AN01a3b_Ch01: Civilization and the Development of Writing- The Historic Period.
Timeline: ~10000 BP – 2200 BP (Neolithic Age to Iron Age)
FS: How does writing reflect the needs and diversity of Humanity?
The Neolithic Age witnessed a transformation of Human communal living. Small, wandering bands began to take advantage of the knowledge and climate that encouraged a sedentary life over a nomadic one. As more and more decided to cast their fortunes into a common cause for survival, their agricultural output made village life possible. As the fledgling village communities grew, the resulting complexity of living together presented challenges. Among these was the need to record information for posterity as well for the use of others that were somewhere else.
I. Vocabulary (Refer to Crossword Puzzle)
II. Attributes of a Civilized Society
These sectors are generally identified as:
A. Presence of a Government (Institutions, Bureaucracies, etc.)
A system has to be devised to efficiently organize the community to successfully meet challenges to the common good.
Categories would include, among others, … (1)
The growth of the community (soon to be a ‘society’) is expected to accelerate as learners to meet and overcome challenges. The growth will come from increasing births and migration. Once the community exceeds the norms of a village, it enters into the category of Town/ City.
1. Presence of Cities/ Towns
2. Increasing Population Density (Rising # of people per unit of land)
C. Presence of Communication System
What constitutes a ‘communication system’ can be quite diverse. It would be safe to say that any civilization would offer examples that reflect the diversity.
Examples would include…
1. Road Network (Travel, Transport)
2. Oral Data Transmission (Oral Tradition)
3. Literary Data Recording (Literary Tradition)
4. River Network (Travel, Transport)
D. Commercial Activity
Commercial activity is one of those actions that Humans must have participated in from the very beginning. In it’s simplest form, commercial activity permits Humans to acquire the things they need, from others, that they could not acquire on their own.
1. Presence of Markets
2. Gathering Resources
3. Create/ develop a Medium Of Exchange
4. Build and Maintain Ports (transport, distribution)
E. Social Striation (hierarchies based on specialization)
In Plato’s Republic, the philosopher describes the various developmental stages a community of people pass through before a polis is reached. One of those stages is when a community of people forms to meet common challenges.
1. Evidence of Social Striation
2. Specialization of community roles.
3. Diversification of jobs
4. Hierarchies: Classes, Castes, Groups, etc.
III. Writing and Civilized Society
Increasing complexity makes the success of any developing community problematical. ‘Writing’ expanded the depth and breadth of the planning that’s necessary for civilization-building.
Every segment of a fully developed civilization has writing as a essential data collection and transmission tool. We would find it strange indeed if we participate in our daily activities and NOT encounter written language.
IV. Developmental Trends in Writing
Table 2: Suggestion for the evolution of phonetic letters. Another variation is explained in the BBC video “The story of how we got our alphabets.” (2)
Written language attempts to parallel oral language. This could be phonetically based where the written form attempts to reproduce the ‘sound’ of the spoken language. On the other hand, it could be ideographically based where the written form attempts to reproduce the ‘thought, idea or sentiment’ of the spoken language.
A. Case Study: Chinese as an Ideographic Language
Given the difficulty of accurately isolating an ‘idea’ or ‘thought’ in a character, the interpretation and pronunciation of the character can vary somewhat.
B. Case Study: Ancient Egyptian as a Phonetic Language
Table 3: This is a clearer example of the ancient Egyptian phonetic alphabet. (3)
A less-attractive example is offered by NOVA’s Pyramid website. (cited below)
Among the earliest orally transmitted data are Myths. Since myths were already ancient by the times civilizations developed, they carried great cultural importance. That importance earmarked myths as prime candidates for recording when writing became feasible. In written form, myths acquired immortality and represent some of the oldest and most sacred of religious texts.
The last table, Table 4, provides a peak into the media and writing tools that written languages require to meet the challenges of developing civilizations.
– Chinese Gov’t efforts to change language (2 May 09) http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/chinese-language-ever-evolving/?th&emc=th
– Update: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/nyregion/22chinese.html
– Why are these 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Europe? http://www.ted.com/talks/genevieve_von_petzinger_why_are_these_32_symbols_found_in_ancient_caves_all_over_europe
– Pyramids. PBS’ NOVA. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pyramid/hieroglyph/hieroglyph4.html (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pyramid/hieroglyph/hieroglyph4.html) Accessed 13 August 2016.
-Talking Leaves and Lightning Paper. Lexicon Valley podcastEpisode #22. Development of the Cherokee written language. http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/lexicon_valley/2012/12/lexicon_valley_on_sequoyah_a_native_american_who_invented_an_alphabet_for.html