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For other uses, see Write (disambiguation).
A Specimen of typeset fonts and languages, by William Caslon, letter founder; from the 1728 Cyclopaedia.

Writing may refer to two activities: the inscribing of characters on a medium, with the intention of forming words and other constructs that represent language or record information, and the creation of material to be conveyed through written language. (There are some exceptions; for example, the use of a typewriter to record language is generally called typing, rather than writing.) Writing refers to both activities equally, and both activities may often occur simultaneously.


[edit] Means for recording information

[edit] Writing systems

Main article: Writing system

The major writing systems – methods of inscription – broadly fall into four categories: logographic, syllabic, alphabetic, and featural. Another category, ideographic (symbols for ideas), has never been developed sufficiently to represent language. A 6th, pictographic, is insufficient to represent language on its own, but often forms the core of logographies.

[edit] Logographies

A logogram is a written character which represents a word or morpheme. The vast number of logograms needed to write language, and the many years required to learn them, are the major disadvantage of the logographic systems over alphabetic systems. However, the efficiency of reading logographic writing once it is learned is a major advantage.

No writing system is wholly logographic: all have phonetic components as well as logograms ("logosyllabic" components in the case of Chinese, cuneiform, and Mayan, where a glyph may stand for a morpheme, a syllable, or both; "logoconsonantal" in the case of hieroglyphs), and many have an ideographic component (Chinese "radicals", hieroglyphic "determiners"). For example, in Mayan, the glyph for "fin", pronounced "ka'", was used to represent the syllable "ka" whenever clarification was needed. However, such phonetic elements complement the logographic elements, rather than vice versa.

The main logographic system in use today is Chinese, used with some modification for various languages of China, Japanese, and, to a lesser extent, Korean in South Korea. Another is the classical Yi script.

[edit] Syllabaries

A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate) syllables. A glyph in a syllabary typically represents a consonant followed by a vowel, or just a vowel alone, though in some scripts more complex syllables (such as consonant-vowel-consonant, or consonant-consonant-vowel) may have dedicated glyphs. 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 relatively simple syllable structure, such as Japanese. Other languages that use syllabic writing include the Linear B script for Mycenaean Greek; Cherokee; Ndjuka, an English-based creole language of Surinam; and the Vai script of Liberia. Most logographic systems have a strong syllabic component.

[edit] Alphabets

See also: History of the alphabet

An alphabet is a small set of symbols, each of which roughly represents or historically represented a phoneme of the language. In a perfectly phonological alphabet, the phonemes and letters would correspond perfectly in two directions: a writer could predict the spelling of a word given its pronunciation, and a speaker could predict the pronunciation of a word given its spelling. 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 alphabets of the Mid-East, only consonants are indicated, or vowels may be indicated with optional diacritics. Such systems are called abjads. In other, vowels are indicated through diacritics or modification of the shape of the consonant. These are called abugidas. Some abugidas, such as Ethiopic and Cree, are learned by children as syllabaries, and are often called "syllabics". However, unlike true syllabaries, there is not an independent glyph for each syllable.

Sometimes the term "alphabet" is restricted to systems with separate letters for consonants and vowels, such as the Latin alphabet.

[edit] Featural scripts

A featural script notates the building blocks of the phonemes that make up a language. For instance, all sounds pronounced with the lips ("labial" sounds) may have some element in common. In the Latin alphabet, this is accidentally the case with the letters "b" and "p"; however, labial "m" is completely dissimilar, and the similar-looking "q" is not labial. In Korean Hangul, however, all four labial consonants are based on the same basic element. However, in practice, Korean is learned by children as an ordinary alphabet, and the featural elements tend to pass unnoticed.

Another featural script is SignWriting, the most popular writing system for many sign languages, where the shapes and movements of the hands and face are represented iconically. Featural scripts are also common in fictional or invented systems, such as Tolkien's Tengwar.

[edit] Historical significance of writing systems

Historians draw a 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 are not considered writing because they did not represent language directly.

Writing systems always develop and change based on the needs of the people who use them. Sometimes the shape, orientation and meaning of individual signs also 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 it changed over time.

[edit] Tools

(See methods of representing text)

[edit] Writing in historical cultures

Main article: History of writing
See also: List of languages by first written accounts

[edit] Mesopotamia

The original Mesopotamian writing system was initially derived from a system of clay tokens used to represent commodities. By the end of the 4th millennium BC, this had evolved into a method of keeping accounts, using a round-shaped stylus pressed into soft clay for recording numbers. This was gradually augmented with pictographic writing using a sharp stylus to indicate what was being counted. Round-stylus and sharp-stylus writing was gradually replaced by writing using a wedge-shaped stylus (hence the term cuneiform), at first only for logograms, but evolved to include phonetic elements by the 29th century BC. About 2600 BC cuneiform began to represent syllables of spoken Sumerian. Finally, cuneiform writing became a general purpose writing system for logograms, syllables, and numbers. By the 26th century BC, this script had been adapted to another Mesopotamian language, Akkadian, and from there to others such as Hurrian, and Hittite. Scripts similar in appearance to this writing system include those for Ugaritic and Old Persian.

[edit] China

In China historians have found out a lot about the early Chinese dynasties from the written documents left behind. From the Shang Dynasty most of this writing has survived on bones or bronze implements. Markings on turtle shells have been carbon-dated to around 1500 BC. Historians have found that the type of media used had an effect on what the writing was documenting and how it was used.

There has recently been discoveries of tortoise-shell carvings dating back to c. 6000 BC, but whether or not the carvings are of sufficient complexity to qualify as writing is under debate<ref>China Daily, 12 June 2003, Template:Archaeologists Rewrite History, http://www.china.org.cn/english/2003/Jun/66806.htm</ref>. If it is deemed to be a written language, writing in China will predate Mesopotamian cuneiform, long acknowledged as the first appearance of writing, by some 2000 years.

[edit] Egypt

The earliest known hieroglyphic inscriptions are the Narmer Palette, dating to c.3200 BC, and several recent discoveries that may be slightly older, though the glyphs were based on a much older artistic tradition. The hieroglyphic script was logographic with phonetic adjuncts that included an effective alphabet.

Writing was very important in maintaining the Egyptian empire, and literacy was concentrated among an educated elite of scribes. Only people from certain backgrounds were allowed to train to become scribes, in the service of temple, pharaonic, and military authorities. The hieroglyph system was always difficult to learn, but in later centuries was purposely made even more so, as this preserved the scribes' status.

The world's oldest known alphabet was developed in central Egypt around 2000 BC from a hieroglyphic prototype, and over the next 500 years spread to Canaan and eventually to the rest of the world.

[edit] Indus Valley

Main article: Indus script

The Indus Valley script (circa 2000-1500 BC) is a mysterious aspect of ancient Indian culture as it has not yet been deciphered. Although there are many examples of the Indus script, without true understanding of how the script works and what the inscriptions say, it is impossible to understand the importance of writing in the Indus Civilization.

[edit] Phoenician writing system and descendants

The Phoenician writing system was adapted from the Proto-Caananite script in around the 11th century BC, which in turn borrowed ideas from Egyptian hieroglyphics. This writing system was an abjad — that is, a writing system in which only consonants are represented. This script was adapted by the Greeks, who adapted certain consonantal signs to represent their vowels. This alphabet in turn was adapted by various peoples to write their own language, resulting in the Etruscan alphabet, and its own descendants, such as the Latin alphabet and Runes. Other descendants from the Greek alphabet include the Cyrillic alphabet, used to write Russian, among others. The Phoenician system was also adapted into the Aramaic script, from which the Hebrew script and also that of Arabic are descended.

The Tifinagh script (Berber languages) is descended from the Libyco-Berber script which is assumed to be of Phoenecian origin.

[edit] Elsewhere

Many other systems have been developed independently, for example the complex Mayan system.

[edit] Creation of text or information

[edit] Creativity

Main article: Creativity

[edit] Author

Main article: Author

[edit] Critiques

Writers will often search out others to evaluate or criticize their work. This can give the writer a better product in the end. To this end, many writers join writing circles, often found at local libraries or bookstores. With the evolution of the internet, writing circles have started to go online.

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

ca:Escriptura de:Schreiben es:Escritura fr:Écriture littéraire io:Skriburo id:Menulis he:כתיבה ms:Penulisan ja:筆記 nn:skrift pl:Pismo simple:Writing sv:Skrift th:การเขียน zh:寫作


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