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Indus inscriptions do we find convincing evidence of the random-looking types of sign repetition expected in contemporary phonetic or semi-phonetic scripts” (p. 29–30; cf. also p. 48).

None of these arguments is conclusive, and can be easily contro- verted. The Chinese writing system has a very large number of signs that are rarely used in newspapers. All ancient scripts, but especially the logo-syllabic ones, had their rare signs. The repetition argument needs a longer discussion.

Sign Repetitions within Single Inscriptions Although Farmer et al. in passing refer to logo-syllabic writing systems of the Mesopotamian type and their functioning, their argumentation implies that in order to represent a language-based script the Indus signs should largely be phoneticized in the manner of the Egyptian cartouches. However, in early logo-syllabic scripts one sign often stands for a complete word. Even a seal with a single sign can express its owner, and there is mostly little reason for sign repetition in short seal texts written in an early logo-syllabic script of the Sumerian type.

Farmer et al. themselves admit that “some Indus signs do repeat in single inscriptions, sometimes including many repetitions in a row” (p. 31). However, they do not accept the evidence of such duplications: “What- ever the origins of these different types of duplications,12) all that is critical for our purposes is to note again the lack of any suggestions in them of the random-looking repetitions typical even of monumental scripts like Luwian or Egyptian hieroglyphs” (p. 36).

Yet sign repetition within single inscriptions does occur, also repeti- tion of the type so vociferously missed by Farmer et al. The sequence of

two signs and a third sign are repeated in a ten-sign text in M-682. A ______________________________

12) I agree with Farmer et al. that some of these duplications imply quantification (cf. Parpola 1994: 81). The duplication of some other signs is surmised to “emphasize their magical or political power.” Farmer et al. do not mention that such sign reduplications can reflect linguistic reduplications — often emphatic as in Dravidian (and other Indian languages) in onomatopoeic words, or grammatical, as in Sumerian nominal plurals. See also the interpretation of the ‘eye’ + ‘eye’ sequence in the final section of this paper.


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