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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

74                  The Loom of Language
five different Arabic scripts, only the symbols for L, M, and S are now
recognizable derivatives of their Phoenician ancestors.
Throughout the East, an enormous vancty of alphabetic scripts do
service for peoples with languages which, like Pusian or many of those
spoken in India, belong to the great Indo-European family, and like
Burmese or Tibetan belong to the same family as Chinese. They are
also in use among peoples with othci language s, e g Mauchu, Koiean,
Turkish, or Javanese These belong to none of the thxee great language
families which have been the chicl custodians of knowledge and
literature Most scholars now believe that all these alphabetic scripts
were offshoots of those used by Sen ui ic pedlars who set forth across
the great trade loutes bridging tlic guli between Eastern and Western
culture m ancient times. To a \Vestern eye, familiar with the simple
lines and curves of the printed page in contradistinction to ordinary
writing, they hove a superl/aal j esemblance due LO the complex curva-
ture of the symbols It js not likely that any oi these twwuc scripts will
overcome the diicci appeal of tl<e simpler signs, which piinting and
typewriting have now standardised m all highly ludusuialiFed countries
Towaids the end of the Middle Ages, when the Chinese invention of
printing came into tuiope, seveial loims ol the Laim alphabet were in
use in dillercnt comitnes I he more rectilineal Italian symbols, being
better adapted to movable type, eventually superseded the more
cursive variants such as the German BL Je Let ten (Ing u) of the
monkish missals* Partly perhaps because the Lutheran Bible was
printed in this script, it persisted in Gexmnny, where it has been
fostered by nationalism* Befoie the Na/is took ova, one newspaper had
begun to follow the practice of sacnuhc tort books, mama, and modern
novels in ctep with Western crah/atiou I he biown shuts biought
back the black letters
Circumstances which have influenced the choice and character of
scripts in use may be matenal on the one hand, and sooal on the other.
Among the material circumstances arc the nature of the surface (stone,
bone, clay, ivoiy, wax, parchment, paper), and the nature of the instal-
ment (chisel, style, brush, pen, wood block, or lead type), used for the
process of transcription. Among social circumstances of first-rate
importance we have to reckon with the range of sounds which a speech
community habitually uses at the time when it gets its script, and tJhe
range of sounds represented by the parent alphabet. Intelligent plan-
ning based on the ease with which it is possible to adapt an alien script
to the speech of an illiterate people played htde, if any, part in selection