Writing Systems of the World / Edition 1

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This book is an account of the writing systems of the world from earliest times to the present. Its aim is to explore the complex ways in which writing systems relate to the language they depict. Writing, Coulmas contends, is not only the guide or garment of spoken language, but has a deep and lasting effect on the development of language itself.

His study takes in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the cuneiform system of the ancient Near East; he describes Chinese writing, discussing why an apparently cumbersome system has been used continuously for more than 3,000 years; he ranges across the writing systems of western Asia and the Middle East, the Indian families and the various alphabetic traditions which had its origins in the multifarious world of Semitic writing and came to full bloom in pre-Classical Greece.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Coulmas argues that contrary to the views of some linguists, writing has an important place in the study of language. Though specialists will be most comfortable with the intricacies of this dispute, nonspecialists can still enjoy this book for the fascinating picture it paints of the world's major writing systems: Egyptian hieroglyphics, cuneiform, and Chinese characters; Semitic and Indian writing systems; and our own alphabet. Many illustrations are provided to clarify this material. Other subjects discussed include spelling reform and creating new writing systems. A full panoply of notes and an extensive bibliography are supplied. Recommended for all libraries.-- Catherine V. von Schon, SUNY at Stony Brook
An account of the writing systems of the world from earliest times to the present, the evolution from the icon through increasingly more stylized and abstract pictograms to purely arbitrary phonetic symbols. An exploration of the ways in which writing systems relate to the development of the language itself. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631180289
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/16/1991
  • Series: Language Library Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 316
  • Sales rank: 1,523,595
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.09 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Florian Coulmas is Professor of Linguistics at Chuo University, Tokyo. He has written and edited several books in Linguistics and Sociolinguistics and is associate editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language.

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Table of Contents


Part I: Theoretical Perspectives:.

1. What Writing Is All About.

2. From Icon to Symbol: The General Trend of Evolution.

3. Units of Speech and Units of Writing.

Part II: Writing Systems:.

4. Sacred Characters: The Theocratic Script of Egypt.

5. From Word to Syllable I: Cuneiform Writing.

6. An Alternative to the Alphabet: The Chinese Writing System.

7. From Word to Syllable II: Chinese Characters for other Languages.

8. Semitic Writing: Syllables or Consonants?.

9. The Alphabet.

10. Writing in India.

Part III: Practical Problems:.

11. From Letter to Sound: Deciphering Written Languages.

12. From Sound to Letter: Creating Alphabets.

13. Writing Reform: Conditions and Implications.

Part IV: Conclusion:.

14. What Writing Means for Linguistics.


Appendix I: Ancient Near Eastern Chronology.

Appendix II: Far Eastern Chronology.


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