1.1 Birth of symbolic language (research)

My first full lecture was on “The birth of symbolic language” which coverd a fair amount of content based on natural languages (languages that are developed through human interaction) and after starting on some very early cave paintings, for example those which can be found upon the walls of the Chauvet cave which were discovered in 1994.

Image from the Bradshaw foundations France rock art archive, of some of the cave paintings in the Chauvet cave.

Image from the Bradshaw foundations France rock art archive, of some of the cave paintings in the Chauvet cave.

soon after the lecture lead on to cuneiform, the subject that I found most interest in, merely for the fact that it is to be the origin of written communication as we know it today. Cuneiform was created as the first “writing” form when the need arose for people and community to keep track of information that may have been to vast to just memorise, for things such as keeping track of stock, like cattle, sheep or grain as they came in and out of stores or farms, of course at this stage the tools for such writing were fairly basic, using the materials at hand like clay from river banks and etched into using pointed sticks or reeds. On the earlier texts rather than writing, it was pictures that were drawn into the clay to record stores of things like grain and animals, but it it did not take long for the scribes to realise that it was quicker to not create artistic impressions of each object the would record but instead much easier to use a few marks to create an image to represent each thing, the markings of which would of course need to be taught to others so that everyone could recognise them. And so it was from this point onwards that they no longer would need a pointed tool to draw out more complex pictures, and so they used blunt wooden or reed styluses, and due to the shape of these, when used they would leave a wedged-shaped impression in the clay, which is why the writing system came to be known as cuniform (from the Latin word cuneus meaning wedge).


(J.T. Hooker & C.B.F Walker – 1990)


1.0 The birth of symbolic language

 thoughts before research:

through-out this lecture we covered various material about how natural languages came to be, starting with the fact that there was possibly around 1.5 to 2.5 billion years with no form of spoken or written languages, and its this fact that I find myself having great interest in, along with how languages were then developed and how different cultures all developed slightly differently, where as I will go into much more detail in my next post about this lecture, for this post, I would like show my thoughts on a few things that other students said during the lecture.


Towards the end of the lecture two students made points that both stuck with me:

The first student raised the question “maybe language used to be universal, and everyone spoke and drew in the same way” where as now there are so many languages that people cant talk to each other, or as the student said “so much communication that we are unable to communicate”

but it was to this statement that another student responded with a statement opposing the first being that, “it was a simpler time, and so people would have needed less communication” for example people had to focus on survival, like finding food to sustain themselves and so there was no time to develop communication in the way it did in later years.


I myself love the concept of a world where everyone once spoke using the same languages and symbols, but personally feel that it is just not possible for this to have happened, with the size of the world and the amount of separated people on it, although some cultures may have had similarity’s in there speech or mark making there would always be subtle differences at the very least.


But yet still I find myself thinking about the idea of everyone being able to understand each other

with some universal language at some point in the past, or maybe its just because that concept is a lot more fun.


First post!

 Thought I would start with a little introduction to my blog before I got into it, My name is Daniel Macey, I am currently at university studding animation, as part of the course we have to keep and up to date blog of the various topics we cover in our Communication Design Context lectures, and use the blog to reflect on what I have learned from these lectures, as well as what I have discovered myself afterwards though my own investigation of the topics, I intend to try and make at least two blog posts per topic, the first being my thoughts on the lectures and the information before I have done my own research, and the second being after I have done my own research and how my views may have changed on the topic and showing what other things I have found along the way…

So lets get started!