The origin of writing

The origin of writing

The origin of writing

The deed arose from the need experienced by the first societies to account for and manage their properties.

As social animals, human beings need to communicate with their peers. Writing is necessary to graphically express complete ideas in close relation to the sound of the spoken language. Saving the distances, cave art could be considered an antecedent of writing systems (it used to include sonograms whose meaning we do not know), since its function was not to delight or please but to record the world, customs and knowledge. that the primitive human beings of the time had through literal graphic representations.

Over time, human beings created different ways of representing words –both the idea and their pronunciation– and began with pictograms, images of things as they are, drawing the solar star to say “Sun” or “heat”. ”. It is an iconic writing in which the image is equivalent to what is represented and to related ideas (almost like a semantic field), with the added difficulties of being able to distinguish one from the other. Its oldest examples were known in the fourth millennium before our era, in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and in the following millennium in China or in the Indus Valley.

Pictograms and ideograms have many limitations, among others their inability to represent abstract ideas if it is not through schematic signs previously associated with a phonetic value. For example, the drawing of the Sun in Egypt served to represent the star of our planetary system, but also the god Ra and to write the first part of the name of Pharaoh Ramses. Other ideas or concepts are more difficult to identify since the same signs were sometimes used for several ideas if they were pronounced the same.

Thus began the evolution towards forms of writing where the identification of a sound with a specific sign was soughtIn this way, syllabic systems arise in which each word is broken down into syllables and each of them is clearly marked by its corresponding sign. This is the case, for example, of the writings of the Mesopotamian world (the Sumerian of the II millennium, represented with cuneiform signs), the Minoan culture (the so-called “linear A” of Crete, from 2000 to 1500 BC), of the Mycenaean world (the “linear B”, a primitive form of ancient Greek from the Late Bronze Age in the Aegean, around 1600 to 1100 BC) or the Cypriot syllabaryfrom the first centuries of the Iron Age in the eastern Mediterranean.

Example of cuneiform writing preserved in the British Museum. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

the kingdom of the alphabet

At the same time, around this time (around 1500 BC) the inhabitants of Canaan had devised the perfect system for graphically representing language : it is the so-called “alphabet”, which continues to be the system that we still use today in most cases. part of the writings of the modern world sharing space with others, such as the pictographic of China or Japan , to name the best known. Currently, some of the most widely used alphabets in the world are the Latin alphabet, Cyrillic (specific to the Slavic languages), Chinese and Arabic.

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