Saturday, November 01, 2003

Origins of Writing

One view of the origins of writing is found at LexiLine, where it is written as follows:


The scholar Ignace Gelb4 distinguished FOUR stages in the evolutionary history of human writing systems.

The first stage was picture writing, in which the picture expressed an idea or concept directly, for example, a picture of a river, lake, pool or well to give the concept of any "water".

The second stage was word-based writing systems, in which the picture expressed a complete word, for example, "water" as a definite word may have been defined by the picture of a river.

The third stage was sound-based syllabic writing systems, in which pictures or symbols expressed one syllable of a word, e.g. "water" as composed of the syllables wa and ter, which was then written with two symbols, one standing e.g. for WA and the other for TER.

The fourth stage was the development of the modern alphabet, which we use today, in which "w-a-t-e-r" is written with five "letters" or "symbols" which are meant to represent certain phonetic sounds. At what stage of writing were the ancient Pharaohs and their priestly scribes?

A discussion of the various views about the origins of writing is found here.

A fun if somewhat limited site with wonderful graphics entitled "Origins of Writing" is found at Utah State University.
This site only explores some features of script.

Ancient Scripts is also an interesting site about writing origins.

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