Sunday, April 26, 2020

What is an Alphabet?



We’ve looked at several writing systems in this blog series, but not all of them are true alphabets.  An alphabet is any set of symbols, or letters, set in a fixed order, and used to represent both the consonant (hard stops) and vowel (soft breaths of air) sounds of a language.  For instance, our Roman Alphabet with it’s twenty-six letters set in its a•b•c•d•e•f•g•h•i•j•k•l•m•n•o•p•q•r•s•t•u•v•w•x•y•z order.  Each letter represents a phoneme, a small unit of sound.  Each letter then becomes a grapheme, or the smallest written symbol for a phoneme.

An alphabet is a most useful technology.  It allows us to communicate over great distances and even very long periods of time through our writing.  Historical records and scientific discoveries can be written down for future generations of people to study and learn.  Family stories, names, dates, and other important data can be preserved.  Journals are kept to remember our most special moments.  There is a tremendous amount of information and ideas shared through the means of an alphabet.  People from distant parts of the world and very different cultures can learn about one another.  We may never know who the first inventor of a writing system was, but we do know the concept of an alphabet greatly affected people and civilizations everywhere.  


The Vimala Alphabet order differs from the familiar A•B•C order.  Instead, the letters are organized by the qualities that mark our own unfolding abilities that we acquire as we grow and mature.  From our natural “baby” self, full of curiosity and movement, to our older contented self of having accomplished much, the letters work and play together just like people do. 



As movement is mastered, the pen forms familiar shapes that represent small units of sound.  These small units of sound, or phonemes, become graphemes, or letters.  Our Roman Alphabet Letters are full of movement.  There are lines and curves and angles in the different letters.  Joining letters together, we make words that tell a story or communicate something.  The Vimala Alphabet, a handwriting system that is very fun to write.  It’s casual and simple with a basis in Sacred Geometry.


©Susan Govorko 2020

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What is Handwriting?


What is Handwriting?  

 

Typically, we form Alphabet letters with a handheld pen, but anything written by mouth or foot, with a brush or stylus or whatever, is still considered handwriting.  Handwriting is like a voice.  Rather than floating as sound waves across a room, our words flow visually onto a page.  And, just as the same words can be said in different tones that imply very different meanings, so too does each person’s handwriting reflect a very different voice (personality).  All the ways we choose to communicate say something about our patterns of thinking. 

Some people have learned to read “body language”.  How a person stands or sits when listening or speaking may indicate if they agree with what’s being said or if they are speaking honestly.  Handwriting is very much like body language on paper!  Our letters move along the page, leaning forward into the next word, or cautiously inching across a line with dogged steps.  Sometimes we write with happy garland smiles or pointy eyebrow frowns.  Often you will hear adults telling kids to sit up straight, stand tall, keep a good posture.  They know how important good posture is to health and to social acceptance.  Healthy handwriting is just as important and so much more fun!

Looking at how people write their thoughts on paper gives us great clues into their intentions too.  Have you ever noticed how hard you press on your pen or pencil when writing while you are angry?  That’s a clue as to how much feeling you are putting into those words and thoughts on paper.  How you form your letters when you write gives more clues.  And, even more clues can be detected from how fast or slow you are writing, and how much space you give your letters, lines, and margins.  The page represents our space in the world.  How we choose to fill up that space, how we move into and across it, and what forms we draw on it are all symbols of what we think we are in our own world.

©Susan Govorko 2009-2020


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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

“I guess it doesn’t really matter …” EXCEPT IT DOES!



