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Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.00001.x


The principal purpose of this encyclopedia is to provide basic concise information on the writing systems, scripts and orthographies of the world's major languages, and about theoretically important issues concerning the relationship between speech and writing. The variety of writing systems, past and present, is stupendous, and several profound books have been written about them. No student of writing can dispense with the seminal works of Marcel Cohen, David Diringer, Ignace Gelb and Hans Jensen which have laid the groundwork for the scientific study of writing. More than 40 years ago Gelb proposed the term ‘grammatology’ for this field of inquiry. New findings have come to light since then, and a great deal of research in various fields has advanced our understanding of how writing systems evolved, how they work, and how they differ from each other. Among the many scientific fields that have an interest in writing, four stand out: history and palaeography are concerned with the origin, spread and development of writing; psychology studies the perceptual and cognitive conditions of producing and processing written texts; linguistics investigates the mapping relations between speech and writing underlying the visual representation of language; and sociology has an interest in the social conditions and consequences of literacy. It would be preposterous to try to do justice to all ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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