Scriptio continua

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Scriptio continua ("Continuous script" in Latin; also scriptura continua) is a style of writing without spaces or other marks between words or sentences. In the West, the oldest Greek and Latin inscriptions use word dividers, but these are rare in the later periods when scriptio continua becomes the norm (in Classical Greek and late Classical Latin). [1][2] By around 1000 AD, alphabetical texts in Europe are written with spaces between words. Scriptio continua is still in use in Thai, other Southeast Asian abugidas, and in languages that use Chinese characters (Chinese and Japanese) though with sentence breaks. Modern Chinese differs from ancient scriptio continua in that it does at least use punctuation, although this was borrowed from the West only about a century ago. Before this, the only forms of punctuation found in Chinese writings were punctuations to denote quotes, proper nouns, and emphasis.

Before the advent of the codex (book), Latin and Greek script was written on scrolls. Reading continuous script on a scroll was more akin to reading a musical score than reading text. The reader would typically already have memorized the text through an instructor, had memorized where the breaks were, and the reader almost always read aloud, usually to an audience in a kind of reading performance, using the text as a cue sheet. Organizing the text to make it more rapidly ingested (through punctuation) was not needed and eventually the current system of rapid silent reading for information replaced the older slower performance declaimed aloud for dramatic effect.[3]

Contents

Examples

Latin text

Latin text in scriptio continua with typical capital letters, taken from Cicero's De finibus bonorum et malorum:

  • NEQVEPORROQVISQVAMESTQVIDOLOREMIPSVMQVIADOLORSITAMETCONSECTETVRADIPISCIVELIT

Which in modern punctuation is:

  • Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit…
  • ‘Nobody likes pain for its own sake, or looks for it and wants to have it, just because it is pain…’

Modern English

Scriptio continua has become common in e-mail and internet addresses. For example, the address for the website "Building Product Marketing" is written, scriptio continua, as buildingproductmarketing.com, without spaces between the separate words.[4]

Spring and Fall (1880) by Gerard Manley Hopkins rendered in scriptio continua (20 characters per line):

MARGARETAREYOUGRIEVI
NGOVERGOLDENGROVEUNL
EAVINGLEAVESLIKETHET
HINGSOFMANYOUWITHYOU
RFRESHTHOUGHTSCAREFO
RCANYOUAHASTHEHEARTG
ROWSOLDERITWILLCOMET
OSUCHSIGHTSCOLDERBYA
NDBYNORSPAREASIGHTHO
UGHWORLDSOFWANWOODLE
AFMEALLIEANDYETYOUWI
LLWEEPANDKNOWWHYNOWN
OMATTERCHILDTHENAMES
ORROWSSPRINGSARETHES
AMENORMOUTHHADNONORM
INDEXPRESSEDWHATHEAR
THEARDOFGHOSTGUESSED
ITISTHEBLIGHTMANWASB
ORNFORITISMARGARETY
OUMOURNFOR

Spring and Fall (1880) by Gerard Manley Hopkins rendered in normal punctuation:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

[edit] Chinese language

Here is an example of a normal Chinese sentence, then what it would look like with spaces between words, then a pinyin transcription (in which words are normally divided), and finally an English translation:

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