In written language, a logogram or logograph is a written character that represents a word or phrase. Chinese characters (including Japanese kanji) are logograms; some Egyptian hieroglyphs ANRSSAWS and some graphemes in cuneiform script are also logograms. The use of logograms in writing is called logography, and a writing system that is based on logograms is called a logographic system.
In alphabets and syllabaries, individual written characters represent sounds only, rather than entire concepts. These characters are called phonograms in linguistics. Unlike logograms, phonograms do not have word or phrase meanings singularly until the phonograms are combined with additional phonograms thus creating words and phrases that have meaning. Writing language in this way, is called phonetic writing as well as orthographical writing.
Logographic systems include the earliest writing systems; the first historical civilizations of the Near East, Africa, China, and Central America used some form of logographic writing.
A purely logographic script would be impractical for most languages, and none is known, apart from one devised for the artificial language Toki Pona, which is a purposely limited language with only 120 morphemes. All logographic scripts ever used for natural languages rely on the rebus principle to extend a relatively limited set of logograms: A subset of characters is used for their phonetic values, either consonantal or syllabic. The term logosyllabary is used to emphasize the partially phonetic nature of these scripts when the phonetic domain is the syllable. In both Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and in Chinese, there has been the additional development of fusing such phonetic elements with determinatives; such "radical and phonetic" characters make up the bulk of the script, and both languages relegated simple rebuses to the spelling of foreign loan words and words from non-standard dialects.
Logographic writing systems include:
None of these systems is purely logographic. This can be illustrated with Chinese. Not all Chinese characters represent morphemes: some morphemes are composed of more than one character. For example, the Chinese word for spider, 蜘蛛 zhīzhū, was created by fusing the rebus 知朱 zhīzhū (literally 'know cinnabar') with the "bug" determinative 虫. Neither *蜘 zhī nor *蛛 zhū can be used separately (except to stand in for 蜘蛛 in poetry). This is incorrect because the second character could be used separately. In Archaic Chinese, one can find the reverse: a single character representing more than one morpheme. An example is Archaic Chinese 王 hjwangs, a combination of a morpheme hjwang meaning king (coincidentally also written 王) and a suffix pronounced /s/. (The suffix is preserved in the modern falling tone.) In modern Mandarin, bimorphemic syllables are always written with two characters, for example 花儿 huār 'flower [diminutive]'.
A peculiar system of logograms developed within the Pahlavi scripts (developed from the Aramaic abjad) used to write Middle Persian during much of the Sassanid period; the logograms were composed of letters that spelled out the word in Aramaic but were pronounced as in Persian (for instance, the combination m-l-k would be pronounced "shah"). These logograms, called hozwārishn (a form of heterograms), were dispensed with altogether after the Arab conquest of Persia and the adoption of a variant of the Arabic alphabet.
Logograms are used in modern shorthand to represent common words. In addition, the numerals and mathematical symbols are logograms – 1 'one', 2 'two', + 'plus', = 'equals', and so on. In English, the ampersand & is used for 'and' and (as in many languages) for Latin et (as in &c for et cetera), % for 'percent' ('per cent'), # for 'number' (or 'pound', among other meanings), § for 'section', $ for 'dollar', € for 'euro', £ for 'pound', ° for 'degree', @ for 'at', and so on.
All historical logographic systems include a phonetic dimension, as it is impractical to have a separate basic character for every word or morpheme in a language.[a] In some cases, such as cuneiform as it was used for Akkadian, the vast majority of glyphs are used for their sound values rather than logographically. Many logographic systems also have a semantic/ideographic component, called "determinatives" in the case of Egyptian and "radicals" in the case of Chinese.[b]
Typical Egyptian usage was to augment a logogram, which may potentially represent several words with different pronunciations, with a determinate to narrow down the meaning, and a phonetic component to specify the pronunciation. In the case of Chinese, the vast majority of characters are a fixed combination of a radical that indicates its nominal category, plus a phonetic to give an idea of the pronunciation. The Mayan system used logograms with phonetic complements like the Egyptian, while lacking ideographic components.
