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Writing is a medium of human
communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

communication
that involves the representation of a
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and ...

language
with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with the debatable exception of
computer languagesA computer language is a method of communication with a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations ...
); they are means of rendering a language into a form that can be reconstructed by other humans separated by time and/or space. While not all languages use a writing system, those with systems of inscriptions can complement and extend capacities of
spoken language A spoken language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyp ...
by enabling the creation of durable forms of speech that can be transmitted across space (e.g., correspondence) and stored over time (e.g.,
libraries A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated information in order to meet the user's needs on a daily basis. A library provi ...

libraries
or other public records). It has also been observed that the activity of writing itself can have knowledge-transforming effects, since it allows humans to externalize their thinking in forms that are easier to reflect on, elaborate, reconsider, and revise. Writing relies on many of the same
semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another o ...
structures as the speech it represents, such as
lexicon A lexicon is the of a or branch of (such as or ). In , a lexicon is a language's inventory of s. The word ''lexicon'' derives from word (), neuter of () meaning 'of or for words'. Linguistic theories generally regard human languages as c ...

lexicon
and
syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word order. The term ''syntax'' ...

syntax
, with the added dependency of a system of
symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an , , or . Symbols allow people to go beyond what is n or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different s and s. All (and ) is achieved th ...

symbol
s to represent that language's
phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

phonology
and
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as nebulae, galaxies ...
. The result of the activity of writing is called a ''text'', and the interpreter or activator of this text is called a ''reader''. As human societies emerged, collective motivations for the
development of writing The history of writing traces the development of expressing language by letters or other markings and also the studies and descriptions of these developments. In the history of how writing systems have evolved in different human civilizations, ...

development of writing
were driven by pragmatic exigencies like keeping
history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...

history
, maintaining
culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member affects the other. This is due to an int ...

culture
, codifying knowledge through
curricula In education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelli ...
and lists of texts deemed to contain foundational knowledge (e.g., ''
The Canon of Medicine ''The Canon of Medicine'' ( ar, القانون في الطب, italic=yes ''al-Qānūn fī al-Ṭibb''; fa, قانون در طب, italic=yes, ''Qanun-e dâr Tâb'') is an encyclopedia of medicine in five books compiled by Persian physician-phil ...

The Canon of Medicine
'') or to be artistically exceptional (e.g., a
literary canon The Western canon is the body of high culture High may refer to: People with the name * High (surname)High is a surname. Notable people with the surname include: *Jason High (born 1981), American mixed martial artist *Martha High (born 1945) ...
), organizing and governing societies through the formation of
legal systems The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law Religious law includes ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions. Different religio ...
,
census A census is the procedure of systematically calculating, acquiring and recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data. It provides context for data and enables decision making process. For example, a single cu ...

census
records,
contract A contract is a legally binding agreement that defines and governs the rights and duties between or among its parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview; ...

contract
s,
deed In common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dictionary use ...

deed
s of ownership,
tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act accord ...
ation,
trade agreement A trade agreement (also known as trade pact) is a wide-ranging taxes, tariff and trade treaty that often includes investment guarantees. It exists when two or more countries agree on terms that help them trade with each other. The most common tra ...
s,
treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relati ...

treaties
, and so on. Amateur historians, including
H.G. Wells Hg is the symbol of chemical element Mercury_(element), mercury. Hg, hg, HG, inHg or "Hg may also refer to: Arts and media *H. G. Wells, English writer *House & Garden (magazine), ''House & Garden'' or ''HG'', a former US magazine *Harry G. ...
, had speculated since the early 20th century on the likely correspondence between the emergence of systems of writing and the development of
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereignty, sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including c ...
s into
empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state called an empire and w ...

empire
s. As
Charles Bazerman Charles Bazerman (born 1945) is an American educator and scholar. He was born and raised in New York. He has contributed significantly to the establishment of writing as a research field. Best known for his work on genre studies Genre studies is ...

