Is Arabic the first cursive writing?

Gunarta's picture

Is Arabic the first cursive writing?

I think Arabic is the first Cursive, because its cursive is modified into formal writing in its writing system.

Thanks
Gunarta

TylerEldredge's picture

I wouldn't say that. Indic scripts could, possibly, be considered cursive, because letter forms are joined together, just like cursive in other scripts.

If we're defining cursive as a script that is a simpler, quicker form for writing things quickly, then the oldest cursive script is the Chinese 草书/caoshu or Grass Script.

hrant's picture

Better question:
When will Arabic get over it?

hhp

Gunarta's picture

Indic Script family is about 3rd century BCE. While, Arabic is fourth-century.
But, Not All's of Incic family is cursive. I.e Balinese, Javanese, Brahmi, Telugu, and so on. The connected letters are just found in Gurmuki, Devanagari, E Nagari. Devanagari is 8th century. Gurmukhi is 15th century. E Nagari is derived from Nagari Script. While all nagari script is about 10th century. The Cursive variant in Indic is classified as new indic.

Meanwhile, Arabic had connected letters from it found.
I dont think Cursive is working in Chinese.

hrant's picture

I don't think cursive is working, period.

hhp

riccard0's picture

I dont think Cursive is working in Chinese.

Any script had or have a cursive form of some sort, in the exact moment in which it’s written by hand (as opposed to being an inscription or, obviously, print).
The form which such cursive will take depends on the type of script, shape of glyphs, tools and materials used, and direction of writing.

Gunarta's picture

I defined cursive as connected letters

riccard0's picture

Not the best of definitions ;-)
What about printed Devanagari, for example, it’s cursive because letters are connected? And there are script in which there is no “letters” as such, so connecting glyphs would not make sense.

Anyway, by your definition, I think that Hieratic would come first:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieratic

Gunarta's picture

Hieratic and cursive? what differences?

riccard0's picture

I was just saying that Hieratic is a form of cursive that predates Arabic cursive.

dezcom's picture

I don't know if we have the evidence to say. My "guess" would be that there was much cursive writing which never survived the centuries, It was likely that it was written on a material that would easily decompose. Perhaps there were written scripts long before we have artifacts available to see?

Andreas Stötzner's picture

Is Arabic the first cursive writing?

“Corsivo” (= running) is an Italian term from about the 16th century. Given that, you can determine with very little thinking what this may have to do with Arabic or with ‘first writing’.

John Hudson's picture

A distinction should be made between

a) cursive writing, which results in connections between individual letters based on minimising the number of times the pen leaves the page (e.g. English running hand or connected italic);

b) connected formal writing, in which the connection between letters is constructed from independent strokes rather than cursively written (e.g. Devanagari); and

c) morphographical scripts, in which the strokes connecting letters replaces strokes of the independent letters, thereby changing their shape (e.g. Arabic).

____

Hieratic isn't cursive, it is a formal book hand. Demotic is informal and shows more elements of cursive. In order to determine whether a script style is cursive, you need to analyse the individual sign forms and determine how frequently the pen needs to leave the writing surface in order to write them. Cursive is all about speed and about minimising the number of times the pen has to be lifted and put down again.

All mature scribal cultures develop both formal book hands and informal or secretarial (chancery) hands. Cursive connection is one typical feature of the latter, but they also tend to display other characteristics derived from speed: abbreviation, compression and slant. Latin informal hands don't employ much abbreviation, but do display compression and slant. An Arabic informal hand such as ruqah displays considerable abbreviation, particular in losing the teeth of seen; it can be contrasted with the formal hands such as thuluth and naskh. [Nastaliq is interesting in that it functions as both a formal book hand and as an informal hand, especially in the Perso-Indic tradition, with the difference mainly in the care/speed with which it is written in different circumstances.]

It isn't sufficient to describe Arabic as ‘cursive’. It is morphographical, which means that the shape of the letters is determined by adjacency. This is why, unlike Latin, you can't just remove the connections between cursively written letters and still get something readable; in Arabic the connections are part of the letters, not separable linking strokes.

dudefellow's picture

Cursive is bad. It was Akhenaten's fault. Before that, everything in Egypt was done in boxes.

The value of cursive is that it makes writing quicker. You might say that cursive writing is more beautiful. However, the most beautiful calligraphy takes ages to write, so the conveyance of flow wherein the beauty resides is deception. Cursive style in handwriting is not good for legibility. Many people prefer to read a printed text of disjoint letters. I find the ink blot effect of brushwork Chinese characters off-putting and crude. I see refinement in conformity, the majesty of logical order and practicality. Cursive writing is not good for certain kinds of execution and writing media, such as carving on hard surfaces. Systems with distinct letters are better for printing and electronic display.

