The history of writing follows the art of expressing words by letters or other marks. In the history of how systems of representation of language through graphic means have evolved in different human civilizations, more complete writing systems were preceded by proto-writing, systems of ideographic and/or early mnemonic symbol. Language expresses thought, preserves thought, and also suggests or creates thought. It has been considered obvious that, so long as language is unwritten, it can accomplish these ends only in a very imperfect measure. Hence it may well be supposed that, at a very early stage of man's history, attempts were made to present in some way to the eye the thought which spoken language conveyed to the ear, and thus give it visible form and permanence. However, this understanding does not necessarily go unquestioned. True writing, or phonetic writing, records were developed independently in four different civilizations in the world, namely Sumeria, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica.
The need of visual identification and the concept of visual symbol is introduced, as is the subsequent development of proprietary marks. Artifacts representing forms of communication, such as commemorative markers, funerary texts, and stamps used to make proprietary marks, are identified for each major culture.
The history of the alphabet begins in Ancient Egypt, more than a millennium into the history of writing. The first alphabet emerged around 2000 BCE to represent the language of Semitic workers in Egypt (see Middle Bronze Age alphabets), and was derived from the alphabetic principles of the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Nearly all alphabets in the world today either descend directly from this development or were inspired by its design. The most common in use is Latin, deriving from the first true alphabet, Greek.
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