'Story or History of writing'/Part:05



Question of where and when writing was invented directs our attention immediately to an important alternative: 

• Was writing invented only once, and did the technique of representing language with written signs spread out from one center all over the world, 
or was writing developed multiple times and independently?

Let me just point out that there is probably no simple answer to this question. On the one hand, the various systems of coding oral language that have been developed at different places show a great variety. Whatever the mutual influences of writing systems of different cultures may be, this variety demonstrates, at least, that the development of writing, once it is initiated, attains a considerable degree of independence and flexibility to adapt a coding system to specific characteristics of the language to be represented. On the other hand, the historio-geographic distribution of the various occurrences of early writing systems seems to indicate, that the idea spread in various directions at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC from centers in Mesopotamia or Mesopotamia and Egypt. 

Why was writing invented? For a long time, a straightforward answer to this question seemed to be beyond any doubt. According to the prevailing philological perspective, writing was essentially considered as a representation of language in a way that allows for an indirect communication and transmission of knowledge.For example,Because of writing only, Now we come to know the grievance from someone called Nanni to another individual known as Ea-nasir, the oldest known written complaint ever recorded, 4000 years ago! The tablet, dated from roughly 1750 B.C. is inscribed in ancient cuneiform, a pictographic form of writing likely developed by the ancient Sumerians, and currently housed in the British Museum.In this letter, Nanni sends the following message to Ea-nasir as below:

"When you came, you said to me as follows : 'I will give Gimil-Sin (when he comes) fine quality copper ingots.'  You left then but you did not do what you promised me. You put ingots which were not good before my messenger (Sit-Sin) and said: 'If you want to take them, take them; if you do not want to take them, go away!'

What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt? I have sent as messengers gentlemen like ourselves to collect the bag with my money (deposited with you) but you have treated me with contempt by sending them back to me empty-handed several times, and that through enemy territory. Is there anyone among the merchants who trade with Telmun who has treated me in this way?

How have you treated me for that copper? You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.

Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt."

The tablet was acquired by the British Museum in 1953. It was originally found in the ruins of Ur.

The general attributes of writing systems can be placed into broad categories such as 

[1]pictographical [E.g: old egyptian writing] ,

[2]ideographical, logographic symbols some time called as ideographs as logographic symbols originally derived from ideographs, the symbols of these languages now stand for words and syllables, and do not refer directly to concepts or things.The best known examples of a logographic writing system are Chinese and Japanese.some Egyptian hieroglyphs and some graphemes in cuneiform script are also logograms.  

[3]syllabary writing [E.g:Tamil,Type of writing system is called syllabic alphabet], 

[4]phonetic writing ,E.g: English, However,strictly speaking it is not,May be English is 98% phonetic. 

The early development of writing was interpreted as a universal process leading from a crude representation of words by pictures to the more efficient representation of words decomposed into phonemes by syllabic signs and, finally, to alphabetic writing.In alphabets and syllabaries, individual written characters represent sounds rather than concepts. These characters are called phonograms. Unlike logograms, phonograms do not necessarily have meaning by themselves, but are combined to make words and phrases that have meaning.  

A syllabary is a phonetic writing system consisting of symbols representing syllables. For example ,Amma in Tamil can split as :/A /m /ma / [/அ/ ம்/ மா/], Similarly word purananuru can be split as ;/pura / /na / /nuru / [/புற/ /நா/ /னூறு/] Here, each characters representing syllables and (in some languages or stages of writing) serving the purpose of an alphabet. In many Indian languages, the writing system is based on syllabic system. Since syllables are composed of phonemes, syllabic writing systems are phonetic. South Asian languages like Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarathi, Gurmukhi, Bengali, Oriya, Sinhalese, Tibetan, Mynamar language scripts are examples of writing systems based on syllabic system and are phonetic. 

Let me now turn to the last question of how writing was invented. The first known writing derives from the lower reaches of the two greatest rivers in this extended region, the Nile and the Tigris. So, any one could easily assumed that both civilizations-Egyptian and the Sumerian (in what is now Iraq)- may be separately responsible for this totally transforming human development, But, Sumerian script is dated as about 3100 BC and the Egyptian version a century or so later, proof that Sumerian is mainly responsible this invention of writing and its idea or technique may be spread to egypt quickly as it is very close to sumeria.

[Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

Part:06 will follow

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