Chapter 10. The Written Word

To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life.

—LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN

The Origins of Writing

MOST OF WHAT WE DESIGN INVOLVES WRITING IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, and writing has properties that are different from aural communication. Writing is much newer, but it’s no less fundamental to our daily reality.

Writing as we know it emerged as an elaborate game of charades using scribbled and imprinted signs to create a mélange of evocations—some representational pictures, some phonetic, some a combination of both. Eventually writing became much more about encoding the richness of verbal language than mere pictorial representation, because the pictures were quickly co-opted into representations of the sounds of oral language, ...

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