The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems / Edition 1

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Overview

This is an encyclopedia of writing systems, scripts, and orthographies of all the world's major languages, past and present. It provides both a fully illustrated description of over 400 writing systems and an account of the study of writing in many different disciplines, from anthropology to psychology. Entries in this encyclopedia describe how writing systems evolved, how they work, and how they differ from each other. The entries deal with technical aspects such as handwriting, printing, and word processing; with practical problems of decipherment, alphabet making, and spelling reform; and with theoretical questions such as the functions of writing and the typology of writing systems. Florian Coulmas starts from the view that writing reflects a process of linguistic analysis, yet he ranges widely among different scientific disciplines. He draws on historical and paleographic research into the fundamental structural options of representing language by means of a graphic code, on psychological investigation into the cognitive processing of texts, and on sociological and educational inquiry into the social conditions and consequences of literacy. Entries vary between short explanations of terms and concepts, brief accounts of individual writing systems, and longer theoretical articles. The encyclopedia contains an exceptional array of visual examples and is supported by a comprehensive bibliography.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Nearly 80 international scholars, the editors among them, have contributed entries in The World's Writing Systems covering all scripts officially used throughout the world as well as their historical origins, each with an extensive bibliography. Included are tables of alphabets and syllabaries as well as script samples, usually featuring transliteration, transcription, and gloss of the text. The essays are grouped by topics, but a detailed index guides the user to specific terms or languages desired. There is even a section with entries treating notation systems used for music and movement. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems is arranged in dictionary format without an index, but with a substantial bibliography. Coulmas's (Writing Systems of the World, Blackwell, 1989) coverage is not nearly as comprehensive as the Oxford publication. In the article on the Cree Syllabary all scripts are mentioned, but tables are not provided for Inuktitut (Inuit language) or Chipewyan. "Gothic" script is discussed with only incidental reference to the term Fraktur, for which an interesting history is provided in the Oxford work. This, however, does not mean that the Coulmas encyclopedia is not a useful reference tool. Both publications are recommended for most reference collections, but The World's Writing Systems is clearly the more technically detailed. The determining factors for purchase will be price and needs of library clientele. There is a third choice for public or school libraries with limited resources: Akira Nakanishi's Writing Systems of the World (Tuttle, 1980). This inexpensive (pap. $14.95) ready-reference tool concentrates on modern languages and their scripts, with examples from newspapers, a color map of world writing systems, an index, and a bibliography.Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Sys., Ft. Pierce, Fla.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631214816
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/22/1999
  • Edition description: Illustrate
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 636
  • Sales rank: 1,486,532
  • Product dimensions: 6.85 (w) x 9.75 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Florian Coulmas is Professor of Sociolinguistics at Chuo University, Tokyo. He was previously Professor of General Linguistics at Dusseldorf University and Research Fellow of the National Language Institute, Tokyo. He has been visiting Professor at Georgetown University and Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study, Berlin. His principle fields of interest are the study of writing and sociolinguistics.
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Table of Contents

Preface.

Acknowledgements.

List of Abbreviations and Notional Conventions.

Encyclopedic entries A-Z.

Bibliography.

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