Charles Bazerman
explains, the "marking of signs on stones, clay, paper, and now digital memories—each more portable and rapidly traveling than the previous—provided means for increasingly coordinated and extended action as well as memory across larger groups of people over time and space." For example, around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration in
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
outgrew human memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. In both
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a of , concentrated along the lower reaches of the , situated in the place that is now the country . Ancient Egyptian civilization followed and coalesced around 3100 (according to ) with the political unification of u ...

ancient Egypt
and
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical and important region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), human impact characteristics ( human geography), and the interaction of humanity and th ...
, on the other hand, writing may have evolved through calendric and political necessities for recording historical and environmental events. Further innovations included more uniform, predictable, and widely dispersed
legal systems The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law Religious law includes ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions. Different religio ...
, distribution and discussion of accessible versions of
sacred texts Religious texts are texts related to a religious tradition. They differ from literary texts by being a compilation or discussion of beliefs, mythologies, ritual practices, commandments or laws, ethical conduct, spiritual aspirations, and for c ...
, and the origins of modern practices of
scientific inquiry Models of scientific inquiry have two functions: first, to provide a descriptive account of ''how'' scientific inquiry is carried out in practice, and second, to provide an explanatory account of ''why'' scientific inquiry succeeds as well as it app ...
and
knowledge-consolidation
knowledge-consolidation
, all largely reliant on portable and easily reproducible forms of inscribed language.   Individual, as opposed to collective, motivations for writing include improvised additional capacity for the limitations of human
memory Memory is the faculty of the by which or is , stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future action. If s could not be remembered, it would be impossible for language, r ...

memory
(e.g.,
to-do lists
to-do lists
,
recipe A recipe is a set of instructions that describes how to prepare or make something, especially a dish Dish, dishes or DISH may refer to: Culinary * Dish (food), something prepared to be eaten * Dishware, plates and bowls for eating, cutting bo ...

recipe
s, reminders,
logbook The term logbook or log book originated with the Logbook (nautical), ship's log, a log of important events in the management, operation, and navigation of a ship. It has since been applied to a variety of other uses, including: * Aircraft pilots ...
s,
map A map is a symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an , , or . Symbols allow people to go beyond what is n or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different s and s. A ...

map
s, the proper sequence for a complicated task or important
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, ...

ritual
), dissemination of ideas (as in an
essay An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own argument, but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a Letter (message), letter, a term paper, paper, an article (publishing), article, a pamphlet, and a short ...

essay
,
monograph A monograph is a specialist work of writing (in contrast to reference work A reference work is a work such as a book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it a ...

monograph
,
broadside ship of the line A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed during the Age of Sail from the 17th century to the mid-19th century. The ship of the line was designed for the naval tactics in the Age of Sail, naval tactic known as ...
,
petition A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' ...

petition
, or
manifesto A manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a ...

manifesto
), imaginative narratives and other forms of
storytelling Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing narrative, stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatre, theatrics or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainmen ...

storytelling
, personal or business correspondence, and lifewriting (e.g., a
diary A diary is a record (originally in handwritten format) with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, thoughts, and/or feelin ...

diary
or journal).


Writing systems

The major ''writing systems''—methods of inscription—broadly fall into five categories:
logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lan ...
,
syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables *Abugida, writing system us ...

syllabic
,
alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic ...
, featural, and
ideographic An ideogram or ideograph (from Ancient Greek, Greek "idea" and "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible only b ...
(symbols for ideas). A sixth category,
pictographic A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an icon An icon (from the Greek language, Greek 'image, resemblance') is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the E ...
or
symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an , , or . Symbols allow people to go beyond what is n or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different s and s. All (and ) is achieved th ...

symbol
s, is insufficient to represent language on its own, but often forms the core of logographies.


Logographies

A
logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lang ...
is a written character which represents a word or
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. A morpheme is not a word. The difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone, but a word on this definition alw ...
. A vast number of logograms are needed to write
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
,
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
, and
Mayan Mayan most commonly refers to: * Maya peoples, various indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica and northern Central America * Maya civilization, pre-Columbian culture of Mesoamerica and northern Central America * Mayan languages, language family spoken i ...
, where a glyph may stand for a morpheme, a syllable, or both—("logoconsonantal" in the case of hieroglyphs). Many logograms have an ideographic component (Chinese "radicals", hieroglyphic "determiners"). For example, in Mayan, the glyph for "fin", pronounced "ka", was also used to represent the syllable "ka" whenever the pronunciation of a logogram needed to be indicated, or when there was no logogram. In Chinese, about 90% of characters are compounds of a semantic (meaning) element called a ''radical'' with an existing character to indicate the pronunciation, called a ''phonetic''. However, such phonetic elements complement the logographic elements, rather than vice versa. The main logographic system in use today is
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
, used with some modification for the various languages or dialects of
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...
,
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an in . It is situated in the northwest , and is bordered on the west by the , while extending from the in the north toward the and in the south. Japan is a part of the , and spans of coveri ...
, and sometimes in
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language **S ...
despite the fact that in
South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

