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Define the terms Hieroglyphics and Cuneiform with their main features.

Answer :

Hieroglyphics and cuneiform are languages. They are written languages. These languages had an important social function and they cultivated feelings of group identity and harmony. The culture, traditions and shared values are conveyed and preserved through these languages.


Hieroglyph is a Greek word which means "sacred writing". It was a character of the ancient Egyptian writing system. It is a logographic writing system. The Egyptians used the language for a period of 4000 years. Altogether there are over 700 different hieroglyphs.

Origin and development

1) The hieroglyphic script originated before 3100 B.C.

2) It was at the very onset of pharaonic civilization.

3) It lasted for nearly 4000 years.

4) The last hieroglyphic inscription in Egypt was written in the 5th century A.D

5) For almost 1500 years after that, the language was incapable to be read.


1) Hieroglyphs were written on papyrus,

2) The language was carved in stone on tomb and temple walls,

3) It was used to beautify many objects of cultic and daily life use.

Language range

1) some of the letters represent sounds or syllables;

2) Others serve as determinatives to explain the meaning of a word.

Language scope

1) Its discovery proved to be a crucial link in unlocking the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphs

2) In 1822, Jean-François Champollion made re-translation of the hieroglyphic signs

3) It allowed the modern study of Egyptian language to begin.


1) For keeping records

2) For documenting buildings and actives

3) For recording events and stories

Types and style

1) Hieroglyphic

Used in religious writing

2) Hieratic

Used in paintings and manuscripts

3) Demotic

Used in everyday type of writing


1) Language has a column-like structure

2) There were symbols also.


Cuneiform is the Latin word, meaning ‘wedge’. It is the mode of writing using a wedge-shaped style.

Origin and development

1) Cuneiform is a system of writing first developed by the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia

2) The period is from c. 3500-3000 BCE.

3) It is regarded as the most significant among the many cultural contributions of the Sumerians

4) It is the greatest among those of the Sumerian city of Uruk

5) The language advanced in the writing of cuneiform c. 3200 BCE.


1) Make impressions on a clay surface

2) It is also written on stone and stony surfaces

3) it is also seen in metal and wax

4) It represented details of trade goods and domestic animals on clay tablets.

Language range

1) The language is semanto-phonetic

2) The symbols consist of phonograms,

3) It represents spoken syllables,

4) It indicates the category to which a word belonged to and logograms which represent words.

Language scope

1) This language had about 1,000 older texts and 400 later texts

2) Many of the symbols had numerous pronunciations.


1) To represent trade goods

2) To mark livestock (on clay tablets).

Types and style

1) It developed from the pictographs and other symbols

2) The early texts were written vertically from top to bottom,

3) By 3,000 BC the direction changed to left to right in horizontal rows.

4) The signs were rotated 90° anticlockwise and made mainly by wedges.


1) It is seen as wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets

2) It is written by means of a blunt reed (slender-leaved plant of the grass family) for a stylus.

Sumerian is not linked to any other known language so is classified as an isolated language. Sumerian cuneiform is the earliest known writing system.

Language is inherent to the expression of culture. Both these languages- hieroglyphic and cuneiform had the intrinsic records of the culture and custom of their period.

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