an inscription on a horn,, and is worth
quoting to illustrate the modest beginnings of writing for secular use
ek hlewagastir holtingar horna tawido = I LUiGASr THE HOLTING MADE

(this) HORN.

There are inscriptions of another type (Figs 17, 18, and 39) on stone
monuments in Scotland., Wales and Ireland The script is pre-Christian

FIG 18 —BILINGUAL INSCRIPTION IN LATIN (ROMAN LETTERS) AND CELTIC
(OGAM SIGNS) IROM A CHURCH AT TRALLONG IN IRELAND
The Celtic reads from right to left
but probably not older than the beginning of the Roman occupation of
Britain. This Ogam writing, as it is called, has an alphabet of twenty
letters Each letter is a fixed number of from one to five strokes, with a
definite orientation to a base line which was usually the edge of the
stone. Five letters (b, d,t, k, q) are represented by one to five vertical
strokes above the line, five (b, 1, v, s, n) by one to five vertical strokes
below the hue, five (a, o, u, e, i) by vertical strokes across the line, and
five (m, g, ng, z, r) by one to five strokes across the line sloping upward
from left to right One surmise is that the number of strokes has some-
thing to do with the order of the letters in the Roman alphabet, as the
people who made this script received them. What led Celtic peoples to
devise this system we do not know. It is clear that the Ogam signs are
not degenerate representatives of Greek or Roman symbols, as are the
Runic letters. Ogam script is a sort of code substitute for the Latin
alphabet analogous to the Morse code used in telegraphy. Like the
latter, it was probably adopted because it was most suitable for the
instruments and for the materials available.
The meaning of such inscriptions long remained a mystery like
that of others in dead languages still undeciphered Among the latter