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The modern term's meaning has been expanded to include the ability to use language, numbers, images, computers, and other basic means to understand, communicate, gain useful knowledge and use the dominant symbol systems of a culture.
A person who travels and resides in a foreign country but is unable to read or write in the language of the host country would also be regarded by the locals as being illiterate.
Many classical scholars, such as historian Ignace Gelb, credit the Ancient Greeks for creating the first alphabetic system (c.
750 BCE) that used distinctive signs for consonants and vowels.
Historically, the Greeks contended that their language was modeled after the Phoenicians. eighth century BCE, epigraphical comparisons to Proto-Canaanite suggest that the Greeks may have adopted the language as early as 1100 BCE, and later "added in five characters to represent vowels".
However, many Semitic scholars now believe that Ancient Greek is more consistent with an early form Canaanite that was used c. Some archeologists believe that Phoenician scripture had some influence on the developments of the Hebrew and Aramaic alphabets based on the fact that these languages evolved during the same time period, share similar features, and are commonly categorized into the same language group.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.
Moreover, he asserts, "These inscriptions also provided clues to extend the decipherment of earlier and later alphabetic texts".
The consonantal system of the Canaanite language inspired alphabetical developments in subsequent languages.
The key to literacy is reading development, a progression of skills that begins with the ability to understand spoken words and decode written words, and culminates in the deep understanding of text.
Reading development involves a range of complex language underpinnings including awareness of speech sounds (phonology), spelling patterns (orthography), word meaning (semantics), grammar (syntax) and patterns of word formation (morphology), all of which provide a necessary platform for reading fluency and comprehension.
During this era, literacy was "a largely functional matter, propelled by the need to manage the new quantities of information and the new type of governance created by trade and large scale production".