Thursday, May 8, 2014

Devolving with Emojis

This can be taken in jest, or not, it's just something that has been stewing around in the brain and tonight on the drive home it all came together. If you can get past the "brief" fragmented history lesson (hopefully it's at least tolerably accurate), you might be entertained. Who knows.

Communication is an important part of human existence, without it there would not much advancement in all areas of life, from science, to medicine, to entertainment...on, and on.

While some claim that the Chinese first used written symbols in 7000 B.C.E., most agree that there was definitely picture language in Southeastern Europe in 6000-5000 B.C.E.

The first widely accepted written communication was cuneiform, which is pictorial representations of mostly nouns (proto-writing), that dates back to at least 3500 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia, created by the ancient Sumerians.

Then came the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians about 500 years later, which was then developed into a phonetic hieroglyphs, but it had no vowels so it made pronouncing the words difficult. Around 1100 B.E. it was further developed, and a cursive style was further refined by 700 B.C.E.

The Coptic (Greek) written alphabet and language arrived in 200 A.D. IN 640 A.D. the Arabic language replaced the Coptic language in Egypt.

The Bronze Age (3300-600 B.C.E.) had an explosion in the development of proto-writing: India, Pakistan, China, Europe - at varying times, of course - all started using written communication. Eventually, overlapping into the Iron Age (1200 B.C.E.- 1 A.D.), it all became alphabet-type symbols and words.
The Phoenician alphabet was formed, based on speech get the idea. (Still no English though)

Greek and Latin were the written languages (birthed from proto-writing) of communication in most of the countries of power and influence in the large expanse of Europe (and parts beyond). The English written language (based on Latin and created by the Saxons) didn't even start to become of a thing until about 600 A.D. - less than 1500 years ago - and it didn't even catch on right away. The literacy rates (ability to read, write and comprehend written language) were low up until the 18th century (prior to the 18th century literacy just meant you could sign your name). For example into the mid-1600's only 30% (of males - some reports say the rate was higher among women) in England were literate, though it did increase to 60% by the middle of the 1800's and steadily rose. In the United States at the same time, literacy rates were as high and in some areas higher. The increase was due in large part to the creation of the printing press, increased leisure time because of technological advances in industry and farming, among other factors.

Written communication, from pictures to words. Development! Trade became easier. Beautiful full languages were created. Trade became easier. Societies advanced under higher literacy rates. People reading, writing, and communicating for all purposes! So exciting!

That's a little bit of history, loose and chucked together, because let's be honest...nobody is getting paid for this. 

You're thinking "History *yawn* well that's all very la-dee-da". We can hear you. (If you even made it through the brief history lesson. What's your attention span like these days? Thirty...forty seconds?)

Fast forward...

Now, obviously language is ever evolving, and new words are always being creating (hello "selfie"), and that's all great (it is); but what happens when it all starts to devolve?

In 2011, roughly 2,700 years after the first cursive-type writing was caught the attention of the media...cursive writing was beginning to be dropped from American educational curriculums! Kids won't have to know how to write cursive anymore. However, Katie Zezima makes good cases for continued teaching of cursive writing in The Case For Cursive via The New York Times. One that stood out was the ability to read letters and the like handed down from past generations. Written history from great-grandma (or grandma) whoever. 

Coming from a generation who had to learn cursive writing, it's second nature to at least incorporate it into handwriting - it's quicker to write that way, for one. Unfortunately when having to handwrite and exchange papers with kids in University, they stare down at the page in utter confusion. They can't read cursive - some didn't even know what cursive is, and had never learned it. It was shocking.

In an age where most everything is done on a computer, including writing, and where spelling is checked for you by a machine (so why bother learning the right way to write a word, right? And who needs proper punctuation anyway...) the language of written communication is becoming increasingly bastardized [don't even get me started on reading comprehension]. They leave out punctuation, vowels, sometimes most of the entire word, expecting the receiver of the message to figure out the word based on the mangled half-words that surround it. Nobody loves you anymore, English.

- how r u (How are you?)
- thatz whut he sed. (That's what he said)
- its p kewl. (It's pretty cool)

These are actual sentences you can see in social media, in e-mails, in text messages (you know you see them all the time.)...and according to some university professors we've college level essays and papers.

WHAT?! That's sick.

This should make you angry.

But it gets worse.

Do you know what else that should make you angry? EMOJIs

BUT THEY'RE CUTE AND FUN! (okay, used sparingly, they are kind of fun...sometimes...)

Not only is written (English) communication becoming a bastard child, it's devolving. Think about it.

Pictorial representations of noun words -> alphabet developed based on pictorials -> cursive and written words based on alphabet -> cursive writing deemed unessential -> removal of essential vowels ("text speak") -> removal of words altogether in lieu of emoji (pictorial representations).

[Translation: "Listening to music in the car at 3 o'clock while it rains".]

Might as well be writing hieroglyphics or cuneiform in the Middle East, in 2500 B.C.E. *hands you a chisel and some stone*

Intelligence, knowledge, caring about things being right, isn't valued like it used to be. Wanting things to be spelled properly, wishing people understood's not cool anymore. But it should be. At least by people who have some level of self-respect.

Civilizations and societies flourished and thrived when people were educated and were able to communicate well through writing and reading. Sometimes it's disappointing how much people have no regard for the written word, and only care about people "speakin' English good(er)". No irony there, of course.

If there was infinite time in the evening this entry would have been better developed. All that can be hoped is, please, "God", don't let there be too many spelling and grammar mistakes...that would be humiliating.

~ Frankie


Some Key Sources:
"(12) Early Civilizations and the Development of Writing Systems in the World."(12) Early Civilizations and the Development of Writing Systems in the World. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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