And speaking of U signs… Reply

The last post reminded me of another interesting museum find I came across several years ago, this time on a vase in the Museo Juan Antonio Valdés in Uaxactun, Petén, Guatemala. (I’m sure others have noticed this as well.)

u-u-ki-bi.jpg

As seen in the photo, the vase bears a Dedicatory Formula (PSS) with the expected term for “his/her drinking vessel,” a possessed form of the instrumental noun uk’ib. The spelling, however, is unique. I was interested to see that instead of the initial yu- found in standard forms, we see two sequential u signs (U-u-k’i-bi). Scribes typically represented the surface phonetics in the possessed form (u)y-uk’ib through the spelling yu-k’i-bi, so it’s remarkable that the scribe here has chosen to emphasize the underlying morphemic structure with u- before uk’ib, ignoring the transitional -y-.

The choice of the two back-to-back variants is interesting. The initial “bracket” U- is the far older sign, used far and wide to represent the u- pronoun. Its use here, in contrast to the second, more “innovative” u, may reflect the scribe’s sense of this history and convention.

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