chapter  7
Written Languages
ByCarl J. Couch, Shing-Ling S. Chen
Pages 22

In the past, some scholars have dichotomized human societies into the civilized and uncivilized and have equated the civilized with the presence of written languages. When the Chinese and Maya developed written languages, for the first few centuries they also used them only in conjunction with only a few activities. In China early writing was used to record eclipses, dates, predictions of military campaigns, and sacrifices to ancestors. Many different types of written languages have been developed, but two basic types are pictographic and phonetic. The Egyptians, Chinese, and Maya endowed their written languages with sacredness. The literates of these societies also conceptualized writing as an instrument to be used to maintain social order. Written languages vastly increase the amount of information that can be preserved. Pictographic specialists frequently constructed histories that ordered the past in cycles. Prior to written languages, several information technologies existed more or less autonomously, with each technology used to preserve a particular type of information.