South
and
North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in , constituting the northern part of the n Peninsula. It borders and to the north, at the (Amnok) and rivers, and to the south at the . Its wes ...

North Korea
, the phonetic
Hangul The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, . Hangul may also be written as following South Korea's . in and Chosŏn'gŭl in , is a writing system for the created by King in 1443. The letters for the five basic s reflect the shape of the speec ...

Hangul
system is mainly used.


Syllabaries

A
syllabary In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate)
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
s. A glyph in a syllabary typically represents a consonant followed by a vowel, or just a vowel alone, though in some scripts more complex syllables (such as consonant-vowel-consonant, or consonant-consonant-vowel) may have dedicated glyphs. Phonetically related syllables are not so indicated in the script. For instance, the syllable "ka" may look nothing like the syllable "ki", nor will syllables with the same vowels be similar. Syllabaries are best suited to languages with a relatively simple syllable structure, such as Japanese. Other languages that use syllabic writing include the
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ...
script for
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of lan ...
;
Sequoyan
Sequoyan
, Ndjuka, an English-based
creole language A creole language, or simply creole, is a stable that develops from the simplifying and mixing of different languages into a new one within a fairly brief period of time: often, a evolved into a full-fledged language. While the concept is sim ...
of
Surinam
Surinam
; and the Vai script of
Liberia Liberia (), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape V ...

Liberia
. Most logographic systems have a strong syllabic component. Ethiopic, though technically an
abugida An abugida (, from : አቡጊዳ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental in which consonant-vowel sequences are written as a unit; each unit is based on a letter, and notation is secondary. Th ...
, has fused consonants and vowels together to the point where it is learned as if it were a syllabary.


Alphabets

An
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semanti ...

alphabet
is a set of symbols, each of which represents or historically represented a phoneme of the language. In a perfectly
phonological Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

phonological
alphabet, the phonemes and letters would correspond perfectly in two directions: a writer could predict the spelling of a word given its pronunciation, and a speaker could predict the pronunciation of a word given its spelling. As languages often evolve independently of their writing systems, and writing systems have been borrowed for languages they were not designed for, the degree to which letters of an alphabet correspond to phonemes of a language varies greatly from one language to another and even within a single language.


Abjads

In most of the writing systems of the Middle East, it is usually only the consonants of a word that are written, although vowels may be indicated by the addition of various diacritical marks. Writing systems based primarily on marking the consonant phonemes alone date back to the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. Such systems are called ''
abjad An abjad () is a type of writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to th ...

abjad
s'', derived from the Arabic word for "alphabet".


Abugidas

In most of the alphabets of India and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
, vowels are indicated through diacritics or modification of the shape of the consonant. These are called ''
abugida An abugida (, from : አቡጊዳ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental in which consonant-vowel sequences are written as a unit; each unit is based on a letter, and notation is secondary. Th ...
s''. Some abugidas, such as Ethiopic and
Cree The Cree ( cr, Néhinaw, script=Latn, , etc.; french: link=no, Cri) are a North American Indigenous people. They live primarily in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canad ...
, are learned by children as syllabaries, and so are often called "syllabics". However, unlike true syllabaries, there is not an independent glyph for each syllable. Sometimes the term "alphabet" is restricted to systems with separate letters for consonants and vowels, such as the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...

Latin alphabet
, although abugidas and abjads may also be accepted as alphabets. Because of this use,
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...

Greek
is often considered to be the first alphabet.


