THERE SURVIVE EXAMPLES OF A NUMBER OF SCRIPTS ranging from the ideographic to the purely phonetic, to which the term "pre-alphabetic" may be generally applied. The use of the term does not necessarily mean that they were all in existence at a date earlier than the first alphabet. But at any rate in spirit, they precede alphabetic writing. With one exception-- the Chinese--they have had their day and now form part of the material of ancient history. Their purpose here will be to illuminate the background from which the alphabet emerged and, in the case of Chinese, to show how that script chose the divergent path that gave it its unique character.
PRE-EMINENCE OF THE NEAR EAST
IT IS A CURIOUS FACT THAT THE MAINLAND OF EUROPE, which in many respects has been a forerunner of other lands in culture and invention, has never at any time produced a truly original and independent system of writing, either of the more primitive ideographic kind, or phonetic. This complete absence of invention is the more striking when we look at the relative