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LocationWest Asia > Anatolia
Time1400 BCE to 700 BCE

Literacy appeared during the Bronze Age in Anatolia (which corresponds to modern-day Turkey) in two very different ways. On one hand, the Cuneiform writing system of Mesopotamia was adopted to write the Hittite language. On the other hand, an indigenous writing system was invented to write the ancient Luwian language.

This script was originally mislabeled as Hieroglyphic Hittite, because it was discovered in the archives of the Hittitle capital of Hattusa (modern Boğazköy), but its decipherment eventually led to the conclusion that the language recorded was not Hittite, but a related language called Luwian. Hittite and Luwian both belonged to Anatolian subgroup of the Indo-European language family. According to Hittite sources, the Luwians were their neighbors, and they formed a kingdom called Arzawa in western and southern Anatolia where Luwian hieroglyphs likely originated. The Hittites adopted both the Luwian language and script for their own use. >[?

Hieroglyphic Luwian was used in the Hittite Empire between 1400 and 1200 BCE in addition to their cuneiform script. After the fall of the Empire, no evidence of Luwian existed for two hundred years. Then, at around 1000 BCE, new "Neo-Hittite" city-states appeared in Southern Anatolia and Northern Syria, and they left many Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions between 1000 and 700 BCE as the rulers of these cities were in fact ethnic Luwians but were related by blood to the Hittite aristocracy. Ultimately, the Assyrian Empire destroyed these city states and the Hieroglyphic Luwian tradition came to an end. However, the Luwian language endured, and possibly evolved into Lycian (although it is also possible that Hittite gave rise to Lycian).

The signs of Hieroglyphic Luwian can be divided into two categories: syllabograms which represent sounds, and logograms which represent words and morphemes. Some of the syllabograms are illustrated in the following chart:

Note that /z/ most likely stands for the affricate sound [ts].

As you can see, the script has a lot of homophonous signs, that is, signs with different appearance but sharing the same phonetic value. To distinguish homophonous signs while transcribing Hieroglyphic Luwian, diacritical marks and numeric subscripts are used. Hence, the acute and grave accents do not represent stress of any kind, but instead represent the second and third homophonous signs for a particular syllable. Subscripts start at 4 and represent the fourth and subsequent homophonous signs.

For example, sa, , , sa4, sa5 and sa6 all represent the same sound.

In addition to syllabograms, the Luwian script also used a set of logograms to represent words rather than sounds. These logograms are highly pictographic in that they resemble the words they represent.

One peculiarity of the system that scholars invented to represent Luwian logograms is to transcribe a logogram using the Latin word of the same meaning. Therefore, for example, the word /wawis/, which means "cow" in Luwian, is transcribed in scientific papers as BOS, the Latin word meaning "cow". Three logograms are transcribed with their actual Luwian phonetic value because they have no Latin correspondence.

The following is the list of Luwian logograms. Red text is the Latin transliteration, blue text is English meaning.

Very often a logogram is written with a phonetic complement, which is one or more syllabograms following the logogram elucidating the pronuncation of the logogram. Also, Luwian is an inflected language like Latin and Sanskrit, where different endings attached to the "stem" or basic form of a word modifies the meaning of the "stem". Hence, the logogram represents the "stem", and phonetic complements are used to spell out inflectional endings.

Some examples of phonetic complementation:

But it is also perfectly possible to spell these same words without logograms but instead completely with syllabograms:

The previous examples also illustrate a few spelling rules. As a syllabary, Luwian has no single-consonant signs to write consonants at the end of words or syllables. To write a single consonant, ancient Luwian scribes would use a syllabogram with the proper consonant, and by convention the vowel of the syllabogram is not "read". In transcription, parentheses are placed around the vowel to indicate that it is silent. In general, consonants not immediately preceding a vowel is written using syllabograms with muted vowels. This applies even for long sequences of consonants, such as istris above. The one exception is the consonant /n/, which is not written at all, such as the word "boundaries" which is spelled i-r(a/i)-hi-zi which should correspond to irhitsi but in reality is pronounced as in irhintsi.

Luwian was also written in a cuneiform script, and sometimes in side-by-side inscriptions with its close relative, Related Links

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