Featural scripts

A featural script notates in an internally consistent way the building blocks of the phonemes that make up a language. For instance, all sounds pronounced with the lips ("labial" sounds) may have some element in common. In the Latin alphabet, this is accidentally the case with the letters "b" and "p"; however, labial "m" is completely dissimilar, and the similar-looking "q" and "d" are not labial. In Korean
hangul The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, . Hangul may also be written as following South Korea's . in and Chosŏn'gŭl in , is a writing system for the created by King in 1443. The letters for the five basic s reflect the shape of the speec ...

hangul
, however, all four labial consonants are based on the same basic element, but in practice, Korean is learned by children as an ordinary alphabet, and the featural elements tend to pass unnoticed. Another featural script is
SignWritingSignwriting or sign writing may refer to: * The work of the signage profession, see Signwriter * Sutton SignWriting, a system of writing sign languages {{Disambiguation ...
, the most popular writing system for many
sign languages Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulations in combination with #Non-manual elements, non-manual elements. Sign lan ...
, where the shapes and movements of the hands and face are represented iconically. Featural scripts are also common in fictional or invented systems, such as
J.R.R. Tolkien John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (; 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary cr ...
's
Tengwar The Tengwar script is an artificial script created by J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of ''The Lord of the Rings''. Within the fictional context of Middle-earth, the Tengwar were invented by the Elf (Middle-earth), Elf Fëanor, and used first to ...

Tengwar
.


Historical significance of writing systems

Historians draw a sharp distinction between prehistory and history, with history defined by the advent of writing. The cave paintings and petroglyphs of prehistoric peoples can be considered precursors of writing, but they are not considered true writing because they did not represent language directly. Writing systems develop and change based on the needs of the people who use them. Sometimes the shape, orientation, and meaning of individual signs changes over time. By tracing the development of a script, it is possible to learn about the needs of the people who used the script as well as how the script changed over time.


Tools and materials

The many tools and writing materials used throughout history include stone tablets,
clay tablet In the Ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symb ...
s, bamboo slats,
papyrus Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, ''Cyperus papyrus'', a wetland sedge. ''Papyrus'' (plural: ''papyri'') can also refer to a do ...

papyrus
,
wax tablet A wax tablet is a tablet made of wood and covered with a layer of wax , a typical wax ester. Image:Beeswax foundation.jpg, Commercial honeycomb foundation, made by pressing beeswax between patterned metal rollers. Waxes are a diverse class of ...
s,
vellum 267px, A vellum seal Seal may refer to any of the following: Common uses * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely range (biology), distributed and diverse clade of carnivorous, fin-footed, List of semiaqua ...

vellum
,
parchment Parchment is a writing material Writing material refers to the materials that provide the surfaces on which humans use writing instruments A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing Writing is a mediu ...

parchment
,
paper Paper is a thin sheet material Material is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance, a material with a definite chemical composition * ...

paper
,
copperplate
copperplate
,
stylus A stylus (plural styli or styluses) is a writing utensil A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing. Writing consists of different figures, lines, and or forms. Most of these items can be also used for other ...

stylus
es,
quill A quill is a writing tool A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing. Writing consists of different figures, lines, and or forms. Most of these items can be also used for other functions such as painting, dra ...

quill
s,
ink brush Ink brushes () are paintbrushes used in Chinese calligraphy as well as in Japanese calligraphy, Japanese, Korean calligraphy, Korean and Vietnamese calligraphy, Vietnamese which both have roots in Chinese calligraphy. They are also used in Chin ...
es,
pencil A pencil is a writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with the debatable exception of computer language ...

pencil
s,
pen A pen is a common writing instrument A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing sy ...

pen
s, and many styles of
lithography Lithography () is a method of printing originally based on the miscibility, immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by the German aut ...
. The Incas used knotted cords known as
quipu Quipu (also spelled khipu) are recording devices fashioned from strings String or strings may refer to: *String (structure), a long flexible structure made from threads twisted together, which is used to tie, bind, or hang other objects Arts ...

quipu
(or khipu) for keeping records. The
typewriter A typewriter is a or machine for characters. Typically, a typewriter has an array of , and each one causes a different single character to be produced on paper by striking an inked ribbon selectively against the paper with a . At the end ...

typewriter
and various forms of
word processor A word processor (WP) is a device or computer program that provides for input, editing, formatting, and output of text, often with some additional features. were stand-alone devices dedicated to the function, but current word processors are s ...
s have subsequently become widespread writing tools, and various studies have compared the ways in which writers have framed the experience of writing with such tools as compared with the pen or pencil.


