Portal:Writing

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Welcome to the writing portal

Introduction

Medieval writing desk.jpg

Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language through a system of physically inscribed, mechanically transferred, or digitally represented 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 use 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, elaborate, reconsider, and revise. 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 traveling 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, maintaining kinship and other social networks, negotiating household matters with providers of goods and services and with local and regional governing bodies, and lifewriting (e.g., a diary or journal). (Full article...)

Selected article

Transliteration is the practice of transcribing a word or text written in one writing system into another writing system or system of rules for such practice.

From a linguistic point of view, transliteration is a mapping from one system of writing into another, word by word. Transliteration attempts to be exact, so that an informed reader should be able to reconstruct the original spelling of unknown transliterated words. To achieve this objective transliteration may define complex conventions for dealing with letters in a source script which do not correspond with letters in a goal script.

Transliteration is opposed to transcription, which specifically maps the sounds of one language to the best matching script of another language. Still, most systems of transliteration map the letters of the source script to letters pronounced similarly in the goal script, for some specific pair of source and goal language. (Full article...)

Selected picture

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

Selected biography

Andrew Robinson, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.jpg
W. Andrew Robinson (born 1957) is a British author[1][2] and former newspaper editor.[3]

Andrew Robinson was educated at the Dragon School, Eton College where he was a King's Scholar, University College, Oxford where he read Chemistry and finally the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He is the son of Neville Robinson, an Oxford physicist. He is based in London and is currently a full-time writer.

Robinson has written several books about the history of writing, including:

  • The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs and Pictograms. Thames and Hudson (2000). ISBN 0-500-28156-4.[4]
  • Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Great Undeciphered Scripts. McGraw-Hill (2002). ISBN 0-07-135743-2.[5][6]
  • Writing and Script. Oxford University Press (2009). ISBN 9780199567782.[3][7][8] (Full article...)

Did you know...

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... that screenwriter Richard Baer's writing credits for television included twenty-three episodes of Bewitched and five episodes of The Munsters?
Other "Did you know" facts...

Categories

Category puzzle

WritingCalligraphyPenmanshipWriting implementsInksAlphabetic writing systemsAbjadAbugidaKanjiLogographic writing systemsWriting systemsCyrillic alphabetsHellenic scriptsScript typefaces

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