Article published in:Writing Systems and Linguistic Structure
Edited by Sang-Oak Lee
[Written Language & Literacy 12:2] 2009
► pp. 258–275
The emblematic script of the Aztec codices as a particular semiotic type of writing system
This paper addresses the use of emblems in the representation of language units in writing systems. The emblematic principle works in the early stages of writing as a transition to morphosyllabic writing; the Aztec manuscripts show the most typical examples of this. Phono-emblems function as subtitles or inscriptions to the pictorial compositions of common content. Language structure should be noted as one of the factors constraining the development of the Aztec script. It may be the polysynthesism of the structure of the Nahuatl language, which allows long series of syllables within an incorporative complex. Emblems are restricted to a certain number of positions, so they may not have been able to maintain the strict order of a morpheme row, as needed for predicative phrase; only name phrases with more transparent/predictable structure could be written phonetically. In modern writing, the emblematic principle is used along with the linearity principle: while the latter unrolls the text in the consequent order, the former represents hierarchic information as an integral graphic composition.
Published online: 15 December 2009