What Civilization Owes Accountants

The rise of language began with accounting.  This may seem counterintuitive as accountants are not always noted for their eloquence or interpersonal gifts.  Yet, it still remains, civilization owes accounting.  The history of language demonstrates that early civilizations in places like Uruk in Sumeria developed symbols to account for common items that needed to be tallied in temple collection and trade.  Some examples include sheep, wheat, oil, perfume etc.  As you can see in the above chart, tokens were originally used to represent physical objects.  It wasn’t too long before someone thought to use written representations of these images for their accounting practices.  The first column shows pictographic Sumerian representing physical tokens on the left.  Each unique token stood for a different corresponding object. The same remained true when pictographic representations replaced physical tokens.  This breakthrough in the depiction of ideas through written images is what effectively set off the writing revolution.  Civilizations developed more and more signs, using different implements like reeds in moist clay to create impressions.  Kings made it a sign of prestige to have scribes recording the events of their kingdom and sent letters to other rulers to maintain diplomatic relations.  All of this because some bean counters had the forethought to create ways to account for items in the mundane daily activities of trade.  So if you know an accountant, be kind to them and be sure to say thanks for their service to civilization.

De-evolution of Language

When we look at the history of writing, it can be shown that  languages developed from pictographic images (pictures that conveyed ideas) over time into characters/letters which were combined to make words.  Words used in combination communicated ideas and have been the foundation of our modern languages today .    In the above  chart you can see the aleph is an ox head which symbolizes strength and the ayin is a picture of an eye.  These pictures were used in combination to communicate ideas before languages existed.  The pinnacle of the evolution of language has been grammar, syntax and punctuation.  These signposts direct us as to how to use words in combination to bring into reality the ideas we wish to communicate.  It provides controls on meaning so we aren’t just guessing what other people are saying.  Now, it seems, our languages are headed in the opposite direction.  The advent of texting has created a humiliation of words.  Look at any news story, major headline or article and one will almost certainly find misspelled words, grammatical errors, incorrect usages etc.  It has proliferated our society.  As we continue to use technology that creates shortcuts for communicating we can expect to see more of these errors being introduced into the English language.  The de-evolution of language doesn’t seem to be slowing any time soon either.  We shrink words down to numbers, acronyms, and half words in order to fit them on our phone the fastest way possilbe.  People speak using these acronyms, I “Lol’ed”  etc.  It would not be a surprise if in the future, we will be communicating via hieroglyphs to shorten language to its most basic elements.  What can we do to reverse the tides of modern language degeneration?  My only suggestions are to make a concerted effort to  ensure we communicate correctly.  Studying grammar, looking words up in the dictionary when we don’t know their meaning, checking your spelling and striving to write better are all ways we can try to combat the tendency to take the path of least resistance when it comes to communicating.  In other words, words matter.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 11:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Conviction in Communicating

This is an excellent vignette on the loss of commitment to language elicited in our society today. Say what you mean and stand behind it.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 11:23 am  Comments (1)  
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