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Writing Systems

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The cultures of the world have chosen different ways to make spoken language visible and permanent. The original edition of Writing Systems represented the first time that modern linguistic principles were brought to bear on a study of this. Now this new edition brings the story up to date; it incorporates topics which have emerged since the first edition (such as electronic techniques for encoding the world's scripts), together with new findings about established topics, including the ultimate historical origin of our alphabet. Featuring a series of detailed case studies of scripts of diverse types, and giving due attention to the psychology of reading and learning to read, the book is written so as to be accessible to those with no prior knowledge of any writing systems other than our own. Listen to Geoffrey Sampson's podcast interview with New Books in Language

Published: Jan 30, 2015

Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Geoffrey Sampson
Introduction Geoffrey Sampson
Theoretical preliminaries Geoffrey Sampson
The earliest writing Geoffrey Sampson
A syllabic system: Linear B Geoffrey Sampson
Consonantal writing Geoffrey Sampson
European alphabetic writing Geoffrey Sampson
Influences on graph-shape evolution Geoffrey Sampson
A featural system: Korean Hangul Geoffrey Sampson
A logographic system: Chinese writing Geoffrey Sampson
Pros and cons of logography Geoffrey Sampson
A mixed system: Japanese writing Geoffrey Sampson
Writing systems and information technology Geoffrey Sampson
English Spelling Geoffrey Sampson
Conclusion Geoffrey Sampson
End Matter
References Geoffrey Sampson
Index Geoffrey Sampson

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Reviews of the Second Edition

This book remains one of the most interesting, useful and balanced works on the typology, history and psychology of written language, and the revisions made for the second edition bring it nicely up to date.
Journal of Linguistics

The book is quite readable, is clearly written, and the bulk of it is a pleasure to read. The reader does need a basic knowledge of phonology to follow the totality of the book, and what a morpheme is, but not more than that. Thus the potential audience is fairly broad. Even those with no linguistic background could benefit to some degree.

By choosing key examples and representative orthographies, this volume quite nicely achieves its main goal of providing a typology of the main writing systems of the world’s languages.

Praise for the first edition

This is a splendid book ... of outstanding interest to professional linguists and students of linguistics, and also to the large number of lay readers who are fascinated by facts about human language.
British Book News

A refreshing and rigorous contemporary scientific examination of writing ... Linguists on all fronts should welcome this.

An incredible tour de force, covering both Western and East Asian scripts, their historical development and their linguistic features. The treatment of Chinese, Japanese and Korean scripts is particularly fascinating for a Western reader.
ASI Newsletter

I have found Sampson’s book invaluable as a source of descriptive information ... it is written in a straightforward and approachable manner which makes it very engaging as general reading matter ... shows an acquaintance with recent psychological work that is seldom to be found in linguistic writing.
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

The best linguistic introduction to the study of writing systems now available.