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Writing and Script: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – Sep 27 2009


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Really Fun Short Introduction March 15 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have always been fascinated with writing. I still remember when I came across a list of Egyptian hieroglyphs and their meanings in a youth magazine that I used to read as a kid. Suddenly I was able to write whatever I wanted using a script that was not in use for almost two millennia. It felt almost like being transported in time. Ever since then I've had a strong fascination with scripts and writing.

This short introduction is an excellent source of information on various aspects of script and writing. It gives a historic perspective and introduces some very important distinctions amongst various scripts. The main categories of script can loosely be divided into alphabets, syllabi, and pictograms. However, there is much more of continuity between various writing systems than one might naively guess. Even the most phonetic scripts avail of some pictograms, and likewise pictogramic scripts make use of alphabetical signs. The book tries to give a general history of the development of various scripts, especially those that are dominant today. The interesting stories of decipherment of some ancient scripts (Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Ancient Cretan Linear B script) are immensely fascinating and they read like detective tales. The book also makes a plausible case for the continuation of use of the pictogramic scripts in China and Japan - too much of their linguistic and cultural heritage would be affected by a sudden abandonment of the pictograms. The author is still strongly in favor of more phonetically based scripts, but he also appreciates the fact that scripts are a living expression of a particular culture, and not just an arbitrary collection of symbols that can be easily replaced.

A book of this length will inevitably have to compromise on the inclusion of several topics. Nonetheless, I wish that a few topics could have been either expended or included. The Cyrillic script is barely mentioned in passing, and there is no mention of many African and Asian scripts. I am also curious to know how would sign language and Morse code be classified, and would there even be considered scripts. Nonetheless, the topics that are included in this book are all covered supremely well, and this is as good of a place to start reading about various scripts as they come. A truly wonderful little book.
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Not terribly modern Nov. 3 2009
By Paul Hoffman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is fine if you want to know the history of writing and script up to about a hundred years ago, then it falls flat. It barely covers scripts that were invented in the 20th century, Romanization, or how scripts are used on computers and the Internet. "Very short" is fine, but it could have had a better mix.


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