Richard G. Salomon
Origin, nature, and development of writing systems. Alphabets, syllabaries, and logographic systems; relation of writing systems to spoken languages; decipherment of previously undeciphered scripts.
The course surveys the origins, historical development, and typology of the scripts of the world, with an emphasis on ancient writing systems. Topics covered include the relationships between languages and scripts, the patterns of invention, diffusion, and adaptation of writing systems, and the problems and methods of deciphering unknown scripts of the ancient world.
There is NO REQUIRED PREREQUISITE [Contrary statement above under "Official description" is out of date and no longer in force.]
Student learning goals
General knowledge of the invention and historical development of writing in world culture.
Understanding of the relationship between writing and language.
Understanding of the roles of writing in world history and culture.
Insight into the interactions between cultures of the ancient and modern world.
General method of instruction
Informal lecture and discussion, including presentation (non-graded) by students.
Previous study of one or more foreign languages and/or of linguistics is desirable.
Class assignments and grading
Mid-term exam Class presentation (non-graded) Critical essay on class readings Final term paper (8-12 pages)
Midterm exam, critical essay, term paper, class participation.