- "Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words."
- –Mark Twain
- "Writing means sharing. It's part of the human condition to want to share things - thoughts, ideas, opinions."
- –Paulo Coelho
Historical Context Edit
Writing is a technology that – like a few others – quite literally changed the course of civilization. The ability to set things down so as to remember them – “external memory storage” – unaltered beyond a single lifetime meant that every aspect of the human condition, every social structural and cultural more, altered significantly. Writing allowed civilization to become organized – organized religion, organized government, organized economy, organized war, organized science. And literature, a great advance (according to authors) over mere oral tales.
Invented sometime around the fourth millennium BC, the earliest form of writing was “pictography,” in which little pictures represent an item or action. This may work adequately for very simple topics, but other methods become necessary when more esoteric topics are discussed. (Drawing a picture of a sheep may be easy, but how about a picture of the sound a sheep makes when it falls off of a pyramid?) Ideographs (pictures representing ideas) and pictographic writing never developed enough to be able to transmit meanings well.
In time, logographic writing – using a single character to represent a word – evolved. In Mayan, the glyphs allowed representation of complex meaning when combined in “sentences.” Likewise, about 90% of the Chinese logographic characters are compounds of a semantic meaning with a phonetic guide. In other languages – Mycenaean Greek, Cherokee, Ethiopic, some Creole tongues – syllabaries were developed, wherein a single written symbol approximates a verbal syllable, and writing got shorter and easier to manage for barbarians.
Finally, the alphabet – dating to the second millennium BC used for Semitic languages in the Levant – evolved, bane of pre-school children worldwide. An alphabet uses a set of symbols, each of which represents a sound in the language. During the following millennium, the Semitic alphabet became the foundation of many differing alphabets across the Middle East, Europe, North Africa and South Asia. The rest is history … written down, of course.