Portal:Writing
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Portal:Writing
Welcome to the writing portal

Introduction

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Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with the debatable exception of computer languages); they are means of rendering a language into a form that can be reconstructed by other humans separated by time and/or space. While not all languages utilize a writing system, those with systems of inscriptions can complement and extend capacities of spoken language by enabling the creation of durable forms of speech that can be transmitted across space (e.g., correspondence) and stored over time (e.g., libraries or other public records). It has also been observed that the activity of writing itself can have knowledge-transforming effects, since it allows humans to externalize their thinking in forms that are easier to reflect on and potentially rework. Writing relies on many of the same semantic structures as the speech it represents, such as lexicon and syntax, with the added dependency of a system of symbols to represent that language's phonology and morphology. The result of the activity of writing is called a text, and the interpreter or activator of this text is called a reader.

As human societies emerged, collective motivations for the development of writing were driven by pragmatic exigencies like keeping history, maintaining culture, codifying knowledge through curricula and lists of texts deemed to contain foundational knowledge (e.g., The Canon of Medicine) or to be artistically exceptional (e.g., a literary canon), organizing and governing societies through the formation of legal systems, census records, contracts, deeds of ownership, taxation, trade agreements, treaties, and so on. Amateur historians, including H.G. Wells, had speculated since the early 20th century on the likely correspondence between the emergence of systems of writing and the development of city-states into empires. As Charles Bazerman explains, the "marking of signs on stones, clay, paper, and now digital memories--each more portable and rapidly travelling than the previous--provided means for increasingly coordinated and extended action as well as memory across larger groups of people over time and space." For example, around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration in Mesopotamia outgrew human memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. In both ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica, on the other hand, writing may have evolved through calendric and political necessities for recording historical and environmental events. Further innovations included more uniform, predictable, and widely dispersed legal systems, distribution and discussion of accessible versions of sacred texts, and the origins of modern practices of scientific inquiry and knowledge-consolidation, all largely reliant on portable and easily reproducible forms of inscribed language.  

Individual, as opposed to collective, motivations for writing include improvised additional capacity for the limitations of human memory (e.g., to-do lists, recipes, reminders, logbooks, maps, the proper sequence for a complicated task or important ritual), dissemination of ideas (as in an essay, monograph, broadside, petition, or manifesto), imaginative narratives and other forms of storytelling, personal or business correspondence, and lifewriting (e.g., a diary or journal). (Full article...)

Selected article

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Pictured left: Blisssymbols stating "I want to go to the cinema"

Blissymbolics or Blissymbols were conceived of as an ideographic writing system consisting of several hundred basic symbols, each representing a concept, which can be composed together to generate new symbols that represent new concepts. Blissymbols differ from all the world's major writing systems in that the characters do not correspond at all to the sounds of any spoken language.

They were invented by Charles K. Bliss (1897-1985) after the Second World War. Bliss wanted to create an easy-to-learn international auxiliary language to allow communication between people who do not speak the same language. He was inspired by Chinese ideograms, with which Bliss became familiar while in Shanghai as a refugee from Nazi anti-semitic persecution. His system World Writing was explained in his work Semantography (1949). This work laid out the language structure and vocabulary for his utopian vision of easy communication, but it failed to gain popularity. However, since the 1960s, Blissymbols have become popular as a method of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for non-speaking people with cerebral palsy or other disorders, for whom it can be impossible to otherwise communicate with spoken language. (Full article...)

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An Ottoman Empire era ijazah written in Arabic certifying competence in calligraphy, 1206 AH / 1791 AD

Selected biography

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Henry George (September 2, 1839 – October 29, 1897) was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land. He inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism, whose main tenet is that people should own what they create, but that everything found in nature, most importantly land, belongs equally to all humanity. His most famous work, Progress and Poverty (1879), is a treatise on inequality, the cyclic nature of industrial economies, and the use of the land value tax as a possible remedy.

Henry George is best known for his argument that the economic rent of land should be shared by society rather than being owned privately. The clearest statement of this view is found in Progress and Poverty: "We must make land common property." By taxing land values, society could recapture the value of its common inheritance, and eliminate the need for taxes on productive activity. (Full article...)

Did you know...

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... that the Korean alphabet Hangul was promulgated by the Korean king Sejong the Great after being developed under his guidance by a team of researchers? It is the rare example of a writing system that is thoroughly planned after scientific points of view.

Categories

Category puzzle

Writing o Calligraphy o Penmanship o Writing implements o Inks o Alphabetic writing systems o Abjad o Abugida o Kanji o Logographic writing systems o Writing systems o Cyrillic alphabets o Hellenic scripts o Script typefaces

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  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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