Chinese scholars have traditionally classified the Chinese characters (hànzì) into six types by etymology.
The first two types are "single-body", meaning that the character was created independently of other characters. "Single-body" pictograms and ideograms make up only a small proportion of Chinese logograms. More productive for the Chinese script were the two "compound" methods, i.e. the character was created from assembling different characters. Despite being called "compounds", these logograms are still single characters, and are written to take up the same amount of space as any other logogram. The final two types are methods in the usage of characters rather than the formation of characters themselves.
The most productive method of Chinese writing, the radical-phonetic, was made possible by ignoring certain distinctions in the phonetic system of syllables. In Old Chinese, post-final ending consonants /s/ and /ʔ/ were typically ignored; these developed into tones in Middle Chinese, which were likewise ignored when new characters were created. Also ignored were differences in aspiration (between aspirated vs. unaspirated obstruents, and voiced vs. unvoiced sonorants); the Old Chinese difference between type-A and type-B syllables (often described as presence vs. absence of palatalization or pharyngealization); and sometimes, voicing of initial obstruents and/or the presence of a medial /r/ after the initial consonant. In earlier times, greater phonetic freedom was generally allowed. During Middle Chinese times, newly created characters tended to match pronunciation exactly, other than the tone – often by using as the phonetic component a character that itself is a radical-phonetic compound.
Due to the long period of language evolution, such component "hints" within characters as provided by the radical-phonetic compounds are sometimes useless and may be misleading in modern usage. As an example, based on 每 'each', pronounced měi in Standard Mandarin, are the characters 侮 'to humiliate', 悔 'to regret', and 海 'sea', pronounced respectively wǔ, huǐ, and hǎi in Mandarin. Three of these characters were pronounced very similarly in Old Chinese – /mˤəʔ/ (每), /m̥ˤəʔ/} (悔), and /m̥ˤəʔ/} (海) according to a recent reconstruction by William H. Baxter and Laurent Sagart – but sound changes in the intervening 3,000 years or so (including two different dialectal developments, in the case of the last two characters) have resulted in radically different pronunciations.
Within the context of the Chinese language, Chinese characters (known as hanzi) by and large represent words and morphemes rather than pure ideas; however, the adoption of Chinese characters by the Japanese and Korean languages (where they are known as kanji and hanja, respectively) have resulted in some complications to this picture.
Many Chinese words, composed of Chinese morphemes, were borrowed into Japanese and Korean together with their character representations; in this case, the morphemes and characters were borrowed together. In other cases, however, characters were borrowed to represent native Japanese and Korean morphemes, on the basis of meaning alone. As a result, a single character can end up representing multiple morphemes of similar meaning but different origins across several languages. Because of this, kanji and hanja are sometimes described as morphographic writing systems.
Because much research on language processing has centered on English and other alphabet languages, many theories of language processing have stressed the role of phonology (see for instance WEAVER++) in producing speech. Contrasting logographic languages, where a single character is represented phonetically and ideographically, with phonetic languages has yielded insights into how different languages rely on different processing mechanisms. Studies on the processing of logographic languages have amongst other things looked at neurobiological differences in processing, with one area of particular interest being hemispheric lateralization. Since logographic languages are more closely associated with images than alphabet languages, several researchers have hypothesized that right-side activation should be more prominent in logographic languages. Although some studies have yielded results consistent with this hypothesis there are too many contrasting results to make any final conclusions about the role of hemispheric lateralization in orthographic versus phonetic languages.
