☆ (theidolhands) wrote in 1word1day,


Saturday & Sunday Word: Rongorongo & Boustrophedon

ron·go·ron·go [SHo͞oˈberē-nəs]:
origin: [1300's ?] from Rapa Nui language = "to recite, to declaim, to chant out.”

You may have thought the giant heads (moai) were the weirdest thing about Easter Island (Isla de Pascua), but there's more! The Rapa Nui natives appear to have had a language, now lost, and probably known by few when in use -- no one has been able to translate Rongorongo.

Baffling archeologists, it sprouted into existence despite a total lack of written languages in the area surrounding Easter Island. Exactly who or when Rongorongo was invented remains a mystery. A few glyphs remarkably resemble another incomprehensible and controversial language: Indus script of ancient India.

Part of the problem is that there are so few samples of the writing left today -- only about two dozen random (though beautiful) bits were ever recovered -- they are also irregularly shaped, weathered, and damaged. The other problem is that the natives used up their resources and were pushed into other cultures to survive, some of whom forbade them to use this language, likely due to it being interwoven with their (pagan) beliefs; a common form of ethnocide in history.

Other scholars propose that Rongorongo is "proto-writing", symbols that convey some type of data or lore, though not linguistic in content -- more akin to a totem pole than a book. Today, the majority of Easter Islanders write in Spanish using the Latin alphabet. Similar languages dubbed "ta'u" & "va‘eva‘e" are considered derivative, invented by elders for the purpose of exporting profitable decorative goods.

Rongorongo is written in a manner referred to as Reverse Boustrophedon. The word boustro·phe·don [baʊstrɵˈfiːdən ="ox turning"] refers to the ancient Greek's manner of writing a line from left to write, followed by a line written right to left (or backwards); repeat. In reverse boustrophedon, the writing is more like a mirror image, one line written normally, the second written like a reflection. In Rongorongo this creates a head to tail/tip effect as the language is primarily figures, plants, and animals.

image source
Tags: b, greek, indigenous people, r, rapa nui, unknown etymology, wordsmith: theidolhands

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