History of communication


History of communication

The history of communication dates back to the earliest signs of life. Communication can range from very subtle processes of exchange, to full conversations and mass communication. Human communication was revolutionized with speech about 200,000 years ago. Symbols were developed about 30,000 years ago, and writing about 7,000. On a much shorter scale, there have been major developments in the field of telecommunication in the past few centuries.

Communication between animals

Humans are not the only ones to master communication. Various animals are engaged in different forms of communication of their own.

Animal communication is any behaviour on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behaviour of another animal. The study of animal communication (zoosemiotics) has played an important part in the development of ethology, sociobiology, and the study of animal cognition.

Animal communication, and indeed the understanding of the animal world in general, is a rapidly growing field, and even in the 21st century so far, many prior understandings related to diverse fields such as personal symbolic name use, animal emotions, animal culture and learning, and even sexual conduct, long thought to be well understood, have been revolutionized.

Communication between humans

peech

Evolution of the brain differentiated humans from animals, as among other things it allowed humans to master a very efficient form of communication - speech. A mutation of the FOXP2 gene, which occurred in homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago, was likely responsible for much of this change.

Speech greatly facilitated the transmission of information and knowledge to further generations. Experiences passed on through speech became increasingly rich, and allowed humans to adapt themselves to new environments - or adapt the environments to themselves - much more quickly than was possible before; in effect, biological human evolution was overtaken by technological progress and sociocultural evolution. Speech meant easier coordination and cooperation, technological progress and development of complex, abstract concepts such as religion or science. Speech placed humans at the top of the food chain, and facilitated human colonization of the entire planet.

Speech, however, is not perfect. The human voice carries only so far, and sign language is also rather limited in terms of distance. Further, all such forms of communications relied on human memory, another imperfect tool: memory can become corrupted or lost over time, and there is a limit to how much one can remember. With the accidental death of a 'wise man' or tribal elder, a primitive tribe could lose many generations of knowledge.

ymbols

The imperfection of speech, which nonetheless allowed easier dissemination of ideas and stimulated inventions, eventually resulted in the creation of new forms of communications, improving both the range at which people could communicate and the longevity of the information. All of those inventions were based on the key concept of the symbol: a conventional representation of a concept.

Cave paintings

The oldest known symbols created with the purpose of communication through time are the cave paintings, a form of rock art, dating to the Upper Paleolithic. Just as the small child first learns to draw before it masters more complex forms of communication, so homo sapiens' first attempts at passing information through time took the form of paintings. The oldest known cave painting is that of the Chauvet Cave, dating to around 30,000 BC.Paul Martin Lester, "Visual Communication with Infotrac: Images with Messages", Thomson Wadsworth, 2005, ISBN 0-534-63720-5, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0534637205&id=6oibH9roTmkC&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=oldest+Chauvet&sig=Wavi-vRU4yanySHdKiYPWO70_os Google Print: p.48] ] Though not well standardized, those paintings contained increasing amounts of information: Cro-Magnon people may have created the first calendar as far back as 15,000 years ago. [according to a claim by Michael Rappenglueck, of the University of Munich (2000) [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/975360.stm] ] The connection between drawing and writing is further shown by linguistics: in the Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece the concepts and words of drawing and writing were one and the same (Egyptian: 's-sh', Greek: 'graphein').David Diringer, "The Book Before Printing: Ancient, Medieval and Oriental", Courier Dover Publications, 1982, ISBN 0-486-24243-9, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0486242439&id=pK-t8_JNrREC&pg=PA27&lpg=PA27&dq=graphein+write+draw&sig=EpZDJin9B-Z0PWhacEZiMK_rGhs Google Print: p.27] ]

Petroglyphs

The next step in the history of communications is petroglyphs, carvings into a rock surface. It took about 20,000 years for homo sapiens to move from the first cave paintings to the first petroglyphs, which are dated to around 10,000 BC.David Diringer, "History of the Alphabet", 1977; ISBN 0-905418-12-3. The petroglyphs of Kamyana Mohyla have been controversially dated to before 15,000 BC.]

It is possible that the humans of that time used some other forms of communication, often for mnemonic purposes - specially arranged stones, symbols carved in wood or earth, quipu-like ropes, tattoos, but little other than the most durable carved stones has survived to modern times and we can only speculate about their existence based on our observation of still existing 'hunter-gatherer' cultures such as those of Africa or Oceania.

Pictograms

A pictogram (pictograph) is a symbol representing a concept, object, activity, place or event by illustration. Pictography is a form of proto-writing whereby ideas are transmitted through drawing. Pictographs were the next step in the evolution of communication: the most important difference between petroglyphs and pictograms is that petroglyphs are simply showing an event, but pictograms are telling a story about the event, thus they can for example be ordered in chronological order.

Pictograms were used by various ancient cultures all over the world since around 9000 BC, when tokens marked with simple pictures began to be used to label basic farm produce, and become increasingly popular around 6000-5000 BC.

