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WRITING SYSTEMS OF THE WORLD (The Language Library) [Paperback]

Florian Coulmas

Price: £36.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 1989 0631180281 978-0631180289 Reprint
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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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.

About 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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First Sentence
Writing is the single most important sign system ever invented on our planet. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good. Better edited. 20 Oct 2001
By M. Karapcik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book very much. It was fascinating, and unlike "Reading the Past" (also very good), the information on various language families and regions of the world is interconnected.
My only criticism is that the book is in bad need of an editor. While Coulmas presents a great deal of information, he has a rather noteable tendancy of belabouring a point and rambling on and on. (He beats dead horses well past death and decomposition.) The untranslated quotes in French are a bit frustrating, and his penchant for quoting Greek seems a bit overdone. The book could easily be edited to two-thirds its size and not loose a single jewel of information.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent introduction to writing systems 5 May 2000
By Francesca Jourdan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The book details the origins of the world's writing systems and traces their development to the present day. The central relationship is set between the written and the spoken word, and poses hypothetical scenarios of the way in which writing has affected human language. While describing his views on why the Chinese pictogram, a seemingly 3000 year-old cumbersome system, is in fact very useful, the author also ranges over the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Near Eastern cuniforms and Semitic, Classical and Indo-European writing systems. The book offers many black and white drawings and illustrations.This is a highly recommended book for all, but especially those with interest in linguistics and the history, evolution and importance of writing.
4.0 out of 5 stars No complaints, but not spectacular 10 Oct 2013
By Joey Stanley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Recently, I realized the gaping hole of writing systems in my linguistics education. Since I'm no longer a student, I had to resort to a public library, where I found this. I found it to be enjoyable. The book was well-organized into four parts, and each chapter seemed to be well outlined. There are probably better, newer books on writing systems out there, but I have no complaints about what I got from this one.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book. 18 Oct 2014
By Garrison56 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Good book for those interested in languages and writing systems.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Writing Systems of the World" 26 Feb 2007
By Bruce Bain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Writing Systems of the World" by FLORIAN COULMAS

This book elaborates the Writing Systems of the world's languages, including the ancient script of Egypt, Cuneiform, Chinese, Semitic, and the writing of ancient India.

It further examines the alphabets of the ancient languages, including the divine nature attributed to the written word and its power. It examines the first mnemonic devices, and their support of MEMORY. Semitic languages use some of these, I know. It also studies the use of writing in regulation social behavior. Although this book is not profusely illustrated, it is adequately illustrated to be demonstrative.

The book also studies the evolution of language its evolution from single syllables to complete words. It has some very illustrative "Language Trees" that show the continuity of historic dialects.
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