Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Quoted for future reference.

Ong, Walter J., SJ. "Breakthrough in Communications." In the Human Grain: Further Explorations of Contemporary Culture. New York: Macmillan, 1967. 1-16.

"The breakthrough from oral communication to script, as we have seen, occurred only around 3500 B.C., and seemingly occurred under the stimulus provided by the need for keeping records as society become more concentrated and highly organized in the urban centers developing at this time on a limited scale. By script we mean a system of writing which in some way represents words, not merely things. Many scripts originate in picture writing and maintain some sort of immediate link with pictures, as Chinese script does. These mark advances, but not the great advance. For pictures do not refer to words as such, but to things. A picture of a bird can elicit any number of words, depending on the language the viewer speaks. The great breakthrough came not with picture-writing but with the alphabet.

"Something of the psychological revolution involved in alphabetic writing came to be sensed from two facts. First, the alphabet came into being only around 1500 B.C., which means that it took around 500,000 years to invent it. Secondly, the alphabet was invented only once: There is, strictly speaking, only one alphabet in the entire world. All alphabets in use or known to ever have been in use -- the Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Cyrillic, Arabic, Sanskrit, Tamil, Korean and all the rest -- trace in one way or another to the alphabet developed, perhaps in some way out of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, in the Syria-Palestine region" (7).

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