Another topic that has been given some attention is differences in processing of homophones. Verdonschot et al. examined differences in the time it took to read a homophone out loud when a picture that was either related or unrelated  to a homophonic character was presented before the character. Both Japanese and Chinese homophones were examined. Whereas word production of alphabetic languages (such as English) has shown a relatively robust immunity to the effect of context stimuli, Verdschot et al. found that Japanese homophones seem particularly sensitive to these types of effects. Specifically, reaction times were shorter when participants were presented with a phonologically related picture before being asked to read a target character out loud. An example of a phonologically related stimulus from the study would be for instance when participants were presented with a picture of an elephant, which is pronounced zou in Japanese, before being presented with the Chinese character 造, which is also read zou. No effect of phonologically related context pictures were found for the reaction times for reading Chinese words. A comparison of the logographic languages Japanese and Chinese is interesting because whereas the Japanese language consists of more than 60% homographic heterophones (characters that can be read two or more different ways), most Chinese characters only have one reading. Because both languages are logographic, the difference in latency in reading aloud Japanese and Chinese due to context effects cannot be ascribed to the logographic nature of the languages. Instead, the authors hypothesize that the difference in latency times is due to additional processing costs in Japanese, where the reader cannot rely solely on a direct orthography-to-phonology route, but information on a lexical-syntactical level must also be accessed in order to choose the correct pronunciation. This hypothesis is corroborated by studies finding that Japanese Alzheimer's disease patients whose comprehension of characters had deteriorated still could read the words out loud with no particular difficulty.
Studies contrasting the processing of English and Chinese homophones in lexical decision tasks have found an advantage for homophone processing in Chinese, and a disadvantage for processing homophones in English. The processing disadvantage in English is usually described in terms of the relative lack of homophones in the English language. When a homophonic word is encountered, the phonological representation of that word is first activated. However, since this is an ambiguous stimulus, a matching at the orthographic/lexical ("mental dictionary") level is necessary before the stimulus can be disambiguated, and the correct pronunciation can be chosen. In contrast, in a language (such as Chinese) where many characters with the same reading exists, it is hypothesized that the person reading the character will be more familiar with homophones, and that this familiarity will aid the processing of the character, and the subsequent selection of the correct pronunciation, leading to shorter reaction times when attending to the stimulus. In an attempt to better understand homophony effects on processing, Hino et al. conducted a series of experiments using Japanese as their target language. While controlling for familiarity, they found a processing advantage for homophones over non-homophones in Japanese, similar to what has previously been found in Chinese. The researchers also tested whether orthographically similar homophones would yield a disadvantage in processing, as has been the case with English homophones, but found no evidence for this. It is evident that there is a difference in how homophones are processed in logographic and alphabetic languages, but whether the advantage for processing of homophones in the logographic languages Japanese and Chinese is due to the logographic nature of the scripts, or if it merely reflects an advantage for languages with more homophones regardless of script nature, remains to be seen.
The main difference between logograms and other writing systems is that the graphemes are not linked directly to their pronunciation. An advantage of this separation is that understanding of the pronunciation or language of the writer is unnecessary, e.g. 1 is understood regardless of whether it be called one, ichi or wāḥid by its reader. Likewise, people speaking different varieties of Chinese may not understand each other in speaking, but may do so to a significant extent in writing even if they do not write in standard Chinese. Therefore, in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan prior to modern times, communication by writing (筆談) was the norm of East Asian international trade and diplomacy using Classical chinese.
This separation, however, also has the great disadvantage of requiring the memorization of the logograms when learning to read and write, separately from the pronunciation. Though not from an inherent feature of logograms but due to its unique history of development, Japanese has the added complication that almost every logogram has more than one pronunciation. Conversely, a phonetic character set is written precisely as it is spoken, but with the disadvantage that slight pronunciation differences introduce ambiguities. Many alphabetic systems such as those of Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and Finnish make the practical compromise of standardizing how words are written while maintaining a nearly one-to-one relation between characters and sounds. Both English and French orthography are more complicated than that; character combinations are often pronounced in multiple ways, usually depending on their history. Hangul, the Korean language's writing system, is an example of an alphabetic script that was designed to replace the logogrammic hanja in order to increase literacy. The latter is now rarely used in Korea, but retains some currency in South Korea, sometimes in combination with hangul.
