30 May 2004

Mekhoa ea ho Ngola (Writing Systems)

Last night I saw a program on TV about David, the statue. What a beautiful example of a writing system! Michaelangelo had one of the best handwritings ever. Picasso wasn't bad, either, and could write about painful things as about any feeling, really. Is art, paintings specifically, a writing system? My parents come from the southern district of Quthing, where Baroa rock paintings abound. Are they part of the Writing Systems of Southern Africa?

If, indeed, they are, are there any parallels to be drawn between Baroa rock paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphics? I think not. Egyptians painted a pharaoh or a pyramid or a bird in flight when they wanted to paint, and they scribbled hieroglyphics when they wanted to write. Why is southern African Baroa art being bundled off as a writing system? I do not think for a minute that those artists who decorated their homes with pictures of animals and people were trying to communicate some primitive, subliminal message, because that is what it boils down to: others can paint, Baroa wrote.
[ This link via Free Morpheme ]

Written language is a also [sic] a human invention, like spoken language, but it is not a universal invention. Few societies have invented a writing system for themselves - most have been borrowed and adapted from the original inventors. Civilisations as advanced as the Incas have had no writing. The civilisations of the written word were limited mainly to Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Writing systems in the New World, the Pacific, and much of Africa were usually primitive. Where no records remain, we do not know what vanished civilisations may have achieved, but into this century many hundreds of languages and societies have remained preliterate. Two thirds of the world's languages are still unwritten, and there are only several hundred different writing systems. Learning to read is not as natural as learning to talk, despite the hopeful notions that it ought to be. [ Source... ]

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