Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Writing Systems

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology

DESCRIPTION Human culture, as we know it, would not have been possible without the invention of writing, in particular because it requires the transfer of knowledge in both space and time. A writing system is made up of a set of visual or tactile signs on specific media with the use of specific writing tools that systematically represent specific language units (sounds, syllables, lexemes, etc). Worldwide, there are, and have been, many different writing systems, with various particular stylistic and structural properties. This study-unit familiarises the student with the basic principles upon which writing systems are constructed, examining and evaluating specific systems from a theoretical, practical and historical perspective.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to allow the student to become acquainted with different writing systems and with the basic principles underlying such systems. Particular emphasis will be placed on an understanding of the role of writing within a wider cultural and technological context.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- identify and analyse the salient features of different writing systems;
- assess the fundamental relevance of technological developments to writing;
- explain the value of writing as system for the encoding of speech.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- critically evaluate the effectiveness of different writing systems;
- compare and contrast the main features of different writing system;
- evaluate writing systems in terms of their effectiveness to encode the spoken language.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Borgwaldt, Susanne R. & Joyce, Terry by (2013) Typology of Writing Systems. Amsterdam: Benjamins
Coulmas, Florian (2002) Writing Systems: An Introduction to their linguistic analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics
Daniels, Peter & Bright, William (1996) The World's Writing Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Sampson, Geoffrey (1985) Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction. Stanford: Stanford University Press
Sproat, Richard (2010) Language, Technology, and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%


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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.