According to government-commissioned research, the most commonly used 3,500 characters listed in the People's Republic of China's "Chart of Common Characters of Modern Chinese" (现代汉语常用字表, Xiàndài Hànyǔ Chángyòngzì Biǎo) cover 99.48% of a two-million-word sample. As for the case of traditional Chinese characters, 4,808 characters are listed in the "Chart of Standard Forms of Common National Characters" (常用國字標準字體表) by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China, while 4,759 in the "Soengjung Zi Zijing Biu" (常用字字形表) by the Education and Manpower Bureau of Hong Kong, both of which are intended to be taught during elementary and junior secondary education. Education after elementary school includes not as many new characters as new words, which are mostly combinations of two or more already learned characters.
Inputting complex characters can be cumbersome on electronic devices due to a practical limitation in the number of input keys. There exist various input methods for entering logograms, either by breaking them up into their constituent parts such as with the Cangjie and Wubi methods of typing Chinese, or using phonetic systems such as Bopomofo or Pinyin where the word is entered as pronounced and then selected from a list of logograms matching it. While the former method is (linearly) faster, it is more difficult to learn. With the Chinese alphabet system however, the strokes forming the logogram are typed as they are normally written, and the corresponding logogram is then entered.
Also due to the number of glyphs, in programming and computing in general, more memory is needed to store each grapheme, as the character set is larger. As a comparison, ISO 8859 requires only one byte for each grapheme, while the Basic Multilingual Plane encoded in UTF-8 requires up to three bytes. On the other hand, English words, for example, average five characters and a space per word and thus need six bytes for every word. Since many logograms contain more than one grapheme, it is not clear which is more memory-efficient. Variable-width encodings allow a unified character encoding standard such as Unicode to use only the bytes necessary to represent a character, reducing the overhead that results merging large character sets with smaller ones.
Ajaw or Ahau ('Lord') is a pre-Columbian Maya political title attested from epigraphic inscriptions. It is also the name of the 20th day of the tzolkʼin, the Maya divinatory calendar, on which a king's kʼatun-ending rituals would fall.Ampersand
The ampersand is the logogram &, representing the conjunction "and". It originated as a ligature of the letters et—Latin for "and".Anatolian hieroglyphs
Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous logographic script native to central Anatolia, consisting of some 500 signs. They were once commonly known as Hittite hieroglyphs, but the language they encode proved to be Luwian, not Hittite, and the term Luwian hieroglyphs is used in English publications. They are typologically similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs, but do not derive graphically from that script, and they are not known to have played the sacred role of hieroglyphs in Egypt. There is no demonstrable connection to Hittite cuneiform.Avant-Garde (magazine)
Avant Garde was a magazine notable for graphic and logogram design by Herb Lubalin. The magazine had 14 issues and was published from January 1968 to July 1971. The magazine was based in New York City.The editor was Ralph Ginzburg.
Avant Garde 3, published in May 1968, lists in the masthead:
Peter Schjeldahl as Features Editor, Leslie M. Pockell as Articles Editor, Lawrence Witchel, Executive Editor, L. Ransom Burton, Copy Editor, Rosemary Latimore, Research Director, Art Whitman, Production Director, Miriam Fier, Business Director, Paul Finegold handled circulation, Advertising was managed by Richard Stoneman, and Shoshanna Ginzburg was Promotion Director.
From January 1968 through July 1971, Ginzburg published Avant Garde. While it could not be termed obscene, it was filled with creative imagery often caustically critical of American society and government, sexual themes, and (for the time) crude language. One cover featured a naked pregnant woman; another had a parody of Willard's famous patriotic painting, "The Spirit of '76", with a woman and a black man.