  When I listen to parents and grandparents nowadays, I hear the same recurring grumble … our kids can’t write legibly!  Sometimes just writing their names is an effort.  Read, yes.  Tap computer and phone keys, yes.  But - handwrite legibly — no!  Actually enjoy writing?  Oh my!  That’s a tipping point, yet they really haven’t been given opportunity or guidelines.  Young children are usually eager to learn to write, and to write cursive.  And, it’s these growing years that writing skills are established.  Habits formed in childhood are often rooted for a lifetime.
  In modern times, researchers have found that when we write by hand, we are connecting to neurons in our brain.  We literally stimulate brain cells, and we are forming pathways for nerves to send messages.  When we repeat certain patterns in our handwriting, we are establishing patterns of pathways in our neuro-centers.  These become our habits of thinking, where or how we most often work on our problem solving skills, or approach new situations, or learn new skills.  Some people learn best by hearing, some by seeing, some by doing.  There is no right or wrong way, but there can be more efficient ways to think about things and easier ways of doing them.  Writing the Vimala Alphabet™ is key to opening that door to innovative thinking.
  Studies have found that children who enjoy writing learn better, faster, and are higher achievers than those who don’t.  Perfection is not the goal, rather, the purpose is to let handwriting flow onto the page with clear, casual, legible script that engages the writer’s attentiveness and is fun to write.  Learning to read and handwrite is one of the most important skills a child can acquire.  Helping a child learn to write fluent cursive letters, always ending to the right, is one of the most rewarding gifts you can offer.
  Why not take five minutes a day … just five minutes, to write with your children?  Just a few minutes with a letter or two or three, maybe a sentence and some thoughtful insights into the letters themselves.  

  Begin a routine practice of writing letters every day.  Including some of the aspects of the letters and Alphabet symbolism can make handwriting much more engaging.  Using the Vimala Alphabet™, begin with the communication letters … just one or two lowercase at first.   



Handwriting and the Alphabet have come down to us through centuries.  We’ve visited some ancient scripts and writing styles through this series of blogs.  It’s amazing that we can decipher the thoughts, feelings, and accomplishments from our ancestors who lived so long ago.  What does your child feel when he or she sees these writing systems?  Consider the complexities involved in how writing evolved over time.  Consider the form and style of some of the scripts pictured in earlier blogs.  Think about how the individual letters or symbols were made.  How easy or how hard would it be to use these scripts?  








Boustrophedon writing


Boustrophedon writing

Can you read the paragraph below?

Literally, it reads (translated left to right with spaces, but no punctuation):

boustrophedon was written in rows as an ox would plow them in a field
originally there was no spacing or punctuation used how hard is this
to read without any spaces or uppercase letters or periods or commas
just letters in fact words were just split where ever the line ended 


Papers and parchments were scarce and expensive.  Nothing went to waste.  Often people would deliberately wash and fade pages, turn them in a perpendicular direction and reuse them, writing over the previous writing.  They also wrote in the boustrophedon style shown above.  Leonardo Da Vinci wrote like this.  It was most confusing until it was finally decided that every line of Roman Alphabetical writing would begin at the left side and end on the right side of the page.  Finally, when spaces between words and punctuation were added, it became much easier to read and understand what was written.

Writing mediums ... inks and dyes



One of the first inks people used was Sepia.  Sepia ink is extracted from a small cuttlefish found in European coastal waters.  The cuttlefish squirts its inky liquid into the water when it feels threatened, much like a skunk sprays when it’s startled.  Sepia is a reddish brownish color that darkens when applied, then later fades with age.

People also tried soot mixed with oils and gums to make a dark writing fluid. 

There were color dyes and pigments made from plant materials that could also be used for painting or writing.



Calvatia Craniformis (Puffball mushroom) 
Used in Tibet for making ink.


Plant materials like the Puffball mushroom above had to be processed to make ink. These were burned, ground, then soaked in water with a little glue, pressed and left to dry into little ink cakes.   The Chinese were probably the first to make cakes or sticks.  There was a lot of experimentation with soot, plant materials, resins and glues to make a good ink.

Sometimes it would mold or fade or crumble.  Dry ink cakes and sticks can be stored and transported easily, then mixed with water to make the fluid medium when needed.  Ink sticks are often formed into beautiful art forms of their own like the two pictured at right.  

One of the first inks people used was Sepia.  Sepia ink is extracted from a small cuttlefish found in European coastal waters.  The cuttlefish squirts its inky liquid into the water when it feels threatened, much like a skunk sprays when it’s startled.  Sepia is a reddish brownish color that darkens when applied, then later fades with age.

People also tried soot mixed with oils and gums to make a dark writing fluid. 


There were color dyes and pigments made from plant materials that could also be used for painting or writing.




In China, the “four precious things of the library” are given much respect and attention to care.  They are the brush, ink, inkstone, and paper.  Above right is the inkstone used for liquifying the ink stick and loading the brush.  Ink sticks and brush are pictured to the left above.