A system of writing that has a cursive foundation is unsound and crumbles towards the top.

Arabic calligraphic works of art are amazing though.

hrant's picture

> Systems with distinct letters are better for printing and electronic display.

But not for [immersive] reading.
Which however does not mean calligraphy is good for type.

hhp

AzizMostafa's picture

> A system of writing that has a cursive foundation is unsound and crumbles towards the top.

Crumbles towards the top or bottom?!
http://qalambartar.com/Font.aspx?FontID=1426454535

dudefellow's picture

AzizMostafa: >Crumbles towards the top or bottom?!

hrant: >But not for [immersive] reading.
Which however does not mean calligraphy is good for type.

Because of the equipment involved, printing with moveable type is technologically more advanced than drawing with pigment on sheets.

Primitive modular electronic display such as on pocket calculators is technologically more advanced than printing with moveable type, because of the equipment involved.

Non-cursive script is more suitable for printing with moveable type and modular electronic display than cursive script.

In that sense, cursive scripts crumble towards advanced applications.

There are even more advanced applications than printing and electronic display. Information storage and transmission may be relevant to this argument. Segmental as opposed to morphological script allows combinatorial construction from a smaller set of characters. Morphological characters hardly combine combinatorially except at the word formation level. Segmental letters, on the other hand, combine at the level within the word as well as by permutations of words and morphemes. Hence, segmental systems of writing are inherently better adapted to information technology.

Anyway, cursive scripts crumble towards the bottom as well, as they are not suitable for scratching on hard surfaces, for example if you find yourself on a desert island with no paper or ink pens. Reasons similar to this may be why the Roman alphabet has been promulgated so well.

I'm sticking to the claim that cursive script is less legible. People can argue that morphographic cues aid faster reading. But segmental letters can provide morphographic cues too, albeit in a less spatially compact fashion. But since morphographic scripts take longer to learn, any benefit of rapid reading in the end is counter-balanced.

Cursive script can be okay for type if you are clever enough to design it well.

That said, I don't have anything against cursive script per se, it is against systems of writing that are based on cursive origins and which cannot be written segmentally whereas segmental letters can be written in both ways.

AzizMostafa's picture

Might be applicable to some cursive scripts, but not Arabic, my dude fellow!

hrant's picture

> technologically more advanced

And cellphones are more advanced than landline phones - but I still don't have one.
To me it has to be useful, not advanced.

> Non-cursive script is more suitable for printing with moveable
> type and modular electronic display than cursive script.

And illiteracy is even more suitable - you don't have to print at all!
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/ss_uniglyph1.html

Sure, technology affects change in culture, but sadly it tends
to be for the worse; so ideally we have to make technology not
just quick and cheap, but culturally enriching.

All your arguments seem to tend towards simplification, Modernism.
I think Modernism is inhuman.

> cursive script is less legible.

Typically, yes.
But -if redefined in a useful way- it can be more readable.

> longer to learn

If what you're learning is useful, it more than makes up for it soon enough.
Again: illiteracy versus literacy.

> I don't have anything against cursive script per se

I do: it encourages an illusory valuation of chirography.
We just have to be strong enough to overcome it.

hhp

dudefellow's picture

This thread has been veering somewhat off course from its original topic, for which I apologise as I seem to have been responsible.

If we look on the bright side and try to see the advantages, perhaps retrospectively, at least I have at the earliest stage disclosed biases I have that may undermine serious scholarship.

This is particularly important as there is evidently a risk of selecting the definition of "cursive" to suit our intentions.

So let us address the original topic:

Gunarta:
>Is Arabic the first cursive writing?
>I think Arabic is the first Cursive, because its cursive is modified into formal writing in its writing system.

In concordance with John Hudson, 4.Jul.2011 10.41am:

>a) cursive writing, which results in connections between individual letters based on minimising the number of times the pen leaves the page (e.g. English running hand or connected italic)

I take the definition of cursive to mean graphical features that minimize the times that the implement of writing is lifted from the surface medium in order to increase the speed of execution. By cursive I do not necessarily mean a stenographic script of disjoint marks, such as Tironian short hand or scribal notation. Nor do I accept simple connection of letters, as
Gunarta suggested 3.Jul.2011 2.00am:

>I defined cursive as connected letters

as otherwise we could say that the Ogham script, which consists of nothing other than straight lines, is cursive. I do not accept, as riccard0 3.Jul.2011 1.09am suggested, that a script can be cursive just because it is written by hand:

>Any script had or have a cursive form of some sort, in the exact moment in which it’s written by hand

otherwise we could say that the Futhark runes were cursive.

