The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems

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9780631214816: The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems

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.

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Covering over 400 of them, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems is a vital reference resource not only for the serious scholar of writing but for anyone with a passing interest in the history of writing. Sociolinguist Florian Coulmas, editor of The Handbook of Sociolinguistics and associate editor of The International Journal of the Sociology of Language, draws on disciplines ranging from psychology to epigraphy to present a work that is both far-reaching in its scope and deep enough to be of interest to serious theorists.

The encyclopedia itself consists of articles and entries of various lengths, all laid out in a typical A-to-Z format, with copious cross-referencing providing a wealth of threads for the inveterate browser. The entries themselves range from short definitions of concepts to longer articles on more complex topics, such as morphogenesis (the idea that all writing can be traced back to a single system), orthographic reform, and dyslexia. Over 400 figures and 1,600 tables illustrate not only the world's orthographies but also such things as the Mormon alphabet, the elements comprising Mayan logograms (written signs representing whole words), and Babylonian clay tablets. All this, plus a comprehensive bibliography, makes The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems an indispensable reference work for scholars and a thoroughly enjoyable browse for anyone interested in human communication.

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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. They deal with technical aspects such as handwriting, printing, 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 fundamental structural options of representing language by means of a graphic code, on psychological investigation 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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