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Alphabet -> Writing is WRONG (and other minor problems with civIV)

Discussion in 'Civ4 - General Discussions' started by mitsho, Jul 18, 2005.

  1. mitsho

    mitsho Deity

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    oh upps, you're totally right. I got to excuse, but it's funny, I looked it up on two different sites, and when I now check them, they both say the same, but I read it somehow the other way round.

    Well, I'm glad Firaxis has already treated this. Now, this thread is somewhat senseless?

    mfG mitsho
     
  2. Crayton

    Crayton King

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    Writing (I want to preserve my ideas) >> Alphabet (the ideas become coherant) >> Literature (medium of communicating these ideas)

    Edit: oops, thread is senseless
     
  3. apatheist

    apatheist Emperor

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    Writing existed long before paper. This should be three technologies: Writing, Alphabet, and Paper. Paper is important as a separate thing as it made creation and storage of documents much more practical.
     
  4. Crayton

    Crayton King

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    The Flintstones did okay without paper.
     
  5. Vael

    Vael Shadow Angel

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    Well, if you look at the Firaxis website it shows a photo of the tech tree in real life and Paper is one of the techs. :D
     
  6. bad_ronald

    bad_ronald All Knowing

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    Every time a topic even tangentially related to linguistics pops up, I'm happy :).

    Three Crucial Definitions:
    1. writing system - a means of encoding a spoken language on paper, stones, clay, etc. (examples include: alphabets, syllabaries, logograms, morphosllyabograms)

    2. script - a system of markings that fall under on of the above categories (examples of those that fall under alphabets include: the Roman alphabet, the Greek alphabet, Korean Hangeul (in a sense), and Cyrillic)

    3. orthography - a means of using a particular script, often characteristic of a given language (examples under the Roman alphabet include: English orthography, German orthography, etc.) (examples under Chinese Characters include: Japanese kanji, Mandarin revised characters, and Vietnamese characters (no longer used))

    Thus, writing can predate an alphabet, but this is not a necessity, as alphabets are merely one of many writing systems.

    Incorrect, though the Cherokee syllabary made use of characters reminiscent of the Roman alphabet, each character encodes both an optional onset and a nucleus (e.g. "ka" "te" "i" "na"). This makes the writing system in question a syllabary. (I realize only a linguist would care about such distinctions, I don't mean to offend) Synopsis of the Cherokee Syllabary

    Edit:
    Don't rain on my parade ;).
     
  7. frekk

    frekk Scourge of St. Lawrence

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    Of course it's a necessity. No major alphabet evolved out of thin air - in the West, alphabetic systems evolved out of a gradual process from hieroglyphic and cuneiform scripts of earlier times. Alphabets didn't develop without being preceded by earlier scripts such as hieroglyphs, which were in turn preceded by pictograms. There are a few exceptions (eg the Cree syllabics, modern shorthand, Braille, semaphore code etc) but these are all very unique cases that don't really have any bearing on the tech tree.

    Writing of some form must predate the development of an alphabet. An alphabet is merely an additional innovation in writing.

    What's questionable though, is whether an alphabet is really crucial enough to represent an advance. There were many pre-alphabetic cultures with high levels of literacy (eg Egypt) and the lack of an alphabet didn't seem to represent much of an obstacle in the technological development of Asian civilizations. Having alphabet as an advance, and particularly as a mandatory one for era advancement, seems historically false.
     
  8. bad_ronald

    bad_ronald All Knowing

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    You misinterpreted the antecedent of "this". "This" refers to predating (i.e. Other writing systems can predate an alphabet, but it can be first, too).

    However, I'll reply to your points, regardless.

    Hmm, the first known alphabet was that of the Phoenicians, and it was not developed from either Egyptian hieroglyphs or Sumerian (and descendent) cuneiform. No one is certain of the origin of the runes (an alphabet in its own right), though some letters in it certainly were based on the Roman alphabet. Hangeul was developed by a scholar commissioned by the ruler at the time; in fact, the letters are stylized depictions of the necessary articulations to create the sounds they represent.

    See above. Oh, "few" exceptions is a gross mischaracterization.

    An alphabet is a system of writing wherein each character represents a particular phoneme (or phone in the case of the International Phonetic Alphabet). It is no more complex that a system where each character represents a syllable (a syllabary), or a system where each sound represents a word (logograms), or a system where only consonants but not vowels are written (an abjad). In this sense, you are incorrect, as an alphabet is one of many logical systems that can start the process (in fact, the Mayans went from a syllabic system to logograms, later in the development of the system)

    This is true, but your prior conclusions do not mesh well with your assertions in the above quote.
     
  9. frekk

    frekk Scourge of St. Lawrence

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    Incorrect ... the Phoenicians were first writing in Ugaritic cuneiform before adopting/inventing the Phoenician script. Ugaritic cuneiform directly influenced the Phoenician script:



    Phoenician script did not, as you seem to suggest, develop in a vacuum without influences - it was a product of millenia of writing systems in the region and just as the Phoenicians themselves were a product of Canaanite culture - itself a product of the Mesopotamian phenomena - so too was its script.
     