The term cursive can be applied to scripts that predate its coinage, because we are using it as an academic categorisation for morphology or form rather than phylogeny. In contrast to others, I would not say that cursive applies only between letters or other glottographic segments that correspond to temporal acoustic segments. Cursive also applies within letters or morphograms. We can describe a script as cursive if it possesses any significant amount of cursivity, and there are degrees to which scripts are cursive, so that some are more cursive than others. Cursive and morphographical are not mutually exclusive terms; a script can be cursive and nevertheless morphographical.

Take, for example, the case of Chinese characters. Even though there may not be cursive connections between characters in a particular Chinese script style, we may still say that the script is cursive if there are cursive features within the characters. This may be compared to cursive handwriting of the Roman alphabet, where there are cursive features within and between letters but not conventionally between words. Since the Chinese character corresponds to morphemes and often to whole words, the amount of cursivity is capable of being similar for the Chinese and Roman scripts.

As a second example, consider Arabic calligraphic script. Yes, there are morphographical traits on account of the likes of initial, medial and final forms, but this does not negate the fact that this Islamic script is predominantly cursive. If we were to say that Arabic script is not cursive, because it is morphographical, then by a similar argument we could claim that running handwriting in the English language written with the Roman alphabet is not cursive because of the morphographical attributes imparted by irregular spelling.

Thus, we acknowledge that there are cursive forms of Chinese script. A cursive variant or style of Chinese character script had evolved by at least as early as about 200 BC. There really are cursive features within those Chinese characters. This is well before the earliest remaining examples that we have of cursive Arabic, dating from about the 4th century AD. Therefore, we can definitely say, on the basis of the evidence available to us, that Arabic is not the first cursive script.

I think it is fair to say that Literary Hieratic is a more cursive form than the monumental Hieroglyphic. Hieratic must be older than the cursive Chinese script. That Hieratic may be the oldest cursive was pointed out by riccard0 3.Jul.2011 4.07am. But John Hudson 4.Jul.2011 10.41am says:

>Hieratic isn't cursive, it is a formal book hand.

To return to the statement in the opening post:

>I think Arabic is the first Cursive, because its cursive is modified into formal writing in its writing system.

Perhaps I do not understand correctly, but I do not see why the formal form of the script has to be cursive in order for the writing to be the earliest cursive. This may be relevant to the question of whether Literary Hieratic is cursive even though it is a formal book hand. Cursive does not necessarily imply informal, and formal does not necessarily imply non-cursive. It seems that this may be a case of choosing the definition to suit ones purposes.

So, I think that the question has been answered already. I would like to continue the argument on the merits of cursive script, as you can see how I have been able to highlight how it might be related to the reasons for our choices of definitions of cursive, perhaps in a new discussion if this has not been done before.

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
Sure, technology affects change in culture, but sadly it tends
to be for the worse; so ideally we have to make technology not
just quick and cheap, but culturally enriching.

All your arguments seem to tend towards simplification, Modernism.
I think Modernism is inhuman.

While I might not go that far, in this context at least, I agree.

On the one hand, though, it is true that it would be presumptuous of Westerners to think they can save Arabic typography.

But that does not appear to be the question. Instead, since the West sets the standards - whether the Linotype and Monotype machines, or the True Type and Opentype formats - then it's entirely appropriate for us to ensure that we avoid preventing the Arabic-script world from typesetting its languages with what it seeks as acceptable quality.

Still, when you said

Better question:
When will Arabic get over it?

you seemed to be saying the exact opposite.

I think that even when the technological obstacles to proper Arabic typography are eliminated, there will be some contexts in which something like "Unified Arabic" would be useful and desirable.

But this will have to come about from an initiative - or, rather, from popular demand - within that linguistic community.

hrant's picture

> it would be presumptuous of Westerners to think they can save Arabic typography.

What's a "Westerner"? What's "save"?

I remember once being told "we don't want your help" when making a suggestion on how to improve Cyrillic, how to undo some of the damage done by Peter the Great. And many people were outraged when I presented my Latin alphabet reform effort in the late 90s. The truth remains that an "outsider" can often see the forest for the trees, because emotions don't get in the way - or maybe it's that higher emotions get to surface.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Personally, while I think that leaving the hard sign off the ends of the words is still a good idea, the Russians should bring back the letters they threw away with the new orthography under the Soviets. It would help in transliterating Greek words.

