The Idea of Writing
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"The Idea of Writing" is an exploration of the versatility of writing systems. From ancient Egyptian, Cuneiform and Meroitic writing to Chinese, Maya and Maldivian script, the authors examine the problems and possibilities of polysemy, representing loanwords and the problems of adapting a writing system to another language. The playful and artistic use of writing, including a contribution on writing dance, further illustrates the intricacies of the systems. This collection of articles aims to highlight the complexity of writing systems rather than to provide a first introduction. The different academic traditions in which these writing systems have been studied use linguistic, socio-historical and philological approaches that give complementary insights into the complex phenomena.
phonetic complements, are present and actually used for sequences of two or three consonants (Sass 1991: 11–17, Hoch 1994: 487–501). In some cases, it seems, complete Egyptian words are used. One disputed group is worthy of special note. It is written like the Egyptian root 颓pr “equip”, including the typical sign with its phonetic complements. According to the most likely hypothesis, this sequence has become established for writing the Semitic word ʿabd “servant”, with the typical Middle Kingdom
it attempts to provide an empirical basis for terminological refinement. My analysis of linguistic borrowing is placed in the sociolinguistic context of the languages and scripts analyzed. Contact between languages and contact between scripts occur under specific sociolinguistic conditions. The coexistence of two or more different languages in one linguistic community is one important condition for languages to attain contact. Coexistence of language does not necessarily entail script contact.
Studies. Lehiste, Ilse. 1988. Lectures on language contact. Cambridge, Mass. [etc.]: MIT Press, 1988. Li, Chin-an. 2003. Lexical change and variation in Taiwanese literary texts, 1916–1998: A computer-assisted corpus analysis. Tainan: Zhenping. Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 2000. Formosan languages: The state of the art. In Austronesian Taiwan: Linguistics, history, ethnology, prehistory, edited by David Blundell, pp. 45–67. Berkeley, Taipei: Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Shung Ye Museum of
narratives the writing examples were in a local tradition. To a lesser extent this also happened at the site of Xochicalco, also close to central Mexico (e.g., Boot 2005b: 269). Maya writing, as any writing system, cannot been seen out of the context of the civilization that invented (or adopted), developed, and used it. Within Maya iconography and architecture, from the earliest to the latest phases, one can recognize a variety of non-Maya characteristics. To fully understand the underlying
& D. Beliaev n.d. Posibles correlaciones lingüísticas y arqueológicas involucrando a los olmecas. Manuscript, available at URL: