521-Class 21

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Writing Systems and the Emergence of Written Language[edit]

Please read this excerpt from Robison's Story of Writing Book, then please listen to this Lexicon Valley Podcast about Sequoyah Talking Leaves and Lightning Paper. (transcript is available by following the link).

Lastly, have a look at examples of writing systems here omniglot -- click through the 'Alphabets and Other Writing Systems links'... The Cherokee writing system is here

Study questions[edit]

  • Why do you think writing only emerged ~5000 years ago? What are the chief difficulties in inventing it?
  • What’s a rebus? Why is it on the border between proto-writing and full-writing? What do you think distinguishes proto-writing from full-writing?
  • Can you read a pictogram? What’s hard about it?
  • Why do you think languages use different scripts (syllabaries, logograms, alphabets, etc.). Why do you think Sequoyah ended up choosing a syllabary for the Cherokee language?
  • What’s the role of prestige in the evolution/adoption of writing systems?