But then I'm not familiar enough with the subject to even imagine what "damage" Peter the Great did to Russian. The current alphabet is phonetic for the language, and so going all the way back to Old Church Slavonic wouldn't seem to be an improvement.

And while "outrage" probably isn't the right reaction to a proposed reform of Latin script, I would expect you would be met by an even more resolute hostile reaction: apathy.

Even, say, the Hebrew alphabet - some of the letters of which are hard to distinguish for outsiders - isn't likely to get changed to suit them any time soon. Nor are Chinese characters going anywhere, despite the challenges they clearly pose to education for the Chinese people.

Once people have an effective means of communication that they can use with facility, the thought of undergoing a painful learning curve merely to regain what they once had - with perhaps some gains which are minute in comparison - will be rejected out of hand as unreasonable and irrational. This seems to me to be an entirely sensible reaction, even if it is also an obstacle to potentially useful progress.

dudefellow's picture

quadibloc:
"since the West sets the standards [...] it's entirely appropriate for us to ensure that we avoid preventing the Arabic-script world from typesetting its languages with what it seeks as acceptable quality."

"On the one hand, though, it is true that it would be presumptuous of Westerners to think they can save Arabic typography"

Wouldn't ensuring the avoidance of preventing the Arabic-script world from typesetting be the same as saving Arabic typography?

When cultures "prefer" the old ways and have reverence for the work of the pen and calligraphy instead of embracing newer means of mass-producing texts, how much are they kidding themselves because their system or style of writing prevents them from adapting? Westerners have respect for handwriting and hard-copy paper, but you cannot deny that we are using keyboards right now. Arabic society may have suffered a delayed flourishing and advancement of literary exchange because of reluctance to adopt the mechanical printing press.

I am still in favour of improvements in typographic techniques, but am worried that Arabic writing could become overly dependent on software and suffer if it is taken away when superseded by rock carving.

quadibloc's picture

@dudfellow:
You raise an interesting question.

Some objections to the specific form in which it was put can be raised, though.

If people make fonts for Arabic that provide high-quality calligraphic features, that won't mean that there is now a danger that when someone takes all their computers away, they won't be able to go back to using Linotype machines and typewriters, because they will no longer accept the inferior output from them.

There's no reason to expect that level of dependency would be created by the computer when it didn't exist originally - when the pen was frequently resorted to. Nor is there a real threat of the Islamic world being decomputerized.

On the other hand, while I think many people will object to this as well, it is legitimate to question if a society has its priorities straight when its esthetic preferences for its writing system are allowed to get in the way of mass literacy and technical progress.

Given the wide acceptance of the Yakout typeface in Arabic newspapers, for example, however, the Arab world does not seem to be nearly as much a case of this as China and Japan.

Typewriter faces with only two forms of each letter have been well enough accepted in the Arab world, and the additional complexity of two forms of each letter does not to me seem sufficient as to be a major obstacle to Arabic participation in the computer revolution.

hrant's picture

It is important to note here that there's much more to literacy than the mere efficient decipherment of individual glyphs (something BTW that the human mind is much better at than some people think). Not to mention that it's entirely worthwhile giving up some efficiency for cultural identity.

hhp

dudefellow's picture

hrant: "It is important to note here that there's much more to literacy than the mere efficient decipherment of individual glyphs (something BTW that the human mind is much better at than some people think)."

An article appeared on the front page of the Irish Times newspaper on Friday this week about the experiment reported in the journal Science entitled "Orthographic Processing in Baboons (Papio papio)"
by authors Jonathan Grainger, Stéphane Dufau, Marie Montant, Johannes C. Ziegler, and Joël ****.

It seems that the baboons were trained to recognise words by their spelling and remember them. I wonder whether they could achieve the same with other systems of writing? Yes, I wonder, but that does not mean that we benefit from the experiment.

quadibloc : "the Arab world does not seem to be nearly as much a case of this as China and Japan."

They make the effort though. Hence the need for and sanctioning of Pinyin.

John Hudson's picture

It seems that the baboons were trained to recognise words by their spelling and remember them.

