An Animated Historical past of Writing: From Historic Egypt to Fashionable Writing Programs


He could be a quite simple particular person, and fairly a stranger to the oracles of Thamus or Ammon, who ought to go away in writing or obtain in writing any artwork beneath the concept the written phrase could be intelligible or sure. — Socrates

The transmission of fact was at one time a face-to-face enterprise that passed off instantly between trainer and pupil. We discover historical sages around the globe who discouraged writing and privileged spoken dialogue as one of the best ways to speak. Why is that? Socrates himself defined it in Plato’s Phaedrus, with a fable concerning the origin of writing. In his story, the Egyptian god Thoth devises the assorted technique of communication by indicators and presents them to the Egyptian god-king Thamus, also referred to as Ammon. Thamus examines them, praising or disparaging every in flip. When he will get to writing, he’s particularly put out.

“O most ingenious Theuth,” says Thamus (in Benjamin Jowett’s translation), “you who’re the daddy of letters, from a paternal love of your personal kids have been led to attribute to them a top quality which they can not have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness within the learners’ souls, as a result of they won’t use their reminiscences; they are going to belief to the exterior written characters and never keep in mind of themselves. The precise which you’ve gotten found is an help to not reminiscence, however to memory, and also you give your disciples not fact, however solely the illusion of fact.”

Different applied sciences of communication like Incan khipu have the standard of “embeddedness,” says YouTuber NativeLang above, in an animated historical past of writing that begins with the parable of “Thoth’s Tablet.” That’s to say, such kinds are inseparable from the fabric context of their origins. Writing is exclusive, fungible, alienable, and alienating. Its best power — the power to speak throughout distances of time and house — can also be its weak spot because it separates us from one another, requiring us to memorize complicated methods of indicators and interpret an writer’s which means of their absence. Socrates criticizes writing as a result of “it is going to de-embed you.”

The irony of Socrates’ critique (by way of Plato) is that “it involves us by way of textual content,” notes Bear Pores and skin Digital. “We take pleasure in it and give it some thought purely as a result of it’s recorded in writing.” What’s extra, as Phaedrus says in response, Socrates’ story is simply a narrative. “You may simply invent tales of Egypt, or of every other nation.” To which Socrates replies {that a} fact is a fact, irrespective of who says it, or how we occur to listen to it. Is it so with writing? Does its ambiguity render it ineffective? Are written works like orphans, as Socrates characterizes them? “If they’re maltreated or abused, they haven’t any dad and mom to guard them; they usually can’t shield or defend themselves….”

It’s just a little too late to determine if we’re higher off with out the written phrase, so many millennia after writing grew out of pictographs, or “proto-writing” and into ideographs, logographs, rebuses, phonetic alphabets, and extra. Watch the total animated historical past of writing above and, then, by all means, shut your browser and go have an extended dialog with somebody face-to-face.

Associated Content material:

Find out how to Write in Cuneiform, the Oldest Writing System within the World: A Quick, Charming Introduction

40,000-Yr-Outdated Symbols Present in Caves Worldwide Might Be the Earliest Written Language

A 4,000-Yr-Outdated Pupil ‘Writing Board’ from Historic Egypt (with Instructor’s Corrections in Crimson)

Josh Jones is a author and musician primarily based in Durham, NC. Comply with him at @jdmagness

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