Random thought about writing and reading
This is a big question that itches me occasionally,
for no real purpose. Two new subquestions....
Big question: We have hard-wired brain sections for speaking and listening to language. These have been known and partly understood for a long time. We also have hard-wired brain sections for reading and writing, more recently identified.
We have a solid record of languages developing over time, though we don't know how the first
languages grew out of the internal structures of the brain. Languages start out wildly complicated, with the specific purpose of private communication
among our family or our tribe. If the tribe or family spreads or conquers others, the language simplifies and broadens.
Our conventional history of writing systems is reversed
from the above pattern. We assume, based on good evidence from cave paintings and ceramic markings and such, that the first writing was simple and crude, some combination of drawings and tally marks.
Tally marks are the start of bookkeeping, and also the start of formalized status. More notches on the stick = more kills = more status. This status count has spread into military insignia and branding, as in Roadmaster and Impala. More VentiPorts = more cylinders = more status.
Subquestion 1: Drawings and tally marks are NOT a complex structure, and NOT a good basis for encryption to protect our tribe or our business from competing spies. If the analogy holds, we should have started with a highly structured form of painting or tallying, with brush patterns or 'grace notes' to protect secrecy. Are the cave paintings really the earliest examples? Were earlier and more complex paintings or writings made on surfaces that didn't endure?
Subquestion 2: Nature matches the food with the consumer, and matches the sender with the receiver. Most animals know what they're supposed to eat,
and have jaws or mandibles or digestive systems designed to consume the desired target. Bees and flowers supposedly developed independently, but their communication systems are exquisitely matched, including a tally system.
Since we have hard-wired capacities for reading and writing, this analogy would require some tool or surface developed for our use. It's easy to imagine that we felt the need to make marks, and started scratching in the dust with fingers, then used a stick for more precision, then dipped the stick in mud, then started mixing pigmented mud to write on rocks. But that sequence doesn't fit the overall pattern of user and tool co-developing. Was there a plant or tree or leaf that was the intended paper for our pen?
The two subquestions converge on the intended paper or surface. If such a surface can be determined, it should be easier to look for remnants or 'tracks' from remnants. When you know what you're looking for, you start looking in places you didn't bother to check before. A lot of recent discoveries in biology came after the lookers removed their theory goggles and looked in new places, or looked at existing places from different angles.
Labels: Asked and unanswered, Grand Blueprint