Did you know that the first written records are more than five millenniums old? These old recordings were discovered in modern-day Iraq on flat pieces of Mesopotamia clay.
We can define writing as the use of symbols known to others to record language on a visual medium. The medium can also have other optical systems such as decorations and illustrations to aid the message work.
The main difference between writing and speech is that the speaker needs to be present in the mentioned latter form of communication.
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In this article, you’ll learn about the brief history of writing from the great civilizations of the past.
History of Writing
Writing is renowned as one of the greatest inventions by humans, dating back to about 3,300BC when agriculture started in the Middle East. Long before the invention of paper by the Chinese as a writing material, older civilizations were using wood, clay, slate, papyrus, and parchment (prepared animal skins). History records the Romans writing temporary notes and messages on waxed tablets using a pointed paper.
Writing, as an art, developed independently from the Sumerian, the Egyptians, the Chinese through the Mayan in many times. In all these ancient writing systems, they used pictographs as symbols to stand for things, which they later developed a mixture of other methods.
Although our modern alphabetic systems are different from the pictographs, its formation is sounds of spoken language based on the modified versions of the Phoenicians and the Ancient Greeks languages.
Let’s look into ancient writing methods in brief as follows:
The Sumerians were responsible for developing a form of writing known as cuneiform used for accounting, administration, and trade. The cuneiform were triangular marks pressed into soft clay tablets and later baked after allowing the clay to dry in the sun.
Even with the earliest signs being mostly pictorial, they soon developed into symbols for sounds, ideas, and objects. This writing system was so successful that other Middle East civilizations adopted it into their culture, outlasting the Sumerian empire. Such empires were old Persia, Assyria, Babylon, Elamite, Akkad, Hittite, Ugaritic, and Elamite.
The Ancient Egypt writings, invented roughly in the same period as cuneiform, used different materials and were quite different in their style. The Egyptians developed three writing systems, such as the demotic, hieratic, and the hieroglyphics, for the same language.
Their writing tools differed according to the writing material used. Egyptians used the reed pens and carbon inks to write the hieratic and the demonic scripts onto the papyrus. Likewise, they used a brush to write when the material was a cloth.
The hieroglyphs are either carved into stone or painted on the stone surfaces.
The Chinese language, dating back to the 1400BC, has the most significant number of native speakers in the world. This writing system is described as an idio-syllabic method, which is a mixed-method using characters having one or more elements.
Due to the vast number of characters, over 50,000 characters, it is hard to achieve fluency in Chinese writing and reading, even with its pinyin alphabetic system.