Evolution of Writing

I use the written word more than most peoplebut Ihave not consciously questioned how writing was devised from the collection of sounds our ancestors were making for between 50,000 and 1.9million years ago; give or take. According to recent research, humans spent 45,000 years talking to each other before it occurred to a few to make words into durable visual symbols.

Runes from The Last Viking Returns by Norman Jorgensen and James Foley

We can see how different groups of homo sapiens, isolated from each other as they were on islands like Japan and Greece, came up with such radically different symbols for the same basic concepts? But think about the Chinese and the Russians. They are virtually neighbours, and yet their alphabets and even their method of forming letters (brushes as opposed to feather quills) are so vastly different. On the other hand, Spanish, Italian, French, English and others use basically the same alphabet, and form their letters in much the same way.

Of course we can trace most of the Latin based languages back to the dominance of the Roman Empire, which was widespread in Europe, for such a long period of time.

But what about English? England was invaded by so many different peoples, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, as well as the Romans. How did the English evolve such a different set of gramma and spelling rules compared to their relatively near neighbours, even the ones whose language is also Latin based? And how did English end up in the position of dominance we find it in today? From ‘a nation of shopkeepers’ as the English were scathingly called, to the developers of a common’ language of commerce’, spoken around the world.

Some of these questions we may never know the answers to. But I find them endlessly fascinating, anyway.