Since 1996 the Study Guides and Strategies Website has been researched, authored, maintained and supported as an international, learner-centric, how writing works pdf public service. Permission is granted to freely copy, adapt, and distribute individual Study Guides in print format in non-commercial educational settings that benefit learners.
Please be aware that the Guides welcome, and are under, continuous review and revision. For that reason, digitization and reproduction of all content on the Internet can only be with permission through a licensed agreement. Linking to the Guides is encouraged! As human societies emerged, the development of writing was driven by pragmatic exigencies such as exchanging information, maintaining financial accounts, codifying laws and recording history. It made the growth of states larger than the old city states possible. It made a continuous historical consciousness possible.
The command of the priest or king and his seal could go far beyond his sight and voice and could survive his death”. 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. However, such phonetic elements complement the logographic elements, rather than vice versa. 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. Most logographic systems have a strong syllabic component.
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. 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 hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt. In most of the alphabets of India and Southeast Asia, vowels are indicated through diacritics or modification of the shape of the consonant. However, unlike true syllabaries, there is not an independent glyph for each syllable. A featural script notates the building blocks of the phonemes that make up a language. Korean is learned by children as an ordinary alphabet, and the featural elements tend to pass unnoticed.
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. While neolithic writing is a current research topic, conventional history assumes that the writing process first evolved from economic necessity in the ancient Near East.