The World's Writing Systems

The World's Writing Systems

Hardback Language: English / Multiple languages

Edited by Peter T. Daniels, Edited by William Bright

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 968 pages
  • Language: English / Multiple languages
  • Dimensions: 168mm x 232mm x 58mm | 1,420g
  • Publication date: 6 June 1996
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0195079930
  • ISBN 13: 9780195079937
  • Illustrations note: line figures, tables
  • Sales rank: 632,888

Product description

The World's Writing Systems meets the need for a definitive volume on the major historical and modern writing systems of the world. Comprising more than eighty articles contributed by expert scholars in the field, the work is organized in twelve units, each dealing with a particular group of writing systems defined historically, geographically, or conceptually. Each unit begins with an introductory article providing the social and cultural context in which the group of writing systems was created and developed. Articles on individual scripts detail the historical origin of the writing system in question, its structure (with tables showing the forms of the written symbols), and its relationship to the phonology of the corresponding spoken language. Each writing system is illustrated by a passage of text, accompanied by a romanized version, a phonetic transcription, and a modern English translation. Each article concludes with a bibliography. Units are arranged according to the chronological development of writing systems and their historical relationship within geographical areas. First, there is a discussion of the earliest scripts of the ancient Near East. Subsequent units focus on the scripts of East Asia, the writing systems of Europe, Asia, and Africa that have descended from ancient West Semitic ("Phoenician"), and the scripts of South and Southeast Asia. Other units deal with the recent and ongoing process of decipherment of ancient writing systems; the adaptation of traditional scripts to new languages; new scripts invented in modern times; and graphic systems for numerical, music, and movement notation. The result is a comprehensive resource of all of the major writing systems of the world.

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Review quote

This book fills a major gap in the list of standard works in linguistics Peter Swiggers, Orbis This is truly an impressive-looking tome, persuading one that it is complete and authoritative...not only a comprehensive treatment of a subject by an authority but a detailed description of the palce the section has in the general scheme of representing ideas by sqiggles on apage, rock, or tablet...essential addition to the library of anyone interested in or involved in any of the myriad aspects of language. both as a fascinating browsing book nad as an important reference work. Verbatim each section contains a useful sample of writing accompanied by phonetic values, glosses and a translation, all of which provide a good background before one reads the relevent section...various sections present an almost overwhelming amount of material...this book is without an invaluable source for introducing the phonetic, linguistic and orthographical principles governing the writing on tablets, papyri, stones and bones that we see in museums and libraries around the world. The Times Higher Education Supplement without question the most comprehensive work ever published on this subject Times Literary Supplement The very idea of this book is exciting. Imagine describing and illustrating nearly all writing systems in history in one volume! As the editors note, the development of computer-assisted publishing and typesetting made this wonder possible. The result is satisfying. Chad Hansen, University of Hong Kong, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 56.1 The very idea of this book is exciting. ... the development of computer-assisted publishing and typesetting made this wonder possible. The result is satisfying. The Journal of Asian Studies, vol.56.1 clearly the most comprehensive treatment of writing systems available. / Richard Sproat, Written Language and Literacy, Vol 1 (1), 1998

Back cover copy

Written language is the most neglected aspect of linguistic study, as the majority of research focuses on historical and theoretical aspects of spoken language. Even studies devoted to writing systems generally place little emphasis on the scripts themselves, limiting coverage to the external history of writing systems. The World's Writing Systems is the only available work to explore in depth how scripts are applied to individual languages. Beginning with the ancient Near East and the earliest known scripts, this unique reference documents the history and typology of writing to the present day, covering scores of scripts from around the world - both those currently in use and those now defunct. In more than eighty articles, it explains and documents in accessible terms how writing systems work - how Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese characters, and European alphabets convey meaning in graphic form. Sections devoted to the scripts of the ancient Near East, East Asia, Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East are introduced with discussion of the social and cultural contexts in which each group of writing systems was developed. Articles on individual scripts within these sections provide a wealth of background information, along with helpful visuals for each writing system: the historical origin of the writing system is detailed, its structure is delineated with tables showing the forms of the written symbols, and its relationship to the phonology of the corresponding spoken language is thoroughly explored. Every major writing system is presented in a passage of text, accompanied by a romanized version, a phonetic transcription, and an English translation. A bibliographyconcludes each entry.