What is the history of writing


The cuneiform script, created in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, ca. It is also ov only writing system which can be traced to its earliest prehistoric origin. This th of the cuneiform script was a system of counting and recording goods with clay tokens. The evolution of writing from tokens to pictography, syllabary and alphabet illustrates the development of information processing to deal with larger amounts of data in ever greater abstraction.

Introduction The three writingg systems that developed independently in the Near East, China and Mesoamerica, shared a remarkable what is the history of writing. Each preserved over millennia features characteristic of their original prototypes. The Mesopotamian cuneiform script can be traced furthest back into prehistory writting an eighth millennium BC counting system using clay tokens of multiple shapes. The development from tokens to script reveals that writing emerged from counting and accounting. Writing was used exclusively for accounting until the third millennium BC, what is the history of writing the Sumerian concern for the afterlife paved the way to literature by using writing for funerary inscriptions.

The evolution from tokens to script also documents a steady progression in abstracting data, from one-to-one correspondence with three-dimensional tangible tokens, to two-dimensional pictures, the invention of abstract numbers and phonetic syllabic signs and finally, in the second millennium BC, the ultimate abstraction of sound and meaning with the representation of phonemes by the letters of the alphabet.

Writing may have been invented independently three times wrihing different parts of the world: In what concerns this last script, it is still obscure how read more and glyphs used by the Olmecs, whose culture flourished click the Gulf of Mexico ca to BC, reappeared in the classical Maya art and writing of AD qhat well as in other Mesoamerican cultures Marcus The earliest Chinese inscriptions, dated to the Shang Dynasty, c.

The highly abstract and standardized signs suggest prior developments, which are presently undocumented. Of these three writing systems, therefore, only the earliest, the Mesopotamian cuneiform script, invented in Sumer, present-day Iraq, c. Its evolution is divided into four phases: After ideography, logography and syllabaries, the alphabet represents a further segmentation of meaning.

Tokens as Precursor of Writing The direct antecedent of the Mesopotamian script was a recording device consisting of clay tokens of multiple ehat Schmandt-Besserat The artifacts, mostly of geometric forms such as cones, spheres, disks, cylinders and ovoids, are recovered in archaeological sites dating — BC Fig. The tokens, used as counters to keep track of goods, were the earliest code—a system of signs for transmitting information.

Each token shape was semantic, referring to a particular unit of merchandise. For example, a cone and a sphere stood respectively for a small and a large measure of grain, and ovoids represented jars of oil. The repertory of some three hundred hiwtory of whxt made it feasible to manipulate and store information on multiple categories of goods Schmandt-Besserat Unlike speech, tokens were restricted to one type of information only, namely, real goods.

Unlike spoken language, the token system made no use of syntax. That is to say, their meaning was independent of their placement order. Therefore, the goods they represented were expressed in multiple languages. The token system showed the number of units of merchandize in one-to-one correspondence, in other words, the number of tokens matched histor number of units counted: Writing as Accounting Device After four millennia, the token system led to writing.

What is the history of writing

The transition from counters to script took place simultaneously in Sumer and Elam, writng western Iran when, around BC, Elam was under Sumerian domination. Wrifing occurred when tokens, probably representing a debt, were stored in wgat until payment. These envelopes made of clay in the shape of a hollow ball had the disadvantage of hiding the tokens held inside. Some accountants, therefore, impressed the tokens on the surface history the envelope before enclosing them inside, so that the shape and number of counters held inside could be verified at all times Fig.

These markings were the first signs of writing. The metamorphosis from three-dimensional artifacts to two-dimensional markings did not affect the semantic principle of the system. The significance of the markings on the outside of the envelopes was identical to that of the tokens held inside. About BC, once the histkry of impressed histkry was understood, clay tablets—solid cushion-shaped clay artifacts bearing the impressions of tokens—replaced the the filled with tokens.

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The impression of a cone and a sphere token, representing measures of grain, resulted respectively in a wedge and a circular marking which wrifing the same meaning as the tokens they signified Fig. They were ideograms—signs representing one concept. The impressed tablets continued to be used exclusively to record quantities of goods received or disbursed.

They still expressed plurality in one-to-one correspondence. Cuyler Young, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Pictographs—signs representing tokens traced with a stylus rather histoty impressed—appeared about BC. These pictographs referring to goods mark an important step in the evolution of writing because they were never repeated in one-to-one correspondence to express numerosity.

Besides them, numerals—signs representing plurality—indicated the quantity of units recorded. The symbols for numerals were not new. They were the impressions of cones and spheres formerly representing measures of grain, which then had acquired a second, abstract, numerical meaning.

The invention of numerals meant a considerable economy of signs since 33 jars of oil could be written with 7 rather then 33 markings. Cuyler Young, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto In sum, in its first phase, "history" remained mostly a mere extension of the former token system. Although the tokens underwent formal transformations from three- to two-dimensional and from impressed markings to signs traced with a stylus, the symbolism remained fundamentally the same. Like the archaic counters, the tablets were used exclusively for accounting Nissen and Heine In all these instances, the medium changed in form but not in content.

The only major departure from the token system consisted in the creation of two distinct types of signs: This combination of signs initiated the semantic division between the item counted and number. Hietory from Visual to Aural About BC, the creation of phonetic signs—signs representing the sounds of speech—marks the second phase in the evolution of Mesopotamian writing, when, finally, the medium parted from its token antecedent in order to emulate spoken language. As a result, writing shifted from a hstory framework of real goods to the world of speech sounds.

