M20. Visible Language: