Each one differs in its approach to the development of writing and in how it categorises individual writing systems, as well as in how it interprets the nature of writing itself. But all are sufficiently authoritative in their own way to beg the question of whether another general text is actually needed.
At first glance, this new book appears to be another basic survey, placed as it is among similar introductory volumes in the series Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. However, it contains something of novel theoretical value, in addition to being a concise and superbly written introduction to the theory and graphic diversity of writing systems. Coulmas challenges the prevailing linguistic view that writing is merely [End Page ] a secondary representation of speech. He demonstrates that writing, though indeed distinct from speech in the traditional Saussurean sense, cannot simply be reduced to "visible speech" but must in fact be interpreted as a system that interacts with speech in complex ways, often influencing and changing the spoken word rather than merely reflecting it mechanically.
From this new vantage, the survey of writing systems Coulmas offers in this book entails a host of innovative observations worthy of attention. Chapter One, entitled "What is writing? It begins by discussing the opinions of notable scholars of the past, taking as its starting point Aristotle's view that writing is secondary to the spoken word i. Coulmas then summarises the prevailing views of contemporary linguists, showing that any opinion that dismisses writing as nothing more than a mechanical reflex of spoken language is not adequate for the task of understanding the complex interaction that actually exists between writing and speech.
Coulmas demonstrates that no writing can express pure ideas divorced from the medium of specific language-based semantic expression. Schemes for creating such systems in the past, the so-called a priori artificial languages, basically amounted to cumbersome failures. Similarly, any writing system, even one that is highly phonemic, involves more than a mere representation of spoken sounds; no writing system expresses the sounds of speech in all their actual physical variation.
So although any signary i. This chapter also discusses the difference between transcription, which does attempt to convey speech sounds directly, and writing, which represents language in a far more conventionalised way based upon a complex interweaving of cues from various linguistic levels, including both sound and meaning.
Writing always takes into account meaning as well as sound, though some systems rely much more exclusively on phonological distinctions rather than on the specific functions of individual words or morphemes. In the author's interpretation, writing emerges as a semi-autonomous object capable of interacting with as well as affecting spoken language in a host of complex ways. Maekawa, Hisao and Parrila, Rauno Scientific Studies of Reading, Vol. Towards a typology of phonemic scripts.
History and Philosophy of Logic, Vol. Transformations of the Line: Traces, Threads and Surfaces. Writing in a non-standard Greek variety: Romanized Cypriot Greek in online chat. Cambridge University Press Online publication date: June Print publication year: Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. Export citation Recommend to librarian Recommend this book. Please enter a valid email address Email already added. Actions for selected content:.
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