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The World's Writing Systems Hardcover – 6 Jun 1996


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 966 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (6 Jun. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195079930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195079937
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 5 x 17.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 971,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
HUMANKIND IS DEFINED BY LANGUAGE; but civilization is defined by writing. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 July 1999
Format: Hardcover
The most wide-ranging treatment of the subject I have ever seen. The depth of coverage is also excellent. There are 74 sections, each dealing with anything up to a dozen or so scripts. This book covers everything from Sumerian "Counting Tokens" up to Computerised Representations, across the whole globe. It is very thoroughly illustrated throughout with generally high quality charts of the writing systems themselves, as well as numerous short texts in each script. The example texts are neatly translated on a step-by-step basis into English, giving a very clear notion of how the scripts (and underlying languges) work. The 900 or so pages are full of very clear and informative text giving an incredible amount of highly authoritative information about each script.
All in all, a most worthy addition to the bookshelf of any person interested in the the form and development of any or all of the world's writing systems.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Jan. 2000
Format: Hardcover
I think this is the best book you could find on the market about writing systems and phonetics. Chinese, Japanese, Corean, Inuit, Greek, Slavic, Braille, Shorthand etc. you will find everything in it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Nov. 1998
Format: Hardcover
The World's Writing Systems is an 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 and as an important reference work.
As reviewed by Laurence Urdang, in the Summer 1996 issue (Vol. XXIII, No. 1) of VERBATIM, The Language Quarterly.
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By Cypher on 16 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful and extensive collection of writing systems for anyone who is interested in notational systems for human language. A slightly negative point about this book is the high retail price, and that the paper edition isn't searchable (as a suitable electronic format would be). Otherwise a truly remarkable book.
[PS: If you like this book, you might also like the omniglot website: [...] ]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Not merely informative but beautiful 10 Oct. 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"The World's Writing Systems" is a model reference work. Its treatment of its subject matter is comprehensive: no language is too ancient or too obscure, if someone worked out a graphic notation for it. Notational systems for nonlinguistic fields such as music, dance, and mathematics are included, as are invented alphabets for such fictitious languages as J. R. R. Tolkien's Quenya. The presentation is clear, both about the basic facts for each system and about the historical lineages of writing systems; the editors aid this clarity by distinguishing among three different styles of "alphabetic" writing--typified by Latin, Arabic, and Sanskrit writing systems. The reader will come away with an understanding of why Chinese writing is not really "ideographic" and of the careful scientific reasoning behind traditional Korean writing. Best of all, the presentation is aesthetically delightful, with fine typographic examples of the many scripts discussed and with long passages in each that are both transliterated and translated. Anyone to whom language is not merely a tool but a pleasure should find this book a delight.
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful and useful 18 Jun. 2001
By Rhetorick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book belongs to a rare category: Reference Works of Art. This massive volume not only brings together an amazing mass of information, but does so in a fantastically attractive manner. The coverage is comprehensive: general articles on the relationship of writing to language, linguistics, decipherment, etc. accompany page after page devoted to every script extant from Egyptian and Chinese scripts to Ogham, Cree, and Mandain. If that were not enough, the book goes on to explore other systems for conveying information in written, symbolic form, such as mathematical and musical notations. But enough with the table of contents. I've only used the book for browsing thus far, but this even is a rewarding experience. The price on this book is quite high, but is in proportion to the quantity and quality of the material it contains. If all books were so well done, there would be very little to debate in terms of the effort put forth by writers and the taste exercised by editors. It doesn't get any better than this.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Exceptional reference work and coverage 29 Dec. 2003
By Magellan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Exceptionally well researched, documented, illustrated, and well-written reference work on 80 of the world's writing systems. I don't know if they're all here, but they include extinct languages such as Egyptian and Gothic, as well as modern ones that are still alive. Alphabets as diverse as the Cree syllabary and Korean phonetic alphabet are discussed, as well as phonographic and ideographic systems such as Egyptian and Assyrian cuneiform.
Much of the information in this book relating to the history and development of various writing systems can be found in Encyclopedia Britannica and Encarta articles on various languages and language groups, but the actual writing systems are usually not shown, which is where this book comes in. This book lays them all out under one cover. However, the Britannica articles are especially impressive from the standpoint of the comparative philology and historical linguistics, so you might want to consult those articles too for that information, especially as the Britannica CD is only a fraction of the cost of this book.
In addition to the real languages covered, this book even covers musical notation, body movement, and Tolkien's invented language for Middle Earth. Despite the cost, this is an extraordinary reference work on writing systems that will probably become the definitive work in its field.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
How to give a book a 6-star rating? 29 Feb. 2000
By Piotr Szymczak - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A comprehensive and very reliable reference work on grammatology. It is organized into separate easy-to-find sections, each devoted to a single writing system or a family of related scripts, and written by a specialist in the field. The book covers practically every known writing system, listing the established facts about its origins, variations, and development. Sign tables are presented (in full for alphabets, representative samples for syllabaries and logographic systems), and each section is provided with a priceless bibliography. Good editing work, the sections follow a similar pattern, which makes the book easy to use. The scripts are presented meticulously and are a pleasure to behold (it must have been a staggering job from the publisher's point of view). High scholarly standards are maintained throughout, and the precise technical language is balanced with an unobtrusive sprinkling of interesting anecdotes. This book is as beautiful as the Italian Carolingian Minuscule.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Best all around reference on scripts I've seen. 29 April 2005
By John A Lee III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For many years, I thought I was interested in languages. I suppose I am since (before a brain tumor) I was literate in 8 and could pass in another 8 or so. It wasn't the languages that interested me so much as the writing systems. This is the book that made me realize that several years ago.

Most people would consider this to be a refference book. So it is but anyone intersted in the different types of scripts will enjoy reading it straight through. It enumerates and explains almost all writing systems of note including both those that are extinct and those that are extant. For each, the system by which sounds are transmitted to a graphic medium are explained. This necessitates some basic linguistics but the text provides all that is needed.

Scripts of historic interest are explained in the same manner and so is the method of their decipherment. This alone would make it an interesting book to me but there is so much more.

A person who is interested in writing and writing systems would be hard pressed to find a better book.
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