Determinative

Determinative, Symbol in a logogram indicating meaning.

Determinative image

This article is about the kind of written symbol. For the kind of word, see Determiner. Symbol in a logogram indicating meaning

A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in logographic scripts which helps to disambiguate interpretation. They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, though they may derive historically from glyphs for real words, and functionally they resemble classifiers in East Asian and sign languages. For example, Egyptian hieroglyphic determinatives include symbols for divinities, people, parts of the body, animals, plants, and books/abstract ideas, which helped in reading, but none of which were pronounced.

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Cuneiform

Further information: Sumerogram, Hittite cuneiform §:Determiners, and cuneiform transliteration

In cuneiform texts of Sumerian, Akkadian and Hittite languages, many nouns are preceded or followed by a Sumerian word acting as a determinative; this specifies that the associated word belongs to a particular semantic group. These determinatives were not pronounced. In transliterations of Sumerian, the determinatives are written in superscript in lower case. Whether a given sign is a mere determinative (not pronounced) or a Sumerogram (a logographic spelling of a word intended to be pronounced) cannot always be determined unambiguously since their use is not always consistent.

Examples are:

  • 𒁹(1 or m) for male personal names
  • 𒊩(f) for female personal name
  • 𒄑 (GIŠ) for trees and all things made of wood
  • 𒆳 (KUR) for countries
  • 𒌷 (URU) for cities (but also often succeeding KI)
  • 𒇽 () for people and professions
  • 𒇽𒈨𒌍(.MEŠ) for ethnicities or multiple people
  • 𒀭(DINGIR) or D for gods and other divinities
  • 𒂍(É) for buildings and temples
  • 𒀯(MUL) for stars and constellations
  • 𒀀𒇉 (...read more
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