Prior to circa 200 CE, the interpunct (interpunctus) was used in Latin to separate words, usually a small dot or equilateral triangle between written words, and more rarely a comma at mid-line height, similar to Greek practice at the same time. The interpunct then fell out of use, and for the next several centuries, Latin was written in scriptura continua: an unbroken stream of letters with no spaces or punctuation marks of any sort to separate one word from the next.

Probably the most well-known surviving example of scriptura continua is the Lorem Ipsum from De finibus bonorum et malorum by Cicero:


Modern punctuation renders it:

Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit....

As indicated above, scriptura continua also lacks diacritic markings and distinguishing letter case.

Scriptura continua was devised chiefly to conserve writing material and time for enslaved professional scribes, whose work consisted of recording everything they heard on limited scrolls of parchment, using limited amounts of ink. Those employed to read aloud from the scrolls would be trained performers who had already memorised the content of the scrolls and used the parchment primarily the way cue cards are used by talk show hosts today.

Thai, Khmer, Javanese, Burmese, Balinese, and Sundanese script all still use scriptura continua to this day.

Iron Noder 2016, 19/30

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