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The rebus principle is one of the several principal types of pictographs that laid the foundation for the development of modern syllabaries. The rebus principle turns the sound into a symbol which then becomes part of more complex linguistic structures (Ong 86). At the level of rebus writing, “the symbol represents primarily a sound, and a rebus is a kind of phonogram” (Ong 86). As a result, the rebus principle shaped the basis for the creation of modern alphabetic systems by enabling individuals and societies to use pictures/symbols that signified particular sounds. A combination of those sounds would be used by those societies to describe complex notions. For example, the English word Milwaukee can be written down as a combination of the mill, walk, and key symbols (mill-walk-key) (Ong 86). This is one of the easiest examples of how the rebus principle works. Apparently, the rebus principle drove the subsequent systematization of sounds and their common representation in written languages. With the help of the rebus principle a symbol denoting a particular concept could also be used in homonyms (WALS). The rebus principle facilitated the development and use of symbols denoting abstract notions, and gradually transformed into systemic and recognizable phonetic signs (WALS). The rebus principle was extremely common in the earliest Chinese writing, and today the Chinese and Japanese languages continue to rely on hybrid phonetic and syllabic structures. Simply stated, the symbols and pictograms used to denote complex notions gradually became a common pattern of representing those notions in writing. With time, the symbols and pictograms turned into phonetic signs to be used systematically in a particular writing language. The importance of the rebus principle for intercultural communications and understanding should not be disregarded. Better understanding across languages and language systems is one of the major benefits of the rebus system. For example, persons speaking different dialects and being unable to understand each other can use the rebus principle to denote complex meanings through sounds (Ong 87). The rebus principle is of particular importance for the Asian languages, especially Chinese, since the Chinese characters are represented by exquisitely stylized pictures (Ong 87). Better understanding among different language groups can also drive the development of new symbolic systems: by using the rebus principle to understand each other; different language carriers can borrow the most convenient symbols and characters from a different language or dialect. Calling the alphabet “alphabet”: far-reaching linguistic implications The word “alphabet” signifies the starting point in the development of the basic and advanced language skills. Actually, every language is believed to start with an alphabet. In reality, however, the presence of an alphabet is the sign of language development and advancement. It is the result of numerous transformations and an important feature of contemporary language systems. Even the term “alphabet” has far-reaching implications for understanding its essence. By calling the alphabet “alphabet” (or alpha-beta), it is automatically implied that the alphabet reduces sounds to spatial equivalents and more analytic, manageable units (Ong 90). As a result, instead of having a ...Show more


[Author’s Name] [Class] 20 February 2012 Historical Communications The importance of the rebus principle in the development of alphabetical writing Rebuses are extremely common in modern language. More often than not, rebus writing is considered as one of the most interesting forms of linguistic entertainments, a matter of training individual language and intellect…
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Historical Communications
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