Chapter 12 Summary

European explorers could read and write, which gave them a clear advantage over the mostly illiterate societies they conquered. Literacy allowed for maps, written sailing directions, detailed study of accounts by previous explorers, and so on. Diamond next discusses why Europeans had writing when the people of most other cultures did not, and he describes the origins of writing.

There are three basic strategies for representing language in written symbols: alphabetic, logographic, and syllabic. Alphabetic systems display individual sounds as written signs. Logographic systems display words as signs. Syllabic systems display syllables as signs. Today, virtually all developed writing systems use a combination of these...

(The entire section is 676 words.)