They were the basis of cuneiform [http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling201/test4materials/Writing2.htm] and hieroglyphs, and began to develop into logographic writing systems around 5000 BC.

Ideograms

[
Míkmaq hieroglyphic writing. The text reads "Nujjinen wásóq" – "Our father / in heaven"]

Pictograms, in turn, evolved into ideograms, graphical symbols that represent an idea. Their ancestors, the pictograms, could represent only something resembling their form: therefore a pictogram of a circle could represent a sun, but not concepts like 'heat', 'light', 'day' or 'Great God of the Sun'. Ideograms, on the other hand, could convey more abstract concepts, so that for example an ideogram of two sticks can mean not only 'legs' but also a verb 'to walk'.

Because some ideas are universal, many different cultures developed similar ideograms. For example an eye with a tear means 'sadness' in Native American ideograms in California, as it does for the Aztecs, the early Chinese and the Egyptians.

Ideograms were precursors of logographic writing systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese characters.

Examples of ideographical proto-writing systems, thought not to contain language-specific information, include the Vinca script (see also Tărtăria tablets) and the early Indus script. In both cases there are claims of decipherment of linguistic content, without wide acceptance.

Writing

The oldest-known forms of writing were primarily logographic in nature, based on pictographic and ideographic elements. Most writing systems can be broadly divided into three categories: "logographic", "syllabic" and "alphabetic" (or "segmental"); however, all three may be found in any given writing system in varying proportions, often making it difficult to categorise a system uniquely.

The invention of the first writing systems is roughly contemporary with the beginning of the Bronze Age in the late Neolithic of the late 4th millennium BC. The first writing system is generally believed to have been invented in pre-historic Sumer and developed by the late 3rd millennium into cuneiform. Egyptian hieroglyphs, and the undeciphered Proto-Elamite writing system and Indus Valley script also date to this era, though a few scholars have questioned the Indus Valley script's status as a writing system.

The original Sumerian writing system was derived from a system of clay tokens used to represent commodities. By the end of the 4th millennium BC, this had evolved into a method of keeping accounts, using a round-shaped stylus impressed into soft clay at different angles for recording numbers. This was gradually augmented with pictographic writing using a sharp stylus to indicate what was being counted. Round-stylus and sharp-stylus writing was gradually replaced about 2700-2000 BC by writing using a wedge-shaped stylus (hence the term cuneiform), at first only for logograms, but developed to include phonetic elements by the 2800 BC. About 2600 BC cuneiform began to represent syllables of spoken Sumerian language. Finally, cuneiform writing became a general purpose writing system for logograms, syllables, and numbers. By the 26th century BC, this script had been adapted to another Mesopotamian language, Akkadian, and from there to others such as Hurrian, and Hittite. Scripts similar in appearance to this writing system include those for Ugaritic and Old Persian.

The Chinese script may have originated independently of the Middle Eastern scripts, around the 16th century BC (early Shang Dynasty), out of a late neolithic Chinese system of proto-writing dating back to c. 6000 BC. The pre-Columbian writing systems of the Americas (including among others Olmec and Mayan) are also generally believed to have had independent origins, although some experts have noticed similarities between Olmec writing and Shang writing that seem to suggest that Mesoamerican writing was imported from China [http://www.viewzone.com/olmec.comments.html] .

Alphabet

[
William Caslon, letter founder; from the 1728 "Cyclopaedia".]

The first pure alphabets (properly, "abjads", mapping single symbols to single phonemes, but not necessarily each phoneme to a symbol) emerged around 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, but by then alphabetic principles had already been incorporated into Egyptian hieroglyphs for a millennium (see Middle Bronze Age alphabets).

By 2700 BC Egyptian writing had a set of some 22 hieroglyphs to represent syllables that begin with a single consonant of their language, plus a vowel (or no vowel) to be supplied by the native speaker. These glyphs were used as pronunciation guides for logograms, to write grammatical inflections, and, later, to transcribe loan words and foreign names.

However, although seemingly alphabetic in nature, the original Egyptian uniliterals were not a system and were never used by themselves to encode Egyptian speech. In the Middle Bronze Age an apparently "alphabetic" system is thought by some to have been developed in central Egypt around 1700 BC for or by Semitic workers, but we cannot read these early writings and their exact nature remain open to interpretation.

Over the next five centuries this Semitic "alphabet" (really a syllabary like Phoenician writing) seems to have spread north. All subsequent alphabets around the world with the sole exception of Korean Hangul have either descended from it, or been inspired by one of its descendants.

History of telecommunication

The history of telecommunication - the transmission of signals over a distance for the purpose of communication - began thousands of years ago with the use of smoke signals and drums in Africa, the Americas and parts of Asia. In the 1790s the first fixed semaphore systems emerged in Europe however it was not until the 1830s that electrical telecommunication systems started to appear.

See also

* Linguistics and History of linguistics
* Semiotics

References

* Piotr Konieczny, [http://www.histmag.org/archiwalia/mag49/komunikacja-od-mowy-do-internetu.html Komunikacja: od mowy do Internetu] , "Histmag #49"


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