No, they were trained to recognise patterns in letter order that are found in English words vs patterns that are not, which enabled them to identify words vs non-words when introduced to letter sequences that they had not seen before. This is the important part.

hrant's picture

John, it's great that you keep sticking up for the little guys - just don't go this far:
http://io9.com/5883002/seaworld-is-being-sued-by-five-of-its-enslaved-ki...
;-)

hhp

dudefellow's picture

John Hudson: "trained to recognise patterns in letter order that are found in English words vs patterns that are not"

If they were trained to recognise the patterns, then I don't see the point of the experiment. What would matter more is that the baboons could discover the patterns themselves on their own initiative, without being shown them by rewards. If they were trained only to recognise patterns of orthography, which have a vestigial underlying phonological basis despite irregular spelling, somehow without at the same time being trained to recognise words by their spelling, then in the prospective test, the baboons would only have been identifying sets of letters that satisfied the patterns that they were trained to detect rather than by whether the sets were words, with the exception of any mistakes (that is to say, not doing what the experimenters want them to do) that the baboons would make occasionally. If, on the other hand, the baboons had failed the test, we could only say that they were too dim-witted to catch on to the training.

John Hudson's picture

What would matter more is that the baboons could discover the patterns themselves on their own initiative, without being shown them by rewards.

What possible criteria could the baboons have to discover such patterns on their own? They don't speak English. The baboons have to be given a basis for distinguishing the patterns of English orthography from non-word letter sequences, and that basis is provided by the reward that they receive during the training. You can't say to a baboon 'This one is an English word and this one isn't'; you have to communicate the distinction via something that the baboon understands and finds motivational.

...the baboons would only have been identifying sets of letters that satisfied the patterns that they were trained to detect rather than by whether the sets were words...

No. The baboons were trained to distinguish words from non-words. They were not presented with sets of letters but with words and non-words, and they were rewarded for identifying the words by pressing a particular button, and then for identifying non-words by pressing a different button. So the training and subsequent testing is of word selection vs non-word selection, not for learning particular sequences of letters. The testers are not somehow telling the baboons that what they need to do is memorise certain letter sequences: they are presenting two kinds of objects, and teaching the baboons that some of these correspond to one button and some to another. Then the baboons are shown different sets of objects, that they have not seen before, and have to try to decide which correspond to which button. The fact that they are able to do so correctly demonstrates a) that they are able to distinguish different orders of letters (since that is, in fact, what distinguishes the two kinds of object), b) have understood that this is the criteria by which to distinguish the objects, and c) can extrapolate ordering principles from one set of objects to another set. That is pretty darned remarkable, especially when you consider that baboons are not considered among the most intelligent of primates and that they are not in the hominid line. The latter point is most interesting to me, because it means that if the cognitive mechanism by which the baboons are able to do these things is the same mechanism by which humans can, then it must have evolved before the split between Cercopithecidae and Hominidae, and that implies some time in the Miocene period, probably between nine and fourteen million years ago.

dudefellow's picture

Don't you understand the conditional "If they were trained only to recognise patterns of orthography"?

By "patterns" and the context of your comment "No, they were trained to recognise patterns in letter order" in reply to mine "It seems that the baboons were trained to recognise words by their spelling ", I assumed you meant orthographic patterns. Unless the word orthography means something different to me than to others, it is a consequence of the allowed permutations of letters in the spelling of words, for a particular language and system of writing. It is not possible to have orthography without spelling. In an abstract way, one might suppose a hypothetical system of orthographic rules, but these could only be conveyed by actual permutations in sample words. Visually, words are nothing more than permutations of letters that become allowed. Hence, in order for the baboons to have been trained to identify orthographic patterns, they had to recognise spelling, which is nothing more than permutation of letters. In summary, the baboons could not have only been taught to recognise orthographic patterns, they had to be able to recognise spelling as a prerequisite.

It is a personal opinion of mine that the result of the experiment has no consequence unless the baboons show the ability to formulate orthographic rules of their own volition, without artificial rewards. The baboons were trained to recognise the patterns. More important would be to observe the baboons using this ability in a natural setting, without using trials. That is not likely to happen unless we see baboons suddenly picking up implements and writing their own letters. (This is not as improbable as it sounds. I have read before in a book a myth about how a certain system of writing in Africa was in origin imparted to humans from baboons that approached humans around their fires.)

John Hudson's picture

I think we basically agree then about what the baboons were trained to do: to recognise the orthographic patterns of English spelling such that they could henceforth recognise English words and to distinguish them from non-words. Yes?

