Meaning of WRITING in English

form of human communication by means of a set of visible marks that are related, by convention, to some particular structural level of language. This definition highlights the fact that writing is in principle the representation of language rather than a direct representation of thought and the fact that spoken language has a number of levels of structure, including sentences, words, syllables, and phonemes (the smallest units of speech used to distinguish one word or morpheme from another), any one of which a writing system can map onto or represent. Indeed, the history of writing is in part a matter of the discovery and representation of these structural levels of spoken language in the attempt to construct an efficient, general, and economical writing system capable of serving a range of socially valuable functions. Literacy is a matter of competence with a writing system and with the specialized functions that written language serves in a particular society. For discussion of the study of writing as a tool of historical research, see the articles epigraphy and paleography. system of human visual communication using signs or symbols that are associated by convention with units of languagemeanings or soundsand are recorded on the surfaces of such substances as paper, stone, clay, or wood. The precursor of writing was the use of pictorial signs, graphic representations of objects carrying some conventional meaning. Pictorial, or pictographic, signs differ from pictures in that they contain only what is important for communication and lack aesthetic embellishment. The pictorial sign is, in effect, a symbol used to depict a person or an object for the purpose of identifying it individually. A correspondence is established and gradually conventionalized between certain symbols and certain objects or beings. Because these objects and beings have names in the oral language, the correspondence is further established between the written symbols and their spoken counterparts. Once it was discovered that words could be expressed in written symbols, it was no longer necessary to record an event such as a man killing a lion by drawing the man, spear in hand, killing the lion. Instead, the spoken sentence man killed lion could be recorded by three conventional symbols representing the words man, killed, and lion. Accordingly, five sheep could be expressed by two symbols corresponding to two words instead of by the five separate pictures of sheep required in the descriptive-representational device. A device in which individual signs express individual words should naturally lead to a complete system of word signs, that is, word writing, or logography. Such a fully developed system has never existed, either in antiquity or in modern times, for to create and memorize signs for thousands of words and names is wholly impracticable. The solution to this problem is found in the phonographic principle, discovered by both the ancient Egyptians and the Sumerians. By the phonographic principle, a written symbol associated with a particular word comes to be used as well to represent other words that sound the same or similar. In a general application of this principle, written signs may come to represent not words as such but components of words, such as syllablesfixed combinations of consonant and vowel sounds. A syllabic writing system can make do with far fewer signs than a logographic system, for the signs can be combined in countless ways to represent all of the words in a language. If the word alphabet is taken strictly to refer to a writing system that expresses all the single sounds (phonemes) of a language, then the first alphabet was formed by the Greeks. Although throughout the 2nd millennium BC several attempts were made to indicate vowels in syllabaries of the Egyptian-Semitic type, none developed into a full vocalic system. The usual way was to add phonetic indicators as helps in reading the vowels, which normally were left unindicated in the Semitic systems of writing. But although the Semites sparingly employed these phonetic indicators, the Greeks used them systematically after each syllabic (i.e., consonantal) sign. The Greeks, having accepted in full the forms of the West Semitic syllabary, evolved a system of vowel signs, which, attached to the syllabic signs, reduced the value of these syllabic signs to simple consonants and thus for the first time created a full alphabetic system of writing. Chinese writing employs a partly logographic, partly phonographic system of writing in which a character may represent any of several homophonic words (words pronounced alike but having different meanings). Additional strokes in the character or simple context supplies the clue as to which word is intended in a particular instance. Additional reading General studies Geoffrey Sampson, Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction (1985), is the first systematic account of the relations between various writing systems and the linguistic structures they represent, with an especially good section on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Roy Harris, The Origin of Writing (1986); Albertine Gaur, A History of Writing (1984); Ignace J. Gelb, A Study of Writing, rev. ed. (1963, reprinted 1969); David Diringer, The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind, 3rd ed. rev., 2 vol. (1968); and Hans Jensen, Sign, Symbol, and Script: An Account of Man's Efforts to Write, 3rd rev. and enl. ed. (1968; originally published in German, 1935), are standard introductions to writing and the alphabet. Eric A. Havelock, The Literate Revolution in Greece and Its Cultural Consequences (1982); and Jack Goody (ed.), Literacy in Traditional Societies (1968, reprinted 1975), examine the cultural, historical, and psychological dimensions of alphabetic writing systems. See also Harvey J. Graff (ed.), Literacy and Social Development in the West: A Reader (1981). Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (1976; originally published in French, 1967), examines the conceptual implications of writing. Brian Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (1983), sets out the increasing uses of writing in the Middle Ages that presaged the Reformation. Good introductions to writing and its uses are provided by Robert Pattison, On Literacy: The Politics of the Word from Homer to the Age of Rock (1982); Donald Jackson, The Story of Writing (1981); and Marcel Cohen, La Grande Invention de l'criture et son volution, 2 vol. (1958). Insup Taylor and M. Martin Taylor, The Psychology of Reading (1983), discusses the relation between various writing systems and the psychological processes involved in learning to read and write them. David R. Olson, Nancy Torrance, and Angela Hildyard (eds.), Literacy, Language, and Learning: The Nature and Consequences of Reading and Writing (1985), gives a sampling of the interdisciplinary nature of recent work on literacy. See also the section on writing and orthography in Linguistic Bibliography (annual). Reproductions of writings Friedrich Ballhorn, Grammatography: A Manual of Reference to the Alphabets of Ancient and Modern Languages (1861; reprinted with title Alphabets of the World, 1983); Charles Fossey (ed.), Notices sur les caractres trangers, anciens et modernes, rdiges par un groupe de savants, new ed. (1948); The Gospel in Many Tongues: Specimens of 872 Languages in Which the British and Foreign Bible Society Has Published or Circulated Some Portion of the Bible, new ed. (1965); Richard Lepsius, Standard Alphabet for Reducing Unwritten Languages and Foreign Graphic Systems to a Uniform Orthography in European Letters, 2nd ed. (1863, reprinted 1981; originally published in German, 1855); and Akira Nakanishi, Writing Systems of the World: Alphabets, Syllabaries, Pictograms (1982). Subgraphemics or semasiography Garrick Mallery, Pictographs of the North American Indians (1886), and Picture-Writing of the American Indians (1893, reprinted 1972); and Henry R. Schoolcraft, Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, vol. 1 (1851, reissued 1975). Graphemics C.F. Voegelin and F.M. Voegelin, Typological Classification of Systems with Included, Excluded, and Self-Sufficient Alphabets, Anthropological Linguistics, 3(1):5596 (1961); and I.J. Gelb, A Note on Morphographemics, in David Cohen (ed.), Mlanges Marcel Cohen, pp. 7377 (1970).

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