History of Reading

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  • Published : March 2, 2011
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Spoken language is a natural, biological form of human communication that is over 6 million years old. Reading is an invention that is only 6000 years old. There simply hasn't been enough evolutionary time, yet, for the human physiology of reading to be perfected. Aristotle, the world's first psychologist, understood this fundamental difference and relationship between spoken language and written language.Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Aristotle--On Interpretation Over history, humans have found methods to represent their spoken words with written symbols. The first writing - Sumerian logographs from 4000 BC - were simply pictures of objects and activities: In 2000 BC, the Phoenicians developed the first methods to represent spoken language - an alphabet consisting entirely of consonants: In 1000 BC, the first major upgrade occurred in the technology of representing language - the Greeks added vowels to the alphabet. This is essentially the same alphabet we use today - and it is considered one of humanity's greatest inventions. About 1000 years later, in 200 BC, the next major upgrade in writing appeared: punctuation marks. Punctuation was first observed in Alexandrian manuscripts of plays written by Aristophanes. Yet another 1000 years passed before the next improvement in text, namely the invention of lower case characters by Medieval Scribes. About 1000 years ago, in 900 AD, the last major upgrade in text took place: the insertion of spaces between words. Also developed by Medieval Scribes, this invention made it possible, for the first time, for the vast majority of readers to be able to read silently. Prior to this, most readers had to read out loud in order to be able to read at all. The few who could read text silently without these spaces between the words, like Julius Caesar and St. Ambrose, were viewed as so...
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