Why Arabic Is Written From Right to Left
From the earliest of days, the human race has needed to convey its vocal communication in written form. Almost every society on the planet has come up with its own form of writing. During the development of human civilization, various means of writing were used like stone, clay, wood, papyrus, etc. Likewise, the directions of writing were different in some ancient civilizations. 5-Minute Crafts would like to tell you why for, example, Arabic is written from right to left.
There are several types of writing systems.
There are many types of writing systems (scripts) — so many that it would be hard to list them all. Some of them are pictographic/ideographic writing systems, logographic writing systems, Devanagari, alphabet, etc.
- Scripts that are written from left to right are Latin, Cyrillic, (Modern) Greek, Indic, and Southeast Asian. Languages that use this direction, for example, are English, French, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, etc.
- Languages that use the right to left script directions belong to some of the oldest languages on the Earth, like Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Urdu, Sindhi, etc.
Furthermore, some languages use completely different directions of writing:
- Mongolian is written top to bottom, moving from left to right.
- Chinese and Japanese are written vertically from right to left.
There are several theories of why Arabic is written from right to left.
Theory 1 — One possible reason why Arabic is written from right to left, scientists believe, is what kind of material was in use at the time. People wrote on stone or rather carved in stone. And since most people are right-handed, they held the chisel in their left hand and the hammer in their right hand. This way, it was easier for them to carve letters from right to left to see what they were doing.
Theory 2 — Some scholars think that in the Near East scribes unwrapped papyrus scrolls from left to right and wrote with their right hand.
Theory 3 — In Egypt, hieroglyphs were replaced by a hieratic cursive script for everyday purposes. It was written in red ink on papyrus from top to bottom and later from right to left. Plus, archaeologists have found traces of cuneiform writing from 2400-2350 BCE transcribed from left to right. So, some believe that successive Near East civilizations solely borrowed from one another and that the Arabic language is a derivation from the Phoenician and Aramaic empires.
How Latin influenced European languages and their direction of writing
Most of today’s European languages were influenced by Latin, while Latin itself derived from ancient Greek. Greeks used papyrus and ink for writing before paper was invented. This allowed them to see what they wrote when writing from left to right without smudging the ink.
It is thought that after ink and paper became the main writing tools, writing from left to right became preferable since it helped the writer to avoid smudging the ink. And that is why today’s European languages are written from left to right.