History


Mesoamerica

A stone slab with 3,000-year-old writing, known as the
Cascajal BlockImage:Cascajal-text.svg, 260px, The 62 glyphs of the Olmec Cascajal Block The Cascajal Block is a tablet-sized writing slab in Mexico, made of serpentinite, which has been dated to the early first millennium Common Era, BCE, incised with hitherto unk ...
, was discovered in the Mexican state of
Veracruz Veracruz (), formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave (), officially the Free and Sovereign State of Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave ( es, Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave), is one of the 31 states which, along with Mex ...

Veracruz
and is an example of the oldest script in the Western Hemisphere, preceding the oldest Zapotec writing by approximately 500 years. It is thought to be
Olmec The Olmecs () were the earliest known major Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western ...
. Of several pre-Columbian scripts in
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical and important region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), human impact characteristics ( human geography), and the interaction of humanity and th ...
, the one that appears to have been best developed, and the only one to be deciphered, is the
Maya script Maya script, also known as Maya glyphs, was the writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, ...
. The earliest inscription identified as Maya dates to the 3rd century BC. Maya writing used logograms complemented by a set of syllabic glyphs, somewhat similar in function to modern Japanese writing.


Central Asia

In 2001, archaeologists discovered that there was a civilization in Central Asia that used writing c. 2000 BC. An excavation near Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, revealed an inscription on a piece of stone that was used as a stamp seal.


China

The earliest surviving examples of writing in China—inscriptions on so-called "oracle bones", tortoise plastrons and ox scapulae used for divination—date from around 1200 BC in the late Shang dynasty. A small number of bronze inscriptions from the same period have also survived. Historians have found that the type of Media (arts), media used had an effect on what the writing was documenting and how it was used. In 2003, archaeologists reported discoveries of Jiahu symbols, isolated tortoise-shell carvings dating back to the 7th millennium BC, but whether or not these symbols are related to the characters of the later oracle-bone script is disputed.


Egypt

The earliest known Egyptian hieroglyph, hieroglyphs date back to the second half of the 4th millennium BC, such as the clay labels of a Predynastic ruler called "Scorpion I" (Naqada IIIA period, c. 32nd century BC) recovered at Abydos (modern Umm el-Qa'ab) in 1998 or the Narmer Palette, dating to c. 3100 BC, and several recent discoveries that may be slightly older, though these glyphs were based on a much older artistic rather than written tradition. The hieroglyphic script was logogram, logographic with phonetic adjuncts that included an effective Egyptian hieroglyph#Script, alphabet. The world's oldest deciphered sentence was found on a seal impression found in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen at Umm el-Qa'ab, which dates from the Second Dynasty (28th or 27th century BC). There are around 800 hieroglyphs dating back to the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Eras. By the Greco-Roman period, there are more than 5,000. Writing was very important in maintaining the Egyptian empire, and literacy was concentrated among an educated elite of scribes. Only people from certain backgrounds were allowed to train to become scribes, in the service of temple, pharaonic, and military authorities, resulting in only 1 percent of the population that could write. The hieroglyph system was always difficult to learn, but in later centuries was purposely made even more so, as this preserved the scribes' status. The world's Middle Bronze Age alphabets, oldest known alphabet appears to have been developed by Canaanite turquoise miners in the Sinai desert around the mid-19th century BC. Around 30 crude inscriptions have been found at a mountainous Egyptian mining site known as Serabit el-Khadem. This site was also home to a temple of Hathor, the "Mistress of turquoise". A later, two line inscription has also been found at Wadi el-Hol in Central Egypt. Based on hieroglyphic prototypes, but also including entirely new symbols, each sign apparently stood for a consonant rather than a word: the basis of an alphabetic system. It was not until the 12th to 9th centuries, however, that the alphabet took hold and became widely used.


