UNIT 2. Get... page 19–20
EXAM TASK - Reading
EXAM TASK - Use of English
EXAM TASK - Listening
About 9,000 years ago, when migrating hunter-gatherer societies turned to the settled life of farming, they began to develop ways to record the number of animals they owned, or the amount of crops, and to keep a calendar for proper crop planting. The first attempts at writing it all down were ‘clay counting tokens’, which were found in the region which is now modern Turkey and Syria. These tokens were simply lumps of clay shaped like spheres, disks or cones and could either be plain or decorated. Each of them stood for one word. However, carrying them around was bothersome and graduallya transition from three-dimensional tokens to two-dimensional signs began.
Around 4000 BC the ancient Sumerian scribes started to imprint shapes into clay tablets to represent the tokens. Now one tablet couldcontain more than one word.
Originally, these pictures simply represented whole concepts such as names and numbers. But with time they were simplified and refined and eventually evolved into signs representing the consonants of the language.
The first true alphabet was the Semitic alphabet which appeared around 1700 BC, followed, about 700 years later, by the Phoenician system. At this point the alphabet as we know it today was almost in its final form. The final touch was added by the early Greeks, who introduced vowel symbols to their alphabet. The descendants of this alphabet were Latin and Cyrillic, which were then spread far and wide by their respective users. The fact that Latin was the official alphabet of the Roman Empire, which at one point covered most of Europe, helped to establish this alphabet as the accepted way of writing across the continent.
Along with their alphabet the Romans popularised the particular way in which they wrote their letters – the script. The reason behind the shapes of the early Roman script is very simple: the Romans loved writing on their buildings. The technique of engraving letters onto stone requires letters made up mostly of straight lines. This script was the ancestor of the ‘Times New Roman’ font we find on our computer screens today. Another feature familiar to computer users is ‘italics’. Initially, characters written by hand resembled the carved letters, but gradually scholars began to change the form of their writing, slanting letters and connecting them. The credit for inventing Roman script using capitals and small letters goes to Aldus Manutius of Venice, in 1495 AD. The old Roman capitals and Greek letter forms were thus transformed into the twentysix alphabet letters that we know today, with both upper and lower-case letters in common use by the end of the sixteenth century.