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...)
The stylized signature (tughra
) of Sultan Mahmud II
of the Ottoman Empire
was written in an expressive calligraphy. It reads Mahmud Khan son of Abdulhamid is forever victorious.
Islamic calligraphy is the art of writing, and by extension, of bookmaking. This art has most often employed the Arabic script, throughout many languages. Calligraphy is especially revered among Islamic arts since it was the primary means for the preservation of the Qur'an.
Throughout Islamic history, the work of calligraphers was collected and appreciated. Consideration of figurative art as idolatrous led to calligraphy and abstract figures becoming the main methods of artistic expression in Islamic cultures.
Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (the Arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work. (Full article...)