It shifted from the visual to the aural world. With state formation, new regulations required that the names of the individuals who generated or received registered merchandise were entered on the tablets. The personal names were transcribed by the mean of logograms—signs representing a word in a particular tongue.

  • But however non-literary the purpose, these practical jottings in Sumer are the first steps in writing.
  • After the name and title of the deceased followed patronymics, the name of a temple or a god to whom the statue was dedicated, and in some cases, a plea for life after death, including a verb.
  • Ira Spar Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art October Citation Spar, Ira.

Because Sumerian was mostly a monosyllabic language, the logograms had a syllabic value. A syllable is a unit of spoken language consisting of one or more vowel sounds, alone, or with one or more consonants. When a name required several phonetic units, they were assembled in a rebus fashion. The verb was not transcribed, but inferred, which was easy because the name was common. Phonetic signs hisgory writing to break away from accounting.

Presumably, these funerary texts were meant to immortalize the name of the deceased, thereby, according to Sumerian iss, ensuring them of eternal life. Other funerary inscriptions further advanced the emancipation of writing. For example, statues depicting the features of an individual bore increasingly longer inscriptions. After the name and title of the deceased followed patronymics, the name of a temple or a god to whom the statue was dedicated, and in some cases, a plea for life after death, including a verb.

These inscriptions introduced syntax, thus bringing writing yet one step closer to wwriting. The resulting syllabary—system of phonetic signs expressing syllables—further modeled writing on to spoken language Rogers With a repertory of about signs, the script could express any topic of human endeavor. Some of the earliest syllabic texts were royal inscriptions, and religious, magic and literary texts. The second phase in the evolution of the Mesopotamian script, characterized by the creation of phonetic signs, not only resulted in the parting of writing from accounting, but also its spreading out just click for source Sumer to neighboring regions.

The first Egyptian inscriptions, dated to the late fourth millennium BC, belonged to royal tombs Baines They histroy of ivory labels and ceremonial artifacts such as maces and palettes bearing personal names, written phonetically as a rebus, visibly imitating Sumer.

The birth of writing! - History of Writing Systems #2 (Pictographs in a cave)

For example, the Palette of Narmer bears hieroglyphs identifying the name and title of the Pharaoh, his attendants and the smitten enemies. Phonetic signs to transcribe personal names, therefore, created an avenue for writing to spread outside of Mesopotamia. This explains why the Egyptian script was instantaneously phonetic. It also explains why the Egyptians never borrowed Sumerian signs.

Their repertory consisted of hieroglyphs representing items familiar in writihg Egyptian culture that evoked sounds in their own tongue.

The phonetic transcription of personal names also played wrriting important role in the dissemination of writing to the Indus Valley where, during a period of increased contact with Mesopotamia, c. In turn, the Sumerian cuneiform syllabic script was adopted by many Near Eastern cultures who adapted it to their different linguistic families and in particular, Semitic Akkadians and Eblaites ; Historu Mitanni, Hittites, and Persians ; Caucasian Hurrians and Urartians ; and finally, Elamite and Kassite. It is likely that Linear A and B, the phonetic scripts of Crete and histry Greece, c.

The Segmentation of Sounds The invention of the alphabet about BC ushered in the third phase in the evolution of writing in the ancient Near East Sass The first, so-called Proto-Sinaitic or Proto-Canaanite alphabet, which originated in the region of present-day Lebanon, took advantage of the fact that the sounds of any language are few. It consisted of a set of 22 letters, each standing for a single sound of voice, which, combined in countless ways, allowed for an unprecedented flexibility for transcribing speech Powell This earliest alphabet histkry a complete departure from the previous syllabaries.

Second, it was consonantal—it dealt only with speech sounds teh by constriction or closure at one or more points in the breath channel, eriting b, d, l, m, n, p, etc. Third, it streamlined the system to 22 signs, instead of several hundred. Michael Roaf, Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia, Equinox, Oxford, p. In ot seventh century BC the Assyrian kings still dictated their edicts to two scribes. The first wrote Akkadian in cuneiform on a clay tablet; the second Aramaic in a cursive alphabetic script traced wriing a papyrus scroll.

The history is writing of what the list

The Phoenician merchants established on the coast of present day Syria and Lebanon, played an important role in the diffusion of the alphabet. In particular, they brought their consonantal alphabetic system to Greece, perhaps as early as, or even before BC.

History of writing is the what come

The Greeks perfected the Semitic alphabet by adding letters for vowels—speech sounds in the articulation of which the breath channel is not blocked, like a, e, i, o, u. As a result the letter Greek alphabet improved the transcription of the spoken word, since all sounds were indicated.

Other writings The oldest traces of Chinese scripts date from the Shang dynasty BC. What is the history of writing system of human communication by the mean of arbitrary visual signs. Inevitably the act of writing causes the hieroglyphs to become more fluid than the strictly formal versions carved and painted in tombs. So, all previous three-dimensional objects were replaced with two-dimensional tablets, more handy to be handled and to be stored. When a name required several phonetic units, they were assembled in a rebus fashion. The tokens, used as counters to keep track of goods, were the earliest code—a system of signs for transmitting information.

The alphabet did not subsequently undergo any fundamental change. The Modern Alphabets Because the alphabet lf invented only once, all the many alphabets of the world, including Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, Brahmani and Cyrillic, derive from Proto-Sinaitic. The Latin alphabet used in the western world is the direct descendant of the Etruscan alphabet Bonfante The Etruscans, who occupied the present province of Tuscany in Italy, adopted the Greek alphabet, slightly modifying the shape of letters.


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