  10. bad_ronald

    bad_ronald All Knowing

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    I remember my professor discussing this, and I recall him stating that the origin is uncertain. In any case, rebutting such an assertion requires a better source than is available on the internet, so I'll quote my Freshmen Writing Systems textbook (The Story of Writing - Andrew Robinson, Thames and Hudson, Ltd. London, 1995)

    Pp. 159 Para. 1: "That it reached the world through the Modern Greeks is well known, but we heve no clear idea of how and when it appeared in Greece, and how, even more fundamentally, the idea of an alphabet first occured to the pre-Greek societies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean during the 2nd Millenium BC."

    Pp. 164 Para. 1: "There is no clear line of descent from the Proto-Canaanite inscriptions of the first half of the second millenium BC to the relatively stable alphabetic script written by the Phoenicians from about 1000 BC, the forerunner of the Hebrew script and the Greek alphabet."

    Pp. 164 Para. 1: "Ugarit and its cuneiform script seem to have been wiped out in about 1200 BC by the influx of the sea peoples."

    Pp. 164 Para. 1: "The script [the title of the page is "The Phoenician Letters" -ed] has been called 'pseudo-hieroglyphic' implying that is was influenced by Egyptian hieroglyphs. While this is quite possible, there is no certainty, as some of the signs resemble Cretan Linear A..."

    Pp. 164 Para. 1: "It seems to have no effect on the subsequent Phoenician script." (he refers to a script with "about 120 distinct signs" above)

    If you could be so kind, please explain the history of how Ugartic cuneiform changed into the precursor of the Greek and later Semitic scripts. Then, if you please, explain the history of the alphabetic Runes and Hangeul, citing which scripts they evolved from, and the type of writing system that the scripts fell under.
     
  11. frekk

    frekk Scourge of St. Lawrence

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    You're right, its not entirely clear how one developed into the other. BUT, its abundantly clear that there is a relationship (and possibly also a relationship with Minoan scripts as you mentioned). Phoenicians didn't spring into being from nowhere, alphabet in hand. Rather they were a cultural product of their area, perhaps a result of Minoan or other influences on the Canaanite coast. We DO have Phoenician texts written in Ugaritic script which predate the Phoenician text, so we know that the Phoenicians were not a preliterate people who developed an alphabet and then started writing - they were already writing when they developed their alphabet. This is not uncertain at all.

    As for runes, again one cannot automatically assume that these developed spontaneously in isolation, when diffusion of many, many, many other ideas and technologies had reached this same area from the literate civilizations in the south. Presumably you're referring to Futhark, of which the earliest example is 160 AD .... it's possible that no diffusion is involved, but highly unlikely, considering Roman and other Meditteranean artifacts have been present in the UK and Scandinavia by this time for centuries. Given the date, the context, the amount of contact and trade, and the overwhelmingly obvious, visible similarity with Etruscan/Greek alphabets, it really isn't very likely it sprang into being spontaneously. It doesn't matter what it did spring from, what matters is only whether or not it was a spontaneous invention or not. At best, I think you might make the case that it was unrelated to other scripts in the manner that Braille is ... but even so, given the time period, its more or less impossible that writing was entirely unknown in the areas Futhark evolved.
     
  12. kryszcztov

    kryszcztov Deity

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    I always thought it was dumb to have Alphabet being a prerequisite for Writing, but it appears that Firaxis has changed their mind, I take this for a sign that Civ4 will rock ! Seriously, Alphabet refers to a kind of symbols used for Writing, but people wrote a lot earlier than the invention of alphabet (supposedly by the Phoenicians). Egyptians and Mesopotamians had their hieroglyphs and cuneiform symbols for millenia. Egyptians had scribes, a word that (it seems !) is to relate to writing or script. Plus the game is deliberately western-centered, and so the Ancient Times would be represented by the Middle-East empires, which concurs with this. Had I been able to make a scenario, it would have been something like : Writing > Alphabet > Literature, or maybe even : Writing > Alphabet AND Literature (Literature independent from Alphabet (Gilgamesh's Tales ?)).
     
  13. frekk

    frekk Scourge of St. Lawrence

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    I think Alphabet should just be discarded, or perhaps exist as a dead-end advance that allows some wonder. China never developed an alphabet and managed to produce a huge literary tradition, and excelled the West in technology and literacy until comparitively recent times.

    Paper would be a much better susbstitute.
     
  14. Aleph-Null

    Aleph-Null What Would Optimus Do?

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    I am forced to agree with mitsho. Good job mitsho. I have played the game since the first Civ and it had never once crossed my mind.
     
  15. KrikkitTwo

    KrikkitTwo Immortal

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    Well a Tech can be reached through only one of its multiple prerequisites, so Alphabet and Paper might both be prerequisites for something like Literature allowing both a Western and an Eastern historical path.
     
