Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Alphabet in Reading and Writing

Reposted from Writer's Vineyard blog.

5th Century Latin in Roman lettering
Folio 14r of the Vergilius Romanus.
Did you know Roman Latin didn’t include spaces between words or any punctuation? And of course, the scribes wrote in all capitals, because that is where our capital letters come from. This style lasted well into the fifth century AD. Reading must have been difficult. 
In most formal writing, like the pictographs of Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Roman letters, the written languages were painted or carved into stone. The words were meant to expose the immortal deeds of pharaohs and Caesars in everlasting monuments.  Except for daily business and correspondence, both Egyptian and Roman scribes used a faster, far less formal script on paper-like surfaces. The Egyptian Hieratic script may have developed side by side with the grander Hieroglyphics.
Egyptian Hieratic Script
Over the centuries, other scripts, like the that of the Merovingian's and other tribes and groups, developed, each different in letter style and still very limited in the use of spaces or punctuation. Those mechanics did not come until Charlemagne asked Alcuin of York to come to teach at his palace at Aachen. Although barely literate himself, Charlemagne felt learning important. Alcuin began the development of the Carolingian minuscule with clearly defined spaces between words and sentences ending with periods. An empire needed a standardized system of writing. 
Carolingian script -- still in Latin, but recognizable letters.
So in some respects, whenever you write you use the letters of Julius Caesar and Charlemagne to express yourself.
All images from Wikipedia Commons.
Reprinted from my 2/23/2014 post on Writer's Vineyard. Images from Wikipedia Commons and public domain. 

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