Slavonic lettering

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Alphabets that became a basis for Slavonic writing were called "Glagolitic" and "Cyrillic" alphabets. The history of their emergence is totally unknown.

Glagolitic script (10th–11th centuries)[edit]

The extant monuments of glagolitsa are dated no later than the end of the 10th century. Symbols as a rule are composed of two elements that are combined one above the other.

Glagolitic script

Such construction can be seen in the decoration of kirillitsa. It usually does not include simple forms. They are connected with straights. Some letters (ш, у, м, ч, э) correspond to their modern form. Regarding the form of letters there are two types of glagolitsa. The first one – Bulgarian glagolitsa – has roundish letters, and Croatian glagolitsa – called as well Illyrian or Dalmatian – has an angular forms of letters. Neither of the two types has strict border zones of spreading. Later glagolitsa borrowed many sounds from kirillitsa. West Slavic glagolitsa existed for only a short time and was replaced with the Latin writing. But glagolitsa did not perish in modern times. It was used up to the beginning of World War II, and was even used for newspapers. It is currently being used in Croatian settlements of Italy.

Cyrillic script – uncial (11th century)[edit]

Its origin remains unexplained. The title appeared later than the alphabet. St. Cyril, while travelling across Slavic countries during the 9th century definitely composed a new Slavonic alphabet. It is not known whether it was a glagolitic script or not. It was necessary to translate religious texts into the Slavonic language. To do that it would be necessary to simplify intricate and difficult-to-write symbols of glagolitsa, but at the same time introduce the lacking letters for sound denotations in the spoken Slavonic language.

Many sources of the time describe this, but mention only one Slavonic alphabet though there were already two. The Cyrillic script has 43 letters, 24 of them were borrowed from the Byzantium paternal writing and the other 19 were invented anew, but in the graphic decorations similar to the first ones. But not all the borrowed letters kept the denotations of the same sound in the Greek language – some received new denotations peculiar to their Slavonic phonetic features.

Bulgarians have preserved the Cyrillic script to a greater extent than other Slavonians. Nowadays their writing (i.e. the Serbian language) is similar to Russian writing except several symbols designating specific phonetic features. The ancient form of the Cyrillic script is called "uncial". Uncial and glagolitic alphabet are wholly handwritten scripts. Uncial, as well as glagolitic alphabet, has a peculiar trait – clearness and straightness of tracings (writings).

Most letters are angular and have graceless features. Exceptions are narrow roundish letters with round curves – (О, С, Э, Р and others), and among other letters these seem out of place. Lower elongations of certain letters (Р, У, 3) are idiosyncratic to this type of writing. They appear to be light decorative elements in the context of calligraphy. As for the diacritical symbols, their origin is still unclear. Uncial letters are all of a big size and are set separately from each other. The old uncial has no intervals between words.

Semi-uncial (14th century)[edit]

Semi-uncial was the second type of writing, that had been developed from the 14th century and later replaced the uncial. This script is brighter and more roundish. Its letters are more shallow: they have many superscript marks and the whole system of punctuation marks. Letters are more flexible and wide in comparison with the uncial writing and have lower and upper elongations. The broad-pen technique used while writing the uncial is seldom applied in the semi-uncial. Semi-uncial was used with cursive and ligature in the 14th–18th centuries along with the other writing styles.

To use semi-uncial in writing was more comfortable. Feudal atomism caused the development of unique uncial styles and even an uncial language in some remote districts. Military novels and chronicles occupy the bulk of these manuscripts, but some manuscripts recount historical events in Russia during that period. During Ivan III's reign when the land integration and consolidation around Moscow was finished, Moscow became not only a national, but also a cultural center; and the national Russian state was created under a new autocratic regime. So a local Moscow culture became an icon of Russian character. Along with the growing demands of everyday life, the necessity of a new and more simple script was born in the society of Moscow, and thus Russia at large.

Сursive (15th–17th centuries)[edit]

The term "cursive writing" corresponds to the Latin cursive. At the first stage of scripts development the ancient Greeks had a widely spread writing culture. Some of the south-west Slavonians also had their own scripts. Cursive writing as a separate type of writing emerged in the 15th century in Russia. The partly bound letters and bright patterns differed from other scripts' letters. But since the letters had different marks and signs, pigtails, and additional symbols, it was difficult to read texts. Although cursive writing reflected semi-uncial, there were fine lines that bound letters, a feature that contrasts with the semi-uncial. This script is also more flexible and fluent. Letters of cursive writing were written with elongations.

In the beginning the symbols were composed of elongations as is specific to uncial and semi-uncial. In the second half of the 16th century, and especially in the beginning of the 17th century the semi-roundish lines became the major lines. In a broader historical perspective, it is possible to see some elements of the Greek cursive script.

By the second half of the 17th century, when many different variants of writing appeared, the cursive script showed more roundish elements and ligature. The roundish contour of letters became more decorative and smooth near the end of the century. Cursive writing of that time misses elements of the Greek cursive writing and discards some semi-uncial forms. Later straights and cursives attained balance and letters became more symmetrical and roundish. At that period the uncial was transformed into a civil writing cursive.