Avant Garde had a modest circulation but was extremely popular in certain circles, including New York's advertising and editorial art directors. Herbert F. Lubalin (1918–1981), a post-modern design guru, was Ginzburg's collaborator on his four best-known magazines, including Avant Garde, which gave birth to a well-known typeface of the same name. It was originally intended primarily for use in logos: the first version consisted solely of 26 capital letters. It was inspired by Ginzburg and his wife, designed by Lubalin, and realized by Lubalin's assistants and Tom Carnase, one of Lubalin's partners. It is characterized by geometrically perfect round strokes; short, straight lines; and an extremely large number of kerned ligatures. The International Typeface Corporation (ITC) (of which Lubalin was a founder) released a full version in 1970.Dingir
Dingir (𒀭, usually transliterated DIĜIR, Sumerian pronunciation: [tiŋiɾ]) is a Sumerian word for "god." Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for religious names and related concepts, in which case it is not pronounced and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript "D" as in e.g. DInanna.
The cuneiform sign by itself was originally an ideogram for the Sumerian word an ("sky" or "heaven"); its use was then extended to a logogram for the word diĝir ("god" or goddess) and the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon An, and a phonogram for the syllable /an/. Akkadian took over all these uses and added to them a logographic reading for the native ilum and from that a syllabic reading of /il/. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again only an.
The concept of "divinity" in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for "sky", and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of "divinity" is thus with "bright" or "shining" hierophanies in the sky.Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters.Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing, as was the Proto-Siniatic script that later evolved into the Phoenician alphabet. Through the Phoenician alphabet's major child systems, the Greek and Aramaic scripts, the Egyptian hieroglyphic script is ancestral to the majority of scripts in modern use, most prominently the Latin and Cyrillic scripts (through Greek) and the Arabic script and Brahmic family of scripts (through Aramaic).
The use of hieroglyphic writing arose from proto-literate symbol systems in the Early Bronze Age, around the 32nd century BC (Naqada III), with the first decipherable sentence written in the Egyptian language dating to the Second Dynasty (28th century BC). Egyptian hieroglyphs developed into a mature writing system used for monumental inscription in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom period; during this period, the system made use of about 900 distinct signs. The use of this writing system continued through the New Kingdom and Late Period, and on into the Persian and Ptolemaic periods. Late survivals of hieroglyphic use are found well into the Roman period, extending into the 4th century AD.With the final closing of pagan temples in the 5th century, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost. Although attempts were made, the script remained undeciphered throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The decipherment of hieroglyphic writing would only be accomplished in the 1820s by Jean-François Champollion, with the help of the Rosetta Stone.Hieroglyphic Luwian
Hieroglyphic Luwian (luwili) is a variant of the Luwian language, recorded in official and royal seals and a small number of monumental inscriptions. It is written in a hieroglyphic script known as Anatolian hieroglyphs.A decipherment was presented by Emmanuel Laroche in 1960, building on partial decipherments proposed since the 1930s.
Corrections to the readings of certain signs as well as other clarifications were given by David Hawkins, Anna Morpurgo Davies and Günther Neumann in 1973, generally referred to as "the new readings".Kaidā glyphs
Kaidā glyphs (Kaidā ji (カイダー字)) are a set of pictograms once used in the Yaeyama Islands of southwestern Japan. The word kaidā was taken from Yonaguni, and most studies on the pictographs focused on Yonaguni Island. However, there is evidence for their use in Yaeyama's other islands, most notably on Taketomi Island. They were used primarily for tax notices, thus were closely associated with the poll tax imposed on Yaeyama by Ryūkyū on Okinawa Island, which was in turn dominated by Satsuma Domain on Southern Kyushu.KÁ
The cuneiform sign KÁ, for gate is the sumerogram-(logogram) used in the Amarna letters and the Epic of Gilgamesh; as just KÁ it means "gate" or "doorway", Akkadian language, "bābu"; as "Gate-Great", KÁ.GAL for City-Gate, it is from Akkadian "abullu", ("(city) gate"). Both uses are in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the Epic, it is only used as the sumerogram, a total of 19 times, (7 times for 'abullu', city gate). In the Epic, all spellings for city gate use KÁ.GAL; for gate ('bābu') only one spelling uses the alphabetic letters for b-a-b-u; the rest use KÁ along with other added cuneiform signs (KÁ-x-x, or KÁ-x, etc.).Larsa
Larsa (Sumerian logogram: UD.UNUGKI, read Larsamki) was an important city of ancient Sumer, the center of the cult of the sun god Utu. It lies some 25 km southeast of Uruk in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate, near the east bank of the Shatt-en-Nil canal at the site of the modern settlement Tell as-Senkereh or Sankarah.Mojikyo
Mojikyo (文字鏡, Mojikyō) is a set of computer software and fonts for enhanced logogram word-processing. As of October 2002, it collected 126,560/142,228 characters (CD-ROM/WWW version). Among them, 101,936/128,573 characters belong to the extended CJKV family. Many of the characters are considered obsolete and are not included in Unicode.Sa (cuneiform)
The cuneiform sa sign is a less common-use sign of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the 1350 BC Amarna letters, and other cuneiform texts. It also has a sumerogrammic usage for SA in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The structure of the cuneiform sign is similar to, Ir (cuneiform), .
