Written Language

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Writing is a way of putting down language in a symbolic form in some medium, usually with an alphabet but also possible with hieroglyphs or other characters. Unlike unrecorded speech, it is a form of communication that has a continuing nature in that it still exists or can be seen after it is completed.


For more information, see History of Writing.

The forerunners to writing were carved sticks or knotted cords that conveyed information. Prehistoric writing took the form of cave art such as found in France. The cultures that developed in Egypt and Sumeria both started with pictorial forms which led to Egyptian hieroglyphics and Sumerian cuneiform. The Hittites, Egyptians and Mesopotamians all devised symbols for specific sounds known as phonetic writing. During the 2nd millennium B.C., Semitic alphabets emerged allowing writing as know it. The Greeks and the Romans both copied these earlier alphabets.

Writing in Mesoamerica had developed into a fully articulated system by 900 BC.

In India, the Indus Valley civilization used a logographic writing system over three thousand years ago.



The New American Desk Encyclopedia, Penguin Group, 1989