In all of the major regions of Eurasia writing in the vernacular gained new prominence, but the goal was not to address a wider, nonelite audience. Latin led to the emergence of a unified learned culture in Latin Christendom, especially around cathedral schools, but the response to this, encouraged in part by practical needs, led to the expansion of vernacular languages, and the establishment of universities. In the Islamic world, intellectual developments and education centered more around religious themes and topics, while Sufism provided an alternative tradition to orthodox Islam. Sanskrit in Southeast Asia and Chinese in East Asia both had more impact than local vernaculars, with women being more prominent in the popularization of the native scripts. The Counterpoint of this chapter looks at the strict control of the written language in Mesoamerican societies, and how eventually, it was because of such tight control that the written languages became extinct once the social and political systems that created them disappeared. In all places, the unity of learned culture was increasingly undercut by the emergence of vernacular literary languages, but in general, the cultural and social gulf between the literate and the illiterate remained as wide as ever.

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