The "sa" sign has the syllabic usage for sa, and a sumerogram usage for SA. Alphabetically "sa" can be used for s ("s" can be interchanged with any "z"); and "sa" can be used for a. In Akkadian, all 4 vowels, a, e, i, u are interchangeable with each other.
SA in the Epic of Gilgamesh is a logogram for Akkadian "Šer'ānu", translated as: "muscle, sinew".Sawndip
Zhuang characters, or Sawndip [θaɯ˨˦ɗip˥], are logograms derived from Han characters and used by the Zhuang people of Guangxi and Yunnan, China to write the Zhuang languages for more than one thousand years. The script is not only used by the Zhuang but also by the closely related Bouyei in Guizhou, China, and Tay in Vietnam and Nung, in Yunnan, China and Vietnam. Sawndip (Sawndip: 𭨡𮄫) is a Zhuang word that means "immature characters". The Zhuang word for Chinese characters used in the Chinese language is sawgun (Sawndip: 𭨡倱; "characters of the Han"); gun is the Zhuang term for the Han Chinese. Even now, in traditional and less formal domains, Sawndip is more often used than alphabetical scripts.Sumerogram
A Sumerogram is the use of a Sumerian cuneiform character or group of characters as an ideogram or logogram rather than a syllabogram in the graphic representation of a language other than Sumerian, such as Akkadian or Hittite.
Sumerograms are normally transliterated in majuscule letters, with dots separating the signs. In the same way, a written Akkadian word that is used ideographically to represent a language other than Akkadian (such as Hittite) is known as an Akkadogram.
This type of logograms characterized, to a greater or lesser extent, every adaptation of the original Mesopotamian cuneiform system to a language other than Sumerian. The frequency and intensity of their use varied depending on period, style, and genre.
The name of the cuneiform sign written in majuscule letters is a modern Assyriological convention. Most signs have a number of possible Sumerian sound values. The readers of Assyrian or Hittite texts using these Sumerograms would not necessarily have been aware of the Sumerian language, the Sumerograms functioning as ideograms or logogram to be substituted in pronunciation by the intended word in the text's language.
For example, the Babylonian name Marduk is written in Sumerograms, as dAMAR.UTU.
Hittite Kurunta is usually written as 𒀭𒆗 dLAMMA, where LAMMA is the Sumerogram for "stag", the Luwian deity Kurunta being associated with this animal.
In the Amarna letters, "Lady of the Lions" is the name of a Babylonian Queen mother, spelled as
NIN.UR.MAH.MEŠ. While the meaning "lady (NIN) of the lions (UR.MAH.MEŠ)" is evident, the intended pronunciation is Assyrian and must be conjectured from external evidence.Te (cuneiform)
The cuneiform te sign is found in both the 14th century BC Amarna letters and the Epic of Gilgamesh; it is also notable in the Hittite language, and for that language, besides its usage as te, it is a sumerogram (logogram or ideogram), and is used as a component in the word for "envoy", (LÚ-ȚE-mu), or LÚ-ṬE-mi, . 'Envoy' is used in the famous Hittite annals, narrating the story of Prince Zannanza who after going to Egypt to become husband (and Pharaoh) to Queen Nefertiti, was intercepted and killed.
