Basic Semantic Classification of Proto-Elamite Signary
Basically, proto-Elamite signs can be divided into five groups according to their place and function in the sentence. Sentence is used here to denote each self-contained unit in a proto-Elamite text; the header, an entry, the subscript, or the total (see also Englund 2004, 105 figure 5.3a).
The five groups are:
- signs denoting an “owner” or a “household”, understood in the broadest of terms, as an individual, a temple or family household, a clan, or any other comparable socio-economic unit;
- signs used to designate a person according to his or her social status, gender, age or similar categories;
- signs standing for counted objects, including humans and animals;
- numerical signs; and
- signs used in the later phases of the writing system to write one of the two first types by combining two or more signs in a complex way.
Note that there exists some overlapping between the signs of groups 1, 2, and 3. The high number of singletons (non-repeated signs) in proto-Elamite is in good accordance with the characteristics of proto-writing as described by Damerow 1999. As was also shown for the so-called Indus Script the number of singletons will increase with each new text publication (Farmer, Sproat and Witzel 2004, 36). It remains to be studied whether the number of singletons in proto-Elamite decreased over time, and if proto-Elamite like proto-cuneiform, underwent some form of standardization during the late phase of its use (a reevaluation of the results reached in Dahl 2002 may be needed).