History Of Writing


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Table of content

1. Introduction
2. The development of writing systems
2.1 Non – phonological systems
2.1.1. Cave paintings
2.1.2. Pictographic
2.1.3. Ideographic
2.2 Phonological systems
2.2.1. Logographic
2.2.2. Sumerian writing
2.2.3. Syllabaries
2.2.4. Alphabets
3. Conclusion
4. Appendix
5. Reference

1. Introduction


The aim of this report is to define the history of writing, how the writing system changed through the development of human society.

2. The development of writing systems

According to array of proofs discovered in many countries all over the world by the archaeologists, it is said that Writing has been existing for such a long time and it is continuously developed with the flow of time. At the beginning, the symbols in writing systems do not have any relationship with the sound of the language which called non – phonological systems (Crystal, 1986)
2.1. Non – phonological systems
These systems of writing just provided the picture of the entities which the people wanted to mention but did not contain any linguistic elements.
2.1.1. Cave paintings
In stone age, prehistoric man begun to draw the paintings of the cattle they had, their work instruments or the activities in daily life on the cliff walls around 36,000 BC (Web Site of Sally Gentieu Welch, undated). These images were considered as the first form of writing.
2.1.2. Pictographic
After that, the writing system was developed with the appearance of the pictographic (other names: pictographs or pictograms) in which the fundamental objects and ideas were drawn on the rocks inexactly but still sufficiently clear and quite easy to be recognized. However, the pictograms were ambiguous and it is difficult for the people nowadays to decipher them correctly. At that time, the pictograms just had the images but not the sound (Cryrtal, 1986 and The evolution of type website, undated). Occording to O’Gray, Dobrovolsky and Katamba in Contemporary Linguistics, Longman (1996), pictographic with pictures are still used in modern society in the road signs or the using instructions of the machines. In fact, this is an easy way for people to understand them.
2.1.3. Ideographic
Being considered as the development of pictographic, ideographic or ideograms are also the pictures. Instead of being the image of shape of any specific thing, ideographs are the pictorial symbols of the objects of concepts which are used as the agreement or custom of people. For example, if they want to mention about the forest, they draw three trees and every people can know that picture means “Forest” (The evolution of type Website, undated)
2.2. Phonological systems
Writing systems have a great evolution when the pronunciation is added.

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2.2.1. Logographic
In this system, words are represented by thousands of graphemes and have the link with linguistic units. Logograms are still being use in modern writing with Chinese and Japanese Kanji, which are the best – known representatives. There are about 2000 characters in modern Chinese and 1850 one in Japanese. In logographs, one character can show the meaning of one word or just a part of that word (Crystal, 1986)
2.2.2. Sumerian writing
With a large number of small pieces of clay tokens discovered in lower Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq) the paleographers have suggested that around 8000 BC, the ancients used the tokens as a tool of recording their business transactions for thousands of years (O’Grady, Dobrovolsky and Katamba, 1996). For that reason, this system includes thousands of logographs representing numerals, names of people and names of material objects like cloth and cow. Around 4000 BC, with the development of market when the number of goods became large, people decided to replace the heavy and cumbersome tokens by the small and convenient clay tablets which call the cuneiform writing well - known as Akkadian cunieform (The Encyclopedia Britannica 2001). The pictograms in Sumerian writing are abstract and polysemous. One character can represent various meanings like the picture of “the sun” can be understood as “light” and “heat” depends on the context. Cunieform writing existed until a few centuries AD and was deciphered in 19th century. (O’Grady, Dobrovolsky and Katamba, 1996).
When the phonographic principle was adopted into Sumerian writing about 3000 BC, the writing systems took a major evolution in which a sign represented not only the meaning but also the sound (The Encyclopedia Britannica 2001). Therefore, many concepts which could not be described by a pictogram or logogram at that time could be represented by the rebus principle. For example, the concept “life” could be mentioned by the word “ti” which mean “arrow” (O’Grady, Dobrovolsky and Katamba, 1996). Even this type of writing existed for such a short time as five to six hundred years but it played a really important role in the whole development of writing systems.
At the same time with the thriving period of Sumerian writing, a mix between logographic and phonolographic called “hieroglyphics” of Egyptian appeared and existed until the 3rd century AD.
2.2.3. Syllabaries
Following the development of Akkadian cuneiform, around 1400 BC, the new system of writing in which words are made up by the syllables representing by symbols and based on the sound structure appeared. In syllabaries, a consonant plus a vowel or just a vowel can stand for a syllable (Ager, 1998). One of the most famous syllabaries writing is Linear B in Mycenaean Greek which was deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952 – 1952 (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 2001). In some languages like Katanaka and Hiragana (Japanese) or Yi (Chinese), syllabaries is being used. The number of syllable in this system is varied from 50 to several hundred (Crystal, 1986 ).
2.2.4. Alphabets
Alphabet is the final stage in the development of writing systems with the direct connection between symbols and sounds.
Around 1200 BC, the Phoenician alphabet containing 22 consonants letters without any vowel developed. In this system, people wrote from left to right horizontally. Phoenician alphabet is considered as the original form of Greek and Roman alphabet (O’Grady, Dobrovolsky and Katamba, 1996).
While Phoenician people spread their business, Greeks adopted their writing system and developed it into a full alphabet by changing 5 unnecessary consonants into 5 vowels: A, E, I, O and U about 1000 BC (website of Sally Gentieu Welch, undated).
In 700 and 800 BC, with the occupation of Greeks in southern Italy, alphabet system was modified into Latin or Roman alphabet with 23 letters including A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Y, and Z.
The 26 letters alphabet of English nowadays was fulfilled in 19th century (The Encyclopedia Britannica 2001)
3. Conclusion
Pictures are the precursor of writing systems.
4. Appendix
Picture 1: Cave paintings from Paleolithic to Neolithic periods
Source: A Brief History of Graphic Communication, website of Sally Gentieu Welch, available at HTTP: http://www.sallygentieuwelch.com/pages/graphic_com.html, accessed: 11/11/2007.

Picture 2: Pictogram on the rock


Source: Crystal E. (2007), Pictograms – Pictographs, Ellie Crystal’s Metaphysical and Science Website, available at HTTP: http://www.crystalinks.com/petroglyphs.html, accessed: 11/11/2007.

Picture 3: Ideographic

Sourse: Ideograms, The evolution of type website, available at HTTP: http://www.mediumbold.com/04_thinking/type/origins/pictograms.html, accessed: 11/11/2007
Picture 4: Chinese is logographic (Excerpt from a 1436 primer on Chinese characters)

Source: Logograms, Wikipedia website, available at HTTP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logogram, accessed: 12/11/2007.
Picture 5: Sumerian writing tablet

Source: Lo L. (1996) Sumerian, Ancient Scripts website, available at HTTP: www.ancientscripts.com/sumerian.html, accessed: 9/11/2007.
Picture 6: The Syllabaries currently in use

Source: Ager S. (1998), Syllabaries, Omniglot writing systems and language of the world website, available at HTTP: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/syllabaries.htm, accessed: 14/11/2007.
Picture 7: Linear B script sample


Source: Linear B, available at HTTP: http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/LX/LinearB.html, accessed: 13/11/2007.
Picture 8: Cyrillic script

Source: dkimages.com website, available at HTTP: www.dkimages.com/.../Unassigned-03.html, accessed: 13/11/2007.
Picture 9: Greek alphabet

Source: Greek terminology, The university of Texas at Austin website, available at HTTP: deanofstudents.utexas.edu/gle/greek_dict.php, accessed: 15/11/2007.
5.Reference


• Crystal D. (1986), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, CUP, Cambridge, assecced: 9/11/2007.
• O’Grady D., Dobrovolsky M. and Katamba F. (1996), Contemporary Linguistics, Longman, accessed: 10/11/2007.
• The Encyclopedia Britannica (2001), accessed: 10/11/2007.
• A Brief History of Graphic Communication, web site of Ally Gentieu Welch, available at HTTP: http://www.sallygentieuwelch.com/pages/graphic_com.html, accessed: 11/11/2007.
• Pictograms, The evolution of type website, available at HTTP: http://www.mediumbold.com/04_thinking/type/origins/pictograms.html, accessed: 11/11/2007.
• Ideograms, The evolution of type website, available at HTTP: http://www.mediumbold.com/04_thinking/type/origins/pictograms.html, accessed: 11/11/2007.
• Logograms, Wikipedia website, available at HTTP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logogram, accessed: 12/11/2007.
• Lo L. (1996) Sumerian, Ancient Scripts website, available at HTTP: www.ancientscripts.com/sumerian.html, accessed: 9/11/2007.
• dkimages.com website, available at HTTP: www.dkimages.com/.../Unassigned-03.html, accessed: 13/11/2007.
• Greek terminology, The university of Texas at Austin website, available at HTTP: deanofstudents.utexas.edu/gle/greek_dict.php, accessed: 15/11/2007.
• Linear B, available at HTTP: http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/LX/LinearB.html, accessed: 13/11/2007.
• Ager S. (1998), Syllabaries, Omniglot writing systems and language of the world website, available at HTTP: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/syllabaries.htm, accessed: 14/11/2007.


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