  16. Smoking mirror

    Smoking mirror Ships Captain

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    Futhark is just one variation of the runic alphabet, representing the first few letters of in the same way that Alpha-beta (alphabet) does. There are other examples of runic alphabets, and earlier examples of "runelike" images which may have been part of a pre-writing (magic pictures). It is worth noting that even today, magic is still a big part of runic tradition and is connected to the way that runes were not arbitary signs, but had developed from images.

    When I was studying Fine Art at university I developed a hypothesis to explain some of the similarities between different alphabets, and the fact that alphabets and writing systems have evolved in isolation on more than two occasions. Unfortunately it is not very well acepted and is more than a little controversial as it's one of those things that is difficult to scientificly prove.

    The hypothesis calls for a kind of universal visual grammar (as argued for by Noam Chomsky, one of the reasons that the idea is disliked in Britian, as Chomsky is often derided by the british art world), which shapes our view of the world by the way it orders the sensory information that we recieve. When two people comunicate using an intuitive writing system (rather than a arbitrary system such as the Incan method of knots tied in a length of rope) those people are taking advantage of a shared visual grammar to decypher those signs. Later, when alphabets are developed and the original intuitive meaning of the signs is lost within an arbitrary system, that degree of shared visual gramma is not needed. (we use the intuitive visual grannar a lot today when watching movies).

    There is evidence of this universal grammar, in the development of children's drawing for example, or the art of non literate peoples.
    There are a few problems with this idea, not the least is why did it take so long for people to develop intuitive writing systems, as homosapiens has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, why only in the last four or five thousand years have these systems developed? Could it be that the facaulty was there all along, but it needed certain social conditions to occur before it could be exploited (for instance a large religous caste with time on thier hands to practice the magic of art)? (BTW I'm talking about universal visual grammar being something above and beyond the universal grammar needed to understand verbal language and arbitrary writing systems, as they seem to be different things, at least based on structure).

    To be honest, intuitive writing systems should be a development of social conditions in general and religion specificly. Arbitary writing systems, and alphabets should follow on from this (although they have sometimes developed on thier own as part of an administrative need, as in the Incan empire where they were needed for the running of the road network). Literature is actualy present all through the system, but is most often in the early stages linked intrinsicly with religion.

    I'd probably set up the tech tree like this;

    farming> divison of labour> religion
    religion+ art> writing
    divion of labour> administraion
    administraion+ writing> alphabet

    Administration is also a key part of governance which above a certain size requires writing.

    The good thing is that Civ has always been flexible enough to fit to your own worldview, so you can set it up how you like. :) It'd be fun to see an early scenario based on the very begining of civilisation. It'd be a great way to test out the flexibility of the civ IV tech tree...
     
  17. Afgnwrlrd

    Afgnwrlrd Warlord

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    lol, looks as if this whole thread was over nothing. But on a more serious note, some people would dispute whether an alphabet is an advance, or merely an option. Chinese characters have been in use thousands of use and there's no alphabet there at all.

    Pros of an Alphabet: easy to learn how to read/write
    Pros of Charaters: things can be read by anybody that knows the characters whether or not they know the language.
     
  18. warpstorm

    warpstorm Yumbo? Yumbo!

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    The other pro of an alphabet is that it is easier to automate.
     
  19. I am the Future

    I am the Future Oi Oi Oi !!!

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    He is right.

    Good job VAEL ;)
     
  20. Hyena

    Hyena Chieftain

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    There are three main forms of written communication that have dominated human history. The first of these is basic symbols. Examples are Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Chinese characters. This for of writing seems to have developed first in the various places in the world that writing was invented rather than copied from a neighbouring people. The second form of writing is a syllabary in which each symbol represents one full sound. In a syllabary for example, there would be one symbol for "ba", one for "be", one for "bi", etc. A good modern example of this is Ethiopian writing in which there are around thirty different root letters, with about seven modifiers each, representing a full sound made up of a consonant and a vowel. The third form of writing to develop is refered to as an alphabet, the name coming form alpha and beta, the first two letters of the Greek alphabet. In an alphabet, there are dozens of symbols each representing part of a sound. These symbols are then strung together to make complete words. Although most modern writing uses alphabets, symbols and syllabaries are still rather widespread. The general historical trend, however, has been for writing to appear first in symbol or syllabary form, and then replaced later with an alphabet. Therefore, writing definately should be put before alphabet, simply because alphabets were usually preceded by another type of writing.

    In case my explanations were'nt clear, allow me this demonstrarion.
    In a hieroglyph/symbol system there would be one sybol that means "computer".
    In a syllabary, there would be three symbols - "com". "pu", "ter" (or more sometimes).
    An alphabet has many symbols, each with a smaller scope: c o m p u t e r.

    Hopefully I've made myself clear, if not then I'm sorry. Ciao e buonna fortuna.
     

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