Having looked more into the beginning of writing, I found that in large, the basic knowledge of the roots of writing, have not changed. This was till I saw a documentary about a place named Aratta, which is being unearthed by archaeologists in the high mountains of today’s north Iran - south east to what was Sumer in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq).

For generations Aratta was thought of as only a myth, an epic Mesopotamian tale. Today Aratta has become a reality; where excavations reveal a very healthy and rich kingdom that apparently had an alphabetic writing system already in 2500BC!

As this new information is still in its infancy, I will return to the common data, which is very fascinating indeed. So here we go -

Pictorial writing, which the Chinese and Japanese still use, is very difficult to learn and use. The old Coniform and hieroglyphics were even more difficult to handle, as their transportation from place to place was too cumbersome; for recording movements of goods, commerce; and contracts among nations. The need to simplify brought about the alphabetical system, where few letters can be used in different combinations, to mean different words, and are easily learnt, used and transported.

The alphabetical system started in Canaan (more or less today’s Israel, Lebanon & the Sinai), by the Semitic people who lived there. Tradition puts the Phoenician as the first to start this system, followed by the Hebrews. Both were part of Canaan and both languages were very similar.

As everything else, the alphabetical system went through trial and errors till it settled with 22 letters. These were, in the progress of time, changed, added to or replaced, to accommodate for the sounds the various tongues have.

At the beginning all letters followed one another. There were no spaces between the words, or any identifying marks for the beginning or end of sentences. This makes a lot of sense in my opinion as it followed the manner of speech. If you pay attention to the way we speak, you will find that we do speak in a running fashion.

When writing began, it was written to all direction: right to left; left to right; up and down and even at one stage; back and forth with the eye movement. Even though it shortened the time needed for the eyes to return to the beginning of the line to start reading the next, it was probably dropped because of the need to learn writing in both directions. At the end it has settled to be written and read from right to left. Surprise? You should be. We do take our way of writing for granted, don’t we?

The truth of the matter is that all alphabetical writing, in whatever form and shape developed from this one corner of the world, and Semitic writing was already found in Egypt next to Egyptian Hieroglyphics, dated to around 1900BC.

By what I understand, the pictorial Hieroglyphic as well as Cuneiform were the base point from where the alphabetical system started. It took the schematic drawing of an object, simplified it and used it as a symbol of the first sound of the displayed object’s name. For example, and just to clarify, Take the word ‘Door’. Draw a schematic door. Name it – D. Now you have a letter that depicts the ‘D’ sound. Now, you can place it anywhere where the written word needs that sound – Drive, said, riddle and so on… Ingenious, isn’t it?

Following the same line of reasoning, the written words had no vowels or any other means of identifying that vowels give. In reality one can read words without vowels, as readers of Hebrew and Arabic, as well as some users of emails and SMS will attest.

The vowels are a Greek invention. They developed through changing the use of some existing letters and by addition of some new ones. The Greeks were also those who changed the direction of writing to go from left to right.

As I wrote before, all alphabetical forms of writing developed from the Semitic writing; be it the Latin, which we use, the Greek, or the Russian forms of writings, and even the various Asiatic ones.

Like everything else, writing had to develop, and evolve, to meet the changes in society and specific needs of every tongue. It also had to change; according to the logic of each group of people, Looking at those changes one can hardly believe that all alphabetical systems have come from the one same root. Today, Hebrew and Arabic are still written and read from right to left. So when I write or read Hebrew, I go from right to left and reverse the order when in English, \


Artist, poet and the author of

From the Promised Land to the Lucky Country

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Bicurim feast in the kibbutz highschool
Hi Walter and Annette, Thanks for the feedback. Pleased you enjoyed reading it. What happened to the boat, comes in a period after the book ends and maybe a part of the next book...