Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach / Edition 1

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Accessibly written, Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach provides detailed coverage of all major writing systems of historical or structural significance with thorough discussion of structure, history, and social context as well as important theoretical issues. Discusses systems as diverse as Chinese, Greek, and Maya.

  • Presents each system in light of four major aspects of writing: history and development, internal structure, the relationship of writing and language, and sociolinguistic aspects.
  • Includes glossary of technical terms, extensive illustrations, exercises and further reading suggestions to aid in teaching from the book.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The author and publishers can be congratulated on an excellent work; if I were teaching a class on writing systems now, this would be my first choice as a textbook."
—William Bright, review in Written Language and Literacy

"This is an excellent comprehensive textbook for university courses on writing systems (grammatology), with enough preliminary remarks of a theoretical nature to enable the student to master the scripts from around the world, including cuneiform of various types, Semitic, Greek, Roman, etc. It is written in a clear style with a very good glossary and up-to-date bibliography."
—Alan S. Kaye, California State University, Fullerton

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Henry Rogers is Professor in the Departments of Linguistics and Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He is author of Sounds of Language: An Introduction to Phonetics (2000) and Theoretical and Practical Phonetics (1990), and has published widely on both phonetics and writing systems.

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Table of Contents


A Note on Dates.

1. Introduction.

Importance Of Writing.

Definition Of Writing.

Aspects Of Writing.

Further Reading.



2. Theoretical Preliminaries.

Graphemes And Allographs.

Arrangement Of Symbols.

Relationship To Language.


Further Reading.



3. Chinese.

Background, History, And Sociolinguistics.

Phonology Of Modern Standard Chinese.

Relationship Of Language And Writing In Chinese.

Origin And Structure Of Chinese Characters.

Internal Structure Of Chinese Characters.

How Many Characters Does Chinese Have?.

Recent Reforms.

Further Reading.



4. Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese.




Further Reading.



5. Cuneiform.

Background And History.

Tokens And The Invention Of Writing.

Materials Of Writing.

Social Context Of Cuneiform Writing.

An Early Sumerian Tablet From Uruk.

Internal Structure Of Cuneiform.

Example Text.

Other Cuneiform Writing.

Further Reading.



6. Egyptian.

Language Family.

Background And History.

Phonology Of Old Egyptian.

Origin Of Egyptian Writing.

Styles Of Writing.

Social Context Of Writing.

Internal Structure Of Egyptian Writing.

Example Text.


Further Reading.



7. Semitic.

Semitic Language Family.

Origin Of The Semitic Abjad.

Development Of The Semitic Abjad.



The Ethiopic Abugida.

The Distinctiveness Of Abjads.

Further Reading.



8. The Greek Alphabet.

Background And History.

Greek Scripts Before The Alphabet.

Development Of The Greek Alphabet.

Abjad To Alphabet.

The Relationship Of Language And Writing In Greek.

Scripts Derived From The Greek Alphabet.

Further Reading.



9. The Roman Alphabet.

From Greece To Italy.



The Roman Alphabet.

Examples Of Roman Writing.

Later History Of The Roman Alphabet.

Orthographic Depth: Two Examples.

Further Reading.



10. English.

Background And History.

Old English.

Middle English.

Modern English.

Spelling And Sound Changes.

Spelling Reform.

Further Reading.



11. The Indian Abugida And Other Asian Phonographic Writing.

Background And History.

Indus Valley Writing.

Brahmi And Kharos.T.Hi.

Devanagari As Applied To Sanskrit.

Southeast Asian Writing.

The Tibetan Abugida.

The ’Phags-Pa Script.

The Mongolian And Manchu Alphabets.

Further Reading.



12. Maya.

History And Background.

Structure Of The Maya Writing System.

The Maya Calendar.

Example Text.

Further Reading.



13. Other Writing Systems.






Pahawh Hmong.


Further Reading.



14. Classification Of Writing Systems.

Phonetic, Semantic, And Glottographic Writing.

Glottographic Writing.

Gelb’s Unilinear Theory Of Development.

Syllabic Vs. Moraic.

Korean Hankul As A Featural System.


Further Reading.


Appendix A: Some Basic Linguistic Notions.

Appendix B: The International Phonetic Alphabet.

Appendix C. English Transcription.

Appendix D: Glossary.



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