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Writing and Script: A Very Short Introduction [Paperback]

Andrew Robinson

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Book Description

Sept. 27 2009 0199567786 978-0199567782
Without writing, there would be no records, no history, no books, and no emails. Writing is an integral and essential part of our lives; but when did it start? Why do we all write differently and how did writing develop into what we use today?

All of these questions are answered in this Very Short Introduction. Starting with the origins of writing five thousand years ago, with cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, Andrew Robinson explains how these early forms of writing developed into hundreds of scripts including the Roman alphabet and the Chinese characters.

He reveals how the modern writing symbols and abbreviations we take for granted today - including airport signage and text messaging - resemble ancient ones much more closely than we might think.

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User-friendly survey. Steven Poole, The Guardian

About the Author

Andrew Robinson is a Visiting Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and holds degrees from Oxford University and the School of Oriental Studies, London. He is now a full-time writer who has worked in book publishing, television and journalism, most recently as Literary Editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement from 1994-2006. His previous publications include The Story of Writing, The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris, and Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Oct. 15 2014
By Anne Dorfman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Just the right amount of info. Well done.
6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 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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