So I have been thinking about this lately, and I've been wondering what exactly are the reason for a culture to write in a specific format? Script form (curvy letters, straight letters), writing material (clay, paper) and development of language (developed from pictures, developed from sounds) are all factors that influence the way a language is written. But I know for a fact that languages have other factors that influence the way langauges are written, but what could they be I wonder?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd expand "writing material" to include the base that is been written to (ie clay, paper), and the material that is applied to it, if any (ie ink, charcoal). Without any expertise, I'd suspect that keeping the base of your hand from smudging your medium is a big reason why most cultures write left-to-right, top-to-bottom. $\endgroup$ – Vocoder Aug 1 '17 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ Writing is also done vertically as well as horizontally. My guess is someone does what feels comfortable or seems logical and if it works fro a few the rest follow their example. As for script or ideogram formation, that's human creativity in action. Writing materials depends on what is available for recording on and how easily it can be stored. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 1 '17 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Vocoder Of course, that assumes you're a right-hander. I seem to remember some study that has shown that right-to-left writing cultures have a much larger proportion of left-handers than l-t-r (though it's hard to tell how much of a correlation there really is given the "genetic contamination" since those scripts were developed). $\endgroup$ – Luaan Aug 1 '17 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ related: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/71182/… $\endgroup$ – user2727 Aug 1 '17 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this is the right forum for this since it asks about the history of writing and not about how to create your own writing for example. I think you could make it a world building question if you reformulated parts of it. Btw, you seem to be informed, so I guess there is no point in telling you that some writing systems (for example Egyptian hieroglyphes) could be written from left to right and right to left $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 1 '17 at 9:19

Easy answer: I don't know. I'm not sure anyone else does, either, after reading a few reports. Check this one out.

HOWEVER, after thinking about it a bit, I've an idea.

In the beginning, Man had sticks and clay. It's nice to think that you can write on clay with sticks like you can paper with a pencil, but you can't — not and expect the inscription to last for any appreciable time. The marks need to be deep, and you need to write fast 'cause you're the scribe and the king waits for no serf.

In other words, in the beginning, people had to press to make the letters. Since most people are right-handed it's very natural to press both in toward the body and left, pushing with the hand. Heck if I know if this is why it occured, but at least it's almost logical.

Later, as charcoal came into vogue, the need to press disappeared and the smudging problem everybody thinks about but no authority wants to admit could be an issue comes into play. Think about it... a bazillion years of pressing sticks into clay and suddenly the king expects you to use this new-fangled thing called "the tip of a burnt stick" 'cause he's not in the mood to be less cool than that stink-bomb of a king over there.

And left-to-right is born. Dragging the stylus rather than pressing the stylus.

And the belief that left-handed people are all witches is born, too. 'Cause the king simply can't believe that anyone not born of the devil could fail to write things his way. I'm just sayin'.

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    $\begingroup$ Ancient Egyptian was written either LTR or RTL; you looked at the directrions some of the hieroglyphs pointed to infer the direction. Traditionally, Chinese was written top-tp-bottom, right-to-left. The oldest Greek inscriptions are written boustrophedon ("as the ox draws thw plough") one line LTR and the next RTL. German is normally written LTR, but RTL when its's called Yiddish and written with Hebrew letters. There is no rhyme or reason. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 1 '17 at 6:23

It depends on both your writing medium and your writing support.

Both will influence the way the text is arranged and will somehow enforce a standard.

Actually there are examples of languages which were or are written indifferently from left to right or up to down. Japanes and Chinese are some modern examples, and I think also Hebrew was versatile in the past, being written both from right to left and left to right.

  • $\begingroup$ Neither Japanese nor Chinese are "written indifferently from left to right and from right to left" although both can appear as rtl in some circumstances. They're either written top to bottom (with lines arranged rtl, which can appear as rtl when there's very few characters), or, for the last 100 years or so, ltr in imitation of western languages. $\endgroup$ – user2727 Aug 1 '17 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ @user2727, you are right, I have fixed the answer. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 1 '17 at 6:44

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