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Have you ever wondered about the origins of the written word?


Probably not something we give much thought to because it has always been with us. History reveals a compelling evolution timeline.


Although spoken language is believed to have developed tens of thousands of years ago, the written word emerged much later, as hunter-gatherers developed more permanent agrarian societies.


9,000 years ago, the Sumerians are credited with inventing counting tokens. Often constructed of clay and imprinted with symbols, they served as vouchers to be exchanged for goods and services.


Pictographs transitioned from tokens to larger pieces of clay called ‘ostraca’ in addition to papyrus as they became more stylized. Scribes used a wedge-shaped stylus made of reeds to create the varied imagery. This script is known as cuneiform, our first written language.


Fast-forward to the shores of the Mediterranean where Egyptians, sometime toward the end of the fourth millennium B.C., developed hieroglyphics which represented sounds. This major advance, called a “one-sign, one-sound” system of writing, is regarded as the first alphabet.


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