Chapter 5 SQR by, Dominique Robles

Development of the English Writing System

How is it that we went from pictures to letters? In a world run by technology, cell phones, i-pads, and Mac’s how is it that the only way we used to communicate was through pictures and symbols. Cuneiform was the earliest known writing system, and it was invented by the Sumerians. Even though many people around the world were writing before this, the first alphabet was not yet developed until this one between 1700 and 1500 B.C.


For many years we spent so much time making the alphabet and trying to expand the vocabulary, and now look what we are trying to do. Our generation is so lazy that we are reverting back to how the alphabet started. We no longer write out “talk to you later”, instead we just post “ttly”. Since the dawn of the I-phones we have become even lazier. There are so many different emoticon’s that we don’t even need to use letters or words, instead we can just send a picture or shape.


According to the book the Cuneiform language was referred too as pictographic, or ideographic and was usually connected to religion or magic. The symbols and shapes made it easy for those of other languages to communicate, because it was easier for them to understand symbols more than words. This system worked for a while, but became more difficult when people discovered that they had to learn many different symbols, one for each idea.


The next writing system was known as hieroglyphics, given to us by the Egyptians. There system used pictographic symbols, but also brought in ideographic and alphabetic writing for the first time. Though this was a step towards the future, it also created a limitation. The problem was that only the person that wrote the message could understand it, for many this system of combining letters with sounds was too complex. It was not until 1500B.C. that all marks were now represented by sounds, developed in Syria.


Finally, about four hundred years later what is now known as paper was introduced. Using more of a paper like substance called papyrus, the Phoenicians were now able to produce lines which made it that much easier for them to develop more letters. With the admission of “paper” the Phoenicians now had a twenty-two letter alphabet. Not 25, but a big step from symbols and pictures.


It was not until the Greeks got a hold of the system that we had our first true 25 letter alphabet. The Greeks used the Phoenician system as a base, but used both consonants and vowels to make the alphabet. It amazes me that after everything we went through and how long it took to create a true alphabet that we would almost revert back to our old language of pictures and symbols.


How is it that something as beautiful as language is being reduced to an annoyance? Something that our generation sees’s as not necessary. We don’t need words or letter to communicate; we have technology with smiley’s and other random emoticons. What is this world coming too, if we are just to revert back to our beginnings?



Concerned Citizen


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