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The origins of writing are largely unclear. Writing systems were created independently all over the world. The earliest we know of were developed in the Middle East around 5,000 years ago. But other scripts were invented in India, Egypt, China and Central America. It has been suggested that some of these systems may have influenced others, but this has not been proved. These forms of writing look completely different, follow different rules and are often read in completely different ways. But they all perform the same basic function. They are all a visual means of recording language. Knowledge of some early scripts invented in certain regions was picked up by peoples living in surrounding areas. They would then adopt and adapt them to their own needs and language. Chinese, for example, was adopted in Japan and Korea, though it had to be altered to apply to the languages spoken there.