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The symbols used in semanto-phonetic writing systems often represent both sound and meaning. As a result, such scripts generally include a large number of symbols: anything from several hundred to tens of thousands. In fact there is no theoretical upper limit to the number of symbols in some scripts, such as Chinese. These scripts could also be called logophonetic, morphophonemic, logographic or logosyllabic.
Pictograms or pictographs resemble the things they represent. Logograms are symbols that represent parts of words or whole words. The image shows examples of pictograms from the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic and Chinese scripts.
The majority of characters in the Chinese script are semanto-phonetic compounds: they include a semantic element, which represents or hints at their meaning, and a phonetic element, which shows or hints at their pronunciation. Below are a few such compound characters which all share a semantic element meaning 'horse'.
The writing systems listed below have yet to be deciphered or have only been partially deciphered.
Vinča / Old European
A collection of symbols found on many of the artefacts dating from between 6,000 to 4,500 BC excavated from sites in south-east Europe, in particular from Vinča near Belgrade. There is no agreement on whether these symbols are a writing system.
A collection of symbols used in the Indus valley of India between about 3,500 and 2,000 BC. Some believe that these symbols are non-linguistic, while others argue that they represent a Dravidian language.