I find your comments about the experimental results having 'no consequences unless the baboons show the ability to formulate orthographic rules of their own volition, without artificial rewards' simply bizarre though. Consequences for whom? The results demonstrate not only that baboons have the capacity for orthographic processing but that this capacity is independent of language knowledge (obviously). The experiment tells us things about that capacity, not about the consequences of that capacity. Obviously what humans have done with that capacity is very different from what other primates have done with it, yet the fact that the capacity seems to be shared suggests very interesting things about our shared evolution. It suggests, among other things, that core perceptual and cognitive functions that enable the mechanics of reading are very, very old. I'd long assumed that these functions preceded the invention of writing by some long period, but this experiment indicates that they may have evolved long before human beings became such. What the baboons have done, might do or will do with this demonstrated capacity is beside the point: the experiment has consequences for our understanding of ourselves. What is consequential in the study is what it tells us about the capacity, and the fact that baboons have not, apparently, exploited to capacity to create writing and reading 'of their own volition' is neither here not there; since the capacity likely predates human written language by some millions of years, of more interest is the question of why it might have been evolutionarily selected for or to what selected-for trait it was a free rider.

dudefellow's picture

Although I go too far to say "no consequence", I don't find the result surprising. Obviously, humans have to have the capacity or else we would not be able to read. We know therefore that our ancestors had the capacity also where we have evidence of writing. When the capacity arose does not seem to be interesting to me. It especially does not seem to be interesting if it is not being put to use for writing and reading. I suspect that the ability to recognise permutations must be more necessary for vision than may have been thought. I think that we underestimate the cognitive abilities of animals. I am utterly convinced that I have heard birds talking to each other. It is a secret language that they do not sing out loud and use very quietly. We only need to know one case of when a bird or animal has been able to speak to us, as a trained African grey parrot, that they would tell us that they want freedom if only they could. I saw the parrot on television say that it didn't want to do any more tests and wanted to be let out, but the experimenter told the parrot in reply that it had to do the tests.

John Hudson's picture

The published paper describing the experiment is available online:
http://people.psych.cornell.edu/~jec7/pcd%20pubs/graingeretal.pdf

The conclusion makes clear what the researchers consider the significance of the findings, and I agree with them. I don't think it is a matter of having underestimated the cognitive abilities of animals, but of confirming that a particular cognitive ability that humans use for a very specialised cultural activity is shared with primates that do no use it for that purpose. And I do find that interesting because it obliges us to generalise the ability, even beyond notions of pattern recognition being useful for e.g. hunting.

AzizMostafa's picture

... but of confirming that a particular cognitive ability that humans use for a very specialised cultural activity
-
The Glorious Holy Quran Confirms that particular cognitive ability ANIMALS use for a very specialised cultural activity?!

… till, when Solomon and his hosts came on the Valley of Ants, an ant said, 'Ants, enter your dwelling-places, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you, being unaware!' But Solomon smiled, laughing at her words...
...
And Solomon reviewed the birds; and said, 'How is it with me, that I do not see the hoopoe? Or is he among the absent? But the hoopoe tarried not long, and said, 'I have comprehended that which you have not comprehended, and I have come from Sheba to you with a sure tiding.
--
Comprehensive?!

dudefellow's picture

AzizMostafa: "The Glorious Holy Quran Confirms that particular cognitive ability ANIMALS use for a very specialised cultural activity?!"

There is an incident in the Bible, in the book Numbers, Chapter 22 verses 28 to 30 involving a speaking donkey.

I recall reading an article that appeared in the Economist, issue July 10th 2010, pages 73 to 74, titled: "The Da Vinci code" subtitled: "Reading may involve unlearning an older skill" relevant to some of the work of researchers such as Stanislas Dehaene and Mark Changizi. I had taken an interest in it at the time, because it was suggested that baboons have build-in specific areas of the brain for detecting certain graphical features that occur in letters. As far as I recall, the article discussed whether learning to read could hijack parts of the brain that would otherwise have been used for skills that are necessary for social interaction, such as recognition of faces. I wonder whether conditions such as Asperger's syndrome could be improved by discouraging too much reading, or whether some systems of writing would have a greater tendency to hinder socialisation, and to what extent the amount of morphography versus phonography in the writing affects this, if at all.

The table that is included with my post of 7 Jul 2011 — 9:35am in this node also can be consulted as Figure 135, page 175 of the book "Sign, Symbol and Script" by author Hans Jensen, published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1970.

dudefellow's picture

dudefellow 21 Apr 2012 — 1:41pm: "was suggested that baboons"

They might have been macaques or other primates and not specifically baboons.

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