The History of Writing

There is no need to say how important the invention of writing has been in the history of humankind. It is impossible even to imagine what course the development of civilization might have taken if, at a certain stage of its development, people had not learned to fix with certain symbols the information they needed and to transmit and store it in this way. Obviously, human society as it exists today simply could not have emerged.

Nowadays, writing takes a huge part in our lives, especially for those in college. Students spend a lot of time writing their essays and theses, or you just hire a paper writer to get it made professionally and without any stress. The point is, writing is an engine of progress.

Linguists have no unequivocal answer to the question of where and when human language developed, but scientists know exactly where people first mastered writing. Writing was invented by the Sumerians who lived in Mesopotamia, and the Sumerian language was the first language with a proper script. The Sumerians wrote with sharpened sticks, making wedge-shaped strokes on clay tablets. This is where the name of writing appeared – cuneiform.

Prerequisites for the emergence of writing

The first forms of writing in the form of specially written signs appeared about 4,000 years B.C. But before that, there were different ways of transmitting information: by means of folded branches, arrows, and smoke from campfires. Although there were different ways of transmitting and storing information long before that: by means of folded branches, arrows, smoke from fires, and similar signals. From these primitive notification systems, more complex ways of recording information emerged later. For example, the ancient Incas invented the original system of “recording” with knots. Laces of wool of different colors were used for this purpose. They were tied with different knots and fastened on a stick in such a way that a “letter” was sent to the addressee.

It is thought that the Incas used this “knotty letter” to record their laws, chronicles, and poems. There is an opinion that the Incas used such a “knotty letter” to record their laws, chronicles, and poems.

However, writing in the proper sense of the word appeared only after people invented special graphic signs for fixing and transmitting information. Pictographic writing is considered to be the oldest type of writing. A pictograph is a schematic drawing that directly represents the things, events, and phenomena in question.

Writing became the precondition for the emergence of literature, poetry, and the rise of the whole culture. Now anyone can be a writer, and there are many top essay companies that offer quality writing services.

Pictography as the form of writing

It is believed that pictography was widespread among various peoples in the last stage of the Stone Age. This writing is very visual and therefore does not need to be taught. It is quite suitable for passing small messages and for recording simple stories. But when there was a need to transmit some complex abstract thought or concept, we immediately felt the limitations of pictograms that were not adapted to the recording of things that could not be represented by drawings (for example, such concepts as courage, bravery, sharpness, good sleep, sky blue, etc.). Therefore, already at the early stage of the history of writing, pictograms began to include special conventional signs denoting certain concepts (for example, the sign of crossed hands symbolized exchange). Such signs are called ideograms.

Ideographic writing

Ideographic writing emerged from pictographic writing, and one can quite clearly imagine how it happened: each pictographic sign of a pictogram began to become more and more isolated from the others and associated with a certain word or concept, denoting it. Gradually, this process developed to such an extent that the primitive pictograms lost their former clarity, but gained clarity and certainty. This process took a long time, perhaps several millennia. Hieroglyphic writing was the highest form of ideograms. It first appeared in Ancient Egypt.

Later hieroglyphic writing was widely spread in Far East – China, Japan, and Korea. Ideograms could express any idea, even the most complicated and abstract one. The meaning of written texts was totally incomprehensible to those ignorant of the secret of hieroglyphs. Anyone who wanted to learn how to write had to memorize several thousand signs. It really took a few years of constant practice. That is why in ancient times, not many people could write or read.

However, it should be noted that ideography has never existed in its original form. For example, in ancient Egypt, along with signs that denoted entire concepts and words, there were other signs that denoted syllables and even individual sounds. The need for such signs is obvious, as not everything can be expressed in the form of images (first of all, it concerns personal names).

In these cases, the Egyptians transformed the hieroglyphic words into hieroglyphic letters, from which the words to be rendered in writing according to their sound were composed. At first, the importance of phonetic hieroglyphs was auxiliary, but with time their role increased, and in the last centuries of Egyptian writing the importance of phonetic hieroglyphs became predominant. But the Egyptians never switched to purely phonographic handwriting (that is, one in which each sign represents a single sound or letter). This important improvement was made in the writing of other people.

The role of the Phoenician alphabet

People did not immediately learn to divide their speech into simple elements – sounds (phonemes). It is much easier to divide speech into separate syllables. That is why in the 2nd millennium B.C. there were several types of writing in which each sign denoted a separate syllable (this writing is called syllabic writing, its classical examples are Cretan (Minoan) writing and the Mayan writing). Only at the end of the 2d millennium BC ancient Phoenicians invented the alphabet with letters and sounds, which became the model for alphabets of many other nations.

The Phoenician alphabet consisted of 22 consonantal letters, each indicating a separate sound. The invention of this alphabet was a great step forward for mankind. With the help of the new writing, it was easy to write any word without ideograms. It was very easy to learn. The art of writing was no longer the privilege of the enlightened. It became the property of the whole society, or at least most of it. This is one of the reasons the Phoenician alphabet spread quickly around the world. Four-fifths of all the alphabets known today are thought to have evolved from Phoenician.

So out of a variant of the Phoenician script (Punic) the Libyan script evolved. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek letters came directly from Phoenician. In its turn, on the basis of the Aramaic script there appeared the Arabian, Nabatean, Syrian, Persian, and other writing languages. The Greeks introduced the last important improvement into the Phoenician alphabet – they began to designate not only consonants but vowels as well. The Greek alphabet is the basis of most European alphabets: Latin (from which in turn came French, German, English, Italian, Spanish, etc.), Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, and Slavic (Serbian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, etc.) alphabets.

Writing has become a prerequisite for many inventions. Everything we use and see every day has been created through the ability to record and transmit information through scripture. Even the invention of the balloon required a lot of research, experiments, which had to be recorded in writing for future use.

Categorised as Blog