Its entire corpus consists of two dozen texts
February 12, 2018 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Of all the literatures in the world, the smallest and most enigmatic belongs without question to the people of Easter Island. It is written in a script—rongorongo—that no one can decipher. Experts cannot even agree whether it is an alphabet, a syllabary, a mnemonic, or a rebus. Its entire corpus consists of two dozen texts.
posted by Chrysostom (9 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Xoc at 8:32 AM on February 12

I love rongorongo aesthetically and hope they figure out how it maps onto Rapanui at some point (if it in fact does). If you want to take a crack at decipherment yourself, you'll likely need to know the grammar of this most divergent of Polynesian languages, which is fortunately available for free.

(Also I'll have to check but some of the Anatolian languages' corpora might be smaller. Of course, we know how their writing systems work.)
posted by likethemagician at 8:55 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]

That "Previously" contains a glyph in the enigmatic language of inlineimage once spoken on MeFisland. Sadly all of the original inhabitants of that place have died or moved on, and as you can see the texts (or "comments") from that time are very sparse, so we may never know what it represents.
posted by The Bellman at 9:16 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]

Perhaps this "Previously" will work better.
posted by likethemagician at 9:34 AM on February 12

* adds “vulvas and frigate birds” to the file of potential sock puppet names.
posted by acb at 9:38 AM on February 12

in Irina Fedorova’s translation, one text ends: “yam, yam, taro, taro, he cut a tuber of yam, he took a tuber of taro, a tuber, a tuber, he dug up, he cut, he cut, taro, turi sugar-cane.”

If this is accurate, it could be that rongorongo was not a system for writing language but a more limited notation for keeping records/inventories/ledgers of some sort, much like early Mesopotamian scripts.
posted by acb at 9:49 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]

i'm now singing the rongorongo song....

yam! yam!

taro, taro, taro

he cut a tuber of yam!

taro, taro, taro

he took a tuber of yaro!

everyone dances at this point whilst smiling and waving their arms around, holding up tubers and yams that will be sacrificed later
posted by sio42 at 12:40 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]

Rather than a mangled name, it is related to the Polynesian root rongo "to hear" or "news (i.e. what is heard)" (from proto-Austronesian /deŋeʀ/ cf. Tagalog dinggin). Reflexes also include hoʻolono "listen" in Hawaiian and rongorongo "chants" in Mangareva.
posted by likethemagician at 12:46 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]

posted by ardgedee at 2:25 PM on February 12

« Older Not So Fast, Not Cheap, Not Easy   |   wheee!What Was Your Favorite Moment Of This Week’s... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments