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alphabet was created c. 1600 BCE. The syllabic and alphabetic systems came into being as simplifications of the logo-syllabic scripts used in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Thus all three criteria agree in suggesting that the Indus script belongs to the logo-syllabic type. The prospects and methods of deci- phering such a script without translations differ in some essential respects from those of syllabic and alphabetic scripts. The syllabaries and alphabets form closed systems that cover the entire phonology of the language, and can be decoded as a systemic whole.

In logo-syllabic scripts, there are many more signs and variables to take into account, and the phonetic bond between the signs is weaker. There is no chance of building phonetic grids of the kind invented and realized in the decipherment of the Linear B. A complete phonetic decipherment of the Indus script is not possible with presently available materials. We can only hope for a partial phonetic decipherment cover- ing individual signs. But to reach even this limited goal we need a valid method and good starting points.

The Rebus Principle and Its Implications If it can be recognized from its outward shape what a pictographic sign represents,34) this gives its “pictorial meaning.” Contextual clues may suggest what a particular sign in a particular context approximately meant; this “intended meaning” may or may not have been the same as the pictorial meaning. If the pictorial and intended meanings of a particular sign can both be determined, and they turn out to be identi- cal, this strengthens the assumed shared meaning, but yields no pho- netic reading. But if the two meanings differ, they may be connected by homophony. Logo-syllabic scripts used rebus puns, which are lan- guage-specific and can thus identify the Indus language.


34) As noted above, comparison of similar-looking signs of other ancients scripts. and non-linguistic symbol systems! — is very useful for determining the pictorial (iconic) meaning of the Indus signs.


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