The usage of te in the Epic of Gilgamesh, is only for syllabic or alphabetic te, 124 times.The sign also comes in two forms, with two pairs of the left 4-signs, or one above a row of 3-signs, either group tilted, down to the right.Tenevil
Tenevil (Russian: Теневиль) (ca. 1890–1943?) was a Chukchi reindeer herder, living in the tundra near the settlement of Ust-Belaya in Russian province of Chukotka. Around 1927 or 1928 he independently invented a writing system for the Chukchi language. It has never been established with certainty whether the symbols in this writing system were ideograms/pictograms or whether the system was logogram-based. Researchers have noted the abstract character of the symbols, which may be an indirect evidence that this writing system is entirely Tenevil's invention.
Tenevil's writing system was first described by the Russian ethnographer and writer Waldemar Bogoras in 1930. The writing system was never widely known: it was used entirely within Tenevil's family encampment. Apart from Tenevil himself, the writing system was used by his son, with whom he exchanged messages during shifts away at the reindeer pastures. Tenevil wrote his symbols on boards, bones, walrus tusks, and candy wrappers.
This writing system is a unique phenomenon, and has wider significance to the research into the origins of writing traditions in the cultures in the pre-state stage of development. Tenevil's Chukchi writing system is the most northerly of all such systems to be developed by indigenous people with minimal outside influence.
The sources and prototype of the Tenevil writing system are unknown. Taking into consideration the isolation of Chukotka from the regional centres of civilization, it could be considered a localized creative initiative of a lone genius. It is possible the writing system is influenced by the decorations on shamans' drums. The word writing (kelikel) in the Chukchi language has Tungusic parallels.
In 1945 the artist and art historian I. Lavrov visited the upper reaches of the Anadyr River where Tenevil had lived. There he discovered the "Tenevil archive": a box, buried in the snow, containing relics of Tenevil's writing. Tenevil also developed symbols for numerals, using the base 20 counting system of the Chukchi language. About 1000 basic elements of the Tenevil writing system have been identified.
The Chukchi writer Yuri Rytkheu dedicated his 1969 novel A Dream in Polar Fog to Tenevil.Um (cuneiform)
The cuneiform alphabetic um sign, also dup, tup, ṭup, and DUB, the sumerogram-(logogram), for Akkadian language "ṭuppu", (= the clay tablet), is found in both the 14th century BC Amarna letters and the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the Amarna letters as um, it is found as um-ma in the introduction of the letters as "Message (thus)"...(and then the PN (personal name) of the individual sending, or authoring the letter).
In specific texts with dialogue, for example Amarna letter EA 19, Love and Gold, an extensive discussion is made by the king of Babylon about his father, ancestry, friendship between kings, envoys, women (for the harem, or wife), etc., and consequently the dialogue is preceded by um-ma ("quote"), then the dialogue by the messenger, (or the king).Zu (cuneiform)
Cuneiform zu, (also sú, ṣú, and sumerogram ZU (capital letter majuscule)), is an uncommon-use sign in the 1350s BC Amarna letters, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and other cuneiform texts. Alphabetically, it could conceivably be used for letters z, s, ṣ, or u; however in the Amarna letters it is used mostly for personal names or geographical names.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, sumerogram ZU, is used to spell the name of god Ninazu, (a name of god Tammuz, two times, Chapter XII, 28, 47). In the Epic, ZU is also used as a logogram, ZU.AB, for Akkadian language "apsû", English language "abyss"; it is used twice in Chapter VIII, and twice in Chapter XI, the Gilgamesh flood myth.