Elamite scripts

Over the centuries, three distinct Elamite scripts developed. Proto-Elamite is the oldest known writing system from Iran. In use only for a brief time (c. 3200–2900 BC), clay tablets with Proto-Elamite writing have been found at different sites across Iran. The Proto-Elamite script is thought to have developed from early
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
(proto-cuneiform). The Proto-Elamite script consists of more than 1,000 signs and is thought to be partly logogram, logographic. Linear Elamite is a writing system attested in a few monumental inscriptions in Iran. It was used for a very brief period during the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC. It is often claimed that Linear Elamite is a syllabic writing system derived from Proto-Elamite, although this cannot be proven since Linear-Elamite has not been deciphered. Several scholars have attempted to decipher the script, most notably :de:Walther Hinz, Walther Hinz and :it:Piero Meriggi, Piero Meriggi. The Elamite cuneiform script was used from about 2500 to 331 BC, and was adapted from the Akkadian language, Akkadian cuneiform (script), cuneiform. The Elamite cuneiform script consisted of about 130 symbols, far fewer than most other cuneiform scripts.


Cretan and Greek scripts

Cretan hieroglyphs are found on artifacts of Crete (early-to-mid-2nd millennium BC, MM I to MM III, overlapping with Linear A from MM IIA at the earliest).
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ...
, the writing system of the Mycenaean Greece, Mycenaean Greeks, has been deciphered while Linear A has yet to be deciphered. The sequence and the geographical spread of the three overlapping, but distinct writing systems can be summarized as follows (beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of all scripts lie further back in the past): Cretan hieroglyphs were used in Crete from c. 1625 to 1500 BC; Linear A was used in the Aegean Islands (Kea (island), Kea, Cythera (island), Kythera, Milos, Melos, Santorini, Thera), and the Greek mainland (Laconia) from c. 18th century to 1450 BC; and Linear B was used in Crete (Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Greece, Thebes, Tiryns) from c. 1375 to 1200 BC.


Indus Valley

Indus script refers to short strings of symbols associated with the Indus Valley Civilization (which spanned modern-day Pakistan and North India) used between 2600 and 1900 BC. In spite of many attempts at decipherments and claims, it is as yet undeciphered. The term 'Indus script' is mainly applied to that used in the mature Harappan phase, which perhaps evolved from a few signs found in early Harappa after 3500 BC, and was followed by the mature Harappan script. The script is written from right to left, and sometimes follows a boustrophedonic style. Since the number of principal signs is about 400–600, midway between typical logographic and syllabic scripts, many scholars accept the script to be logo-syllabic (typically syllabic scripts have about 50–100 signs whereas logographic scripts have a very large number of principal signs). Several scholars maintain that structural analysis indicates that an agglutinative language underlies the script.


Mesopotamia

While research into the development of writing during the Neolithic, late Stone Age is ongoing, the current consensus is that it first evolved from economic necessity in the ancient Near East. Writing most likely began as a consequence of political expansion in ancient cultures, which needed reliable means for transmitting information, maintaining financial accounts, keeping historical records, and similar activities. Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration outgrew the power of memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. The invention of the first writing systems is roughly contemporary with the beginning of the Bronze Age of the late 4th millennium BC. The Sumerian language, Sumerian archaic cuneiform script and the Egyptian hieroglyphs are generally considered the earliest writing systems, both emerging out of their ancestral proto-literate symbol systems from 3400 to 3200 BC with earliest coherent texts from about 26th century BC, 2600 BC. It is generally agreed that Sumerian writing was an independent invention; however, it is debated whether Egyptian writing was developed completely independently of Sumerian, or was a case of cultural diffusion. Archaeologist Denise Schmandt-Besserat determined the link between previously uncategorized clay "tokens", the oldest of which have been found in the Zagros region of Iran, and the first known writing, Mesopotamian
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
. In approximately 8000 BC, the Mesopotamians began using clay tokens to count their agricultural and manufactured goods. Later they began placing these tokens inside large, hollow clay containers (bulla, or globular envelopes) which were then sealed. The quantity of tokens in each container came to be expressed by impressing, on the container's surface, one picture for each instance of the token inside. They next dispensed with the tokens, relying solely on symbols for the tokens, drawn on clay surfaces. To avoid making a picture for each instance of the same object (for example: 100 pictures of a hat to represent 100 hats), they 'counted' the objects by using various small marks. In this way the Sumerians added "a system for enumerating objects to their incipient system of symbols". The original Mesopotamian writing system was derived around 3200 BC from this method of keeping accounts. By the end of the 4th millennium BC, the Mesopotamians were using a triangular-shaped stylus pressed into soft clay to record numbers. This system was gradually augmented with using a sharp stylus to indicate what was being counted by means of pictographs. Round-stylus and sharp-stylus writing was gradually replaced by writing using a wedge-shaped stylus (hence the term cuneiform script, cuneiform), at first only for
logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lang ...
s, but by the 29th century BC also for phonetic elements. Around 2700 BC, cuneiform began to represent syllables of spoken Sumerian language, Sumerian. About that time, Mesopotamian cuneiform became a general purpose writing system for logograms, syllables, and numbers. This script was adapted to another Mesopotamian language, the East Semitic Akkadian language, Akkadian (Old Assyrian period, Assyrian and Babylonian) around 2600 BC, and then to others such as Elamite language, Elamite, Hattian language, Hattian, Hurrian language, Hurrian and Hittite language, Hittite. Scripts similar in appearance to this writing system include those for Ugaritic language, Ugaritic and Old Persian language, Old Persian. With the adoption of Aramaic language, Aramaic as the 'lingua franca' of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC), Old Aramaic was also adapted to Mesopotamian cuneiform. The last cuneiform scripts in Akkadian discovered thus far date from the 1st century AD.


Phoenician writing system and descendants

The Proto-Sinaitic script, in which Proto-Canaanite is believed to have been first written, is attested as far back as the 19th century BC. The Phoenician script, Phoenician writing system was adapted from the Proto-Canaanite script sometime before the 14th century BC, which in turn borrowed principles of representing phonetic information from Egyptian hieroglyphs. This writing system was an odd sort of syllabary in which only consonants are represented. This script was adapted by the Greek alphabet, Greeks, who adapted certain consonantal signs to represent their vowels. The Cumae alphabet, a variant of the early Greek alphabet, gave rise to the Etruscan alphabet and its own descendants, such as the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...

Latin alphabet
and Runes. Other descendants from the Greek alphabet include Cyrillic script, Cyrillic, used to write Bulgarian language, Bulgarian, Russian language, Russian and Serbian language, Serbian, among others. The Phoenician system was also adapted into the Aramaic script, from which the Hebrew script, Hebrew and the Arabic scripts are descended. The Tifinagh script (Berber languages) is descended from the Libyco-Berber script, which is assumed to be of Phoenician origin.


Modern importance

The nearly global spread of digital communication systems such as e-mail and social media has made writing an increasingly important feature of daily life, where they mix with older technologies like paper, pencils, whiteboards, printers, and copiers. Substantial amounts of routine writing characterize most modern workplaces, where routine Workflow, workflows (maintaining Records management, records, Incident report, reporting incidents, record-keeping, inventory-tracking, documenting sales, Timesheet, accounting for time, fielding inquiries from clients, etc.) have most employees writing at least some of the time. Multiple programs are in place to aid both children and adults in improving their literacy skills. For example, the emergence of the writing center and community-wide literacy councils aim to help students and community members sharpen their writing skills. These resources, and many more, span across different age groups in order to offer each individual a better understanding of their language and how to express themselves via writing in order to perhaps improve their socioeconomic status. As William J. Farrell puts it: · “Did you ever notice that, when people become serious about communication, they want it in writing?” Other parts of the world have seen an increase in writing abilities as a result of programs such as the World Literacy Foundation and International Literacy Foundation, as well as a general push for increased global communication.


See also

* Asemic writing * Author * Boustrophedon text * Calligraphy * Collaborative writing * Communication * Composition (language) * Composition studies * Copyright Clause * Creative writing * Decipherment * Dyslexia * Essay * Fiction writing * Foreign language writing aid * Graphonomics * Handwriting * Interactive fiction * Journalism * Kishōtenketsu * Linguistics * List of writers' conferences * Literacy * Literary award * Literary criticism * Literary festival * Literature * Manuscript * Mechanical pencil * Orthography * Peer critique * Pencil * Printing * Publishing * Reading * Sequoyah#Creation of the syllabary, Creation of the Sequoyah syllabary * Scriptorium * Bible (writing), Story bible * Speech communication * Teaching Writing in the United States * Textual scholarship * Typography * White papers * Word processing * Writer * Writer's block * Writing bump * Writing circle * Writing in space * Slate (writing), Writing slate * Writing style * Writing systems * Writer's voice


References


Further reading

* A History of Writing: From Hieroglyph to Multimedia, edited by Anne-Marie Christin
Flammarion
(in French, hardcover: 408 pages, 2002, ) *"The Art of Writing" (1974). ''The Book Collector'' 23 no 3 (autumn):319-338.
''In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language.''
By Joel M. Hoffman, 2004. Chapter 3 covers the invention of writing and its various stages.


Museum of Writing
UK Museum of Writing with information on writing history and implements * On ERIC Digests

* Giulio Angioni, Angioni, Giulio, ''La scrittura, una fabrilità semiotica'', in ''Fare, dire, sentire. L'identico e il diverso nelle culture'', il Maestrale, 2011, 149–169.
Children of the Code: The Power of Writing – Online Video
* Powell, Barry B. 2009. ''Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization,'' Oxford: Blackwell. * Reynolds, Jack 2004. ''Merleau-Ponty And Derrida: Intertwining Embodiment And Alterity'', Ohio University Press * Rogers, Henry. 2005. ''Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach.'' Oxford: Blackwell. (hardcover); (paperback) * * * Falkenstein, A. 1965 Zu den Tafeln aus Tartaria. Germania 43, 269–273 * Haarmann, H. 1990 Writing from Old Europe. The Journal of Indo-European Studies 17 * Lazarovici, Gh., Fl. Drasovean & Z. Maxim 2000 The Eagle – the Bird of death, regeneration resurrection and messenger of Gods. Archaeological and ethnological problems. Tibiscum, 57–68 * Lazarovici, Gh., Fl. Drasovean & Z. Maxim 2000 The Eye – Symbol, Gesture, Expression.Tibiscum, 115–128 * Makkay, J. 1969 The Late Neolithic Tordos Group of Signs. Alba Regia 10, 9–50 * Makkay, J. 1984 Early Stamp Seals in South-East Europe. Budapest * Masson, E. 1984 L'écriture dans les civilisations danubiennes néolithiques. Kadmos 23, 2, 89–123. Berlin & New York. * Maxim, Z. 1997 Neo-eneoliticul din Transilvania. Bibliotheca Musei Napocensis 19. Cluj-Napoca * Milojcic, Vl. 1963 Die Tontafeln von Tartaria (Siebenbürgen), und die Absolute Chronologie des mitteleeuropäischen Neolithikums.Germania 43, 266–268 * Paul, I. 1990 Mitograma de acum 8 milenii. Atheneum 1, p. 28 * Paul, I. 1995 Vorgeschichtliche untersuchungen in Siebenburgen. Alba Iulia * Vlassa, N. 1962 – (Studia UBB 2), 23–30. * Vlassa, N. 1962 – (Dacia 7), 485–494; * Vlassa, N. 1965 – (Atti UISPP, Roma 1965), 267–269 * Vlassa, N. 1976 Contribuții la Problema racordării Neoliticul Transilvaniei, p. 28–43, fig. 7-8 * Vlassa, N. 1976 Neoliticul Transilvaniei. Studii, articole, note. Bibliotheca Musei Napocensis 3. Cluj-Napoca * Winn, Sham M. M. 1973 The Sings of the Vinca Culture * Winn, Sham M. M. 1981 Pre-writing in Southeast Europe: The Sign System of the Vinca culture. BAR * Merlini, Marco 2004 La scrittura è natta in Europa?, Roma (2004) * Merlini, Marco and Gheorghe Lazarovici 2008 Luca, Sabin Adrian ed. "Settling discovery circumstances, dating and utilization of the Tărtăria Tablets" * Merlini, Marco and Gheorghe Lazarovici 2005 "New archaeological data referring to Tărtăria tablets", in Documenta Praehistorica XXXII, Department of Archeology Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. Ljubljana:2005–2019.


External links


Language, Writing and Alphabet: An Interview with Christophe Rico
Damqatum 3 (2007)
"Signs – Books – Networks", virtual exhibition of the German Museum of Books and Writing i.a. with a thematic module on sounds, symbols and script

Pictopen: Modern written communication based on pictograms
{{Authority control Writing, Writing systems Written communication Nonverbal communication Human communication Language Behavior ay:Qillqa qu:Qillqa