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Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems [Paperback]

Florian Coulmas
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: £38.99
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Book Description

18 Feb 1999 063121481X 978-0631214816
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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Product details

  • Paperback: 636 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (18 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 063121481X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631214816
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 17 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,425,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Florian Coulmas provides a coherent and sophisticated interpretation of the forms and functions of written language. And he shows how important the development of writing systems has been in the development of linguistic description." Michael Stubbs, University of Trier "This book offers a thorough modern coverage of the writing systems of the world. I believe that it will quickly become a standard reference work in its field." Henry Rogers, University of Toronto "What makes this encyclopedia a great whole is the synthesis of all the little fascinating things about writing systems, scripts, and orthographies, which Coulmas differentiates in clear conceptual terms...The reviewer recommends it to the specialist and the layman enthusiastically and with no reservations whatsoever." P.G. Patel, University of Ottawa " A good work of this kind is an indispensible reference tool for the student or scholar of writing systems...C′s encyclopedia does an excellent job of presenting hundreds of terms used in the analysis of writing systems...It does so... in prose of clarity that makes each entry a pleasure to read." Janet S. Smith, University of California, Davis

Review

"Florian Coulmas provides a coherent and sophisticated interpretation of the forms and functions of written language. And he shows how important the development of writing systems has been in the development of linguistic description." Michael Stubbs, University of Trier "This book offers a thorough modern coverage of the writing systems of the world. I believe that it will quickly become a standard reference work in its field." Henry Rogers, University of Toronto "What makes this encyclopedia a great whole is the synthesis of all the little fascinating things about writing systems, scripts, and orthographies, which Coulmas differentiates in clear conceptual terms...The reviewer recommends it to the specialist and the layman enthusiastically and with no reservations whatsoever." P.G. Patel, University of Ottawa " A good work of this kind is an indispensible reference tool for the student or scholar of writing systems...C′s encyclopedia does an excellent job of presenting hundreds of terms used in the analysis of writing systems...It does so... in prose of clarity that makes each entry a pleasure to read." Janet S. Smith, University of California, Davis

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive 5 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback
Covers everything that I needed to know about writing systems with excellent clear illustrations and helpful explanatory text. Recommended to all scholars and students.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Appalling print quality 29 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback
What ought to be an excellent reference on writing systems was ruined for me by the terrible quality of the printing in the edition supplied by Amazon (printed in 2006 if I interpret the colophon correctly). Many of the symbols reproduced in the book are rendered as illegible smudges. The Arabic symbols are mere splats of ink. Many of the tables contain IPA that simply can't be read.

The staff at Amazon were helpful but confirmed that other copied in their stock had the same problem.

High print quality is an essential requirement for a reference book on writing systems. This edition fails to meet that requirement by some margin.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating vademecum 5 Feb 2001
By S. Gustafson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the only book that I have yet found that compares to David Diringer's -The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind-.

It is not quite so complete in its coverage of obscure scripts as Diringer, and it makes far fewer attempts to analyse the history of the scripts. On the other hand, because it covers less such territory, the exemplars of the scripts and the tables of the characters and their values in this book are far more legible. The alphabetic arrangement of the material makes it easy to find which system you want.

Another of this book's strengths is that at least some attempt is made to explain how the phonemes of the many languages are expressed by the scripts in question; in many languages, from Tibetan to English, the relationship between alphabet and speech is subtle and complex. Obviously, this information will be cursory and incomplete, but having some is better than having none, and it is at least handy to know whether you are dealing with phonemic or with etymological spellings. This will help you not only to transliterate, but also to read, them.

If you are fascinated by the history of writing, and obscure scripts and arcane alphabets, you NEED this book, and will spend hours leafing through it.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite the Best 11 May 2005
By E. Crapo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After reading previous reviews, I was excited about flipping through my own copy of the encyclopedia; however, I quickly became disappointed. For all the work and study that went into the production of the book, there is no doubt to its value to the linguistic community; however, keep the following points in mind: 1) the entry on the Anglo Saxon alphabet contradicts itself (identifying 25 letters in the text, but showing a different set of 25 letters, demonstrating 26 in total). 2) The entry on the misnamed "Mormon Alphabet" is appalling--those who used it over a century ago called it the Deseret Alphabet; and it's creation was commissioned by Brigham Young in the 1840s--it was not reveled to Joseph Smith on Gold Plates in the 1830; to claim such shows marked assumptions of the author based solely on previously-known knowledge of the sect.

Furthermore, the Figures and table are of photocopies quality, some of the characters so small that distinction between them cannot be easily recognized. Nor do the tables of alphabets line up with their entries. Nor are the tables uniform, but seem to be cut-and-paste tables from other sources.

The text has value, but some of the scholarship is dubious, and the graphic presentation is shambles.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of a fascinating tpic 23 Mar 2002
By David G. Durand - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a great starting place for people who are interesting in the many ways people have encoded language by means of writing. The descriptions of most systems are complete enough that one can get a real feel for how they work (if not perhaps all the details of the most complex systems). It also includes brief articles on topics such as calligraphy, the status of alphabetic writing versus other systems, and the like. While some of these are subjects of heated scholarly debate, Coulmas provides balanced explanations of the issues.A wonderful overview of the intricate and beautiful ways people write the world over.Other books that would interest readers of this are:"The World's Writing Systems" from Oxford University Press is the best single reference for complete descriptions of scripts. But at nearly [$$$] in hardcover, it's relatively inaccessible to the general reader. It's also targeted to a more professional audience and is not as good for browsing around. As an anthology of articles by experts it is both more authoritative, and a bit more uneven than Coulmas."Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction" by Geoffrey Sampsonis more of a discussion of the issues raised for linguistics by a variety of writing systems. Sampson's book includes a detailed discussion of the Chinese system.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than most, but the cheap shortcuts are disappointing 1 Aug 2005
By Kwami - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book illustrates several quite interesting scripts that are barely mentioned in the much more expensive Daniels & Bright, such as the Wolof, Yup'ik, and Nu shu scripts. For all its expense, Daniels & Bright has some poorly written sections, but at least the illustrations are (for the most part) clear. However, as the previous reviewer said, many of the illustrations in the Blackwell Encyclopedia are clipped and pasted and of poor quality. For example, the table illustrating the Yup'ik script has explanatory headings in handwritten cursive German, with letters so small that I can't make them out, and the system is not described in anywhere in the text. So, even if I could distinguish the Yup'ik letters (many of which I can't), I wouldn't know what many of them represented.

That said, this is one of the better books for its price.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The second best 4 Mar 2007
By Erik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Of all the many books like this, and I've seen and owned most of them, this is one of the best. The best I've encountered is Hans Jensen's "Sign, Symbol and Script."

This one is good for getting a quick and brief description of many script systems, but Jensen's will give you the most detail that I've ever encountered of any alphabet.
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