Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Writing is the process of inscribing characters on a medium, with the intention of forming words and other lingual constructs that represent language and convery information. Nearly any tool or medium can be used for writing. Many forms of writing are very durable, such as a stone or pottery carving, while other forms last only for a few hours or minutes, such as writing in the sand or on a blackboard. If writing is done on a typewriter, the act of punching keys to mark on the paper would be called typing, and the intellectual activity involved in generating the letters, words and sentences would be called "writing." There are similar situations, such as painting letters or words on a canvas or the like, in which the act of painting forms the letters, but the letters themselves are "writing."
Writing is also used to describe the craft of literature. This is an extension of the original meaning to include the act of writing longer texts. Writing in this sense can refer to the production of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and letters. Most of time, writing aims to produce works that target a particular reading audience.
In languages that use an alphabet, words are arranged by peicing together characters that roughly represent a phoneme or had at one point in its history. Languages that use abjad or syllabary are similar and are usually more phonetic. In languages using ideograms, each character used represents a word or concept, and can then be put together with others to form sentences.
Writing is believed to have originated by the simple drawing of ideograms: for example, a drawing of an apple represents an apple, and a drawing of two legs may represent the concept of walking or standing. From this origin, the symbols become more abstract, eventually evolving into symbols which seem unrelated to the original symbol. For example, the letter N in English is actually from an Egyptian hieroglyph representing the same sound, but depicting waves in water - the Egyptian word for water contains only one consonant /n/, and the picture eventually came to represent not only the idea of water, but the sound /n/ as well.
Writing with the intent to communicate has been viewed spontaneously in non-humans. Work with the bonobos Kanzi and Panbanisha in the United States has provided one such example. The examples which occur are very few, but the origin of bonobo "writing" seems to be analogous to the origin of human writing.
Writing that is intended to be secret and only understood by one or more recipients can either be completely hidden by invisible ink or steganography, or merely rendered incomprehensible by cryptography.
Rarely, "writing" is used to refer to the making of marks using various methods that are not real writing, as in the "indecipherable writing," a type of surautomatism, developed by the Romanian surrealists; "indecipherable writing" is actually more akin to what would commonly be described as drawing or painting rather than writing.
History of writing
The borderline between prehistory and history is usually taken to be the time from when we have written records. The importance of writing for history and record keeping comes from the fact that it allows information to be stored and communicated across generations, in addition to between individuals (as language enables).
The first examples of structured linear symbolic marking, considered by some to be "proto-writing", are the Tartaria tablets found in the lower Danube Valley and date from around 5000 BC. The first examples of Sumerian writing in Mesopotamia date from around 4000 BC. Initially, symbols were recorded to indicate objects and actions performed by those objects most often for recording of rituals - so-called logotypical alphabets. Shortly after this, the same symbols are seen to be used to record categories of objects, most often in commerce. In an increasingly complex world, typified by the first major complex civilisations in Sumeria and ancient Egypt, this form of writing quickly reached its limits, and we see the use of those same symbols to represent syllabic sounds - the so-called phonotypical alphabets . Abstraction of the symbols into modern Asian, Arabic and Latic alphabets was driven by the need to permanently record ever more complex ideas, and the technology of paper and pen.
Interestingly, the evolution of written language appears to have run parallel up to the phase of basic phonotypical alphabets in both Europe/Asia and America, with the Spanish Conquistadores unfortunately putting a stop to the development in the 15th century.
- boustrophedon text
- creative writing
- fiction technique
- interactive fiction
- word processing
- writing slate
- A History of Writing: From Hieroglyph to Multimedia, edited by Anne-Marie Christin, Flammarion (in French, hardcover: 408 pages, 2002, ISBN 2080108875)
- Das "Anrennen gegen die Grenzen der Sprache" Diskussion mit Roland Barthes, André Breton, Gilles Deleuze & Raymond Federman by Ralph Lichtensteiger
- Origins of writing on AncientScripts.com
- History of Writing
- ERIC Digests
- Writing Instruction: Current Practices in the Classroom
- Writing Development
- Writing Instruction: Changing Views over the Years
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