Monday, April 19, 2010

Development of Writing

One of the greatest inventions of humans, writing, allows human knowledge to transcend space and time from being an extension of human language. It is considered as the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols. The development of writing is relatively a recent phenomenon which means that the modern practices of writing are distinguished from prehistoric means such as the cave drawings of Altamira in northern Spain and clay tokens.
There are several practices in the development of writing such as pictograms which is drawings or pictures beginning to represent particular images or objects in a consistent way. They are considered a form of picture-writing or pictograms. It is a direct image of the object it represents. There is non-arbitrary relationship between the form and meaning of the pictogram. However, pictograms do not have any direct relationship to the language spoken, since pictograms represent objects rather than their linguistic names. Examples are road signs and the signs on public toilets.
Other practices such as ideograms are the pictograms that represent ideas. The more ‘picture-like’ forms are pictograms while the more abstract derived forms are ideograms like the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. Ideograms, like pictograms, do not represent words or sounds in a particular language. Meanwhile, the logograms are when symbols come to be used to represent words in a language. The written form or visual shape of the symbol has no direct relationship with the object it represents or symbolises. The relationship between written form and the object it represents becomes arbitrary. The written form represents the meaning of the word, not its sounds.
Then, there is rebus writing which involves a process whereby the symbol used for an entity comes to be used for the sound of the spoken word used for that entity. That symbol (syllable) then can be used for that sound in any word. Example is the pictograms in developing logogram for ‘eye’ and then for the sound I. The other is syllabic writing which is when a writing system uses a set of symbols, which represent the pronunciation of syllables. A single symbol represents a syllable in syllabaries or syllabic writing systems such as the Japanese, Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Chinese and Russian. The first known syllabic writing system is the Phoenicians. Some, like the alphabetic writing is when a writing system uses a single symbol to represent a single sound. Examples are like Arabic and Hebrew. Also there is the Cyrillic alphabet which is a modified version of the basis of the Russian writing system.
Then there is the written English where the spelling of written English was largely fixed in the form that was used when printing was introduced in the 15th century England. Many printers were Dutch speakers who could not make consistently accurate decisions about English pronunciations. Many changes in spoken English occurred between 1400 and 1600 that were mostly in vowels from Middle English to Modern English. These changes increased in opacity between English alphabet letters (graphemes) and English sound types (phonemes). Conventions derived from those that were used for writing Latin and French words were used for writing English words.
This is to say that all these types of writing are relatively new and recent phenomenon as reliable means for transmitting information and similar activities. These may have evolved through calendrics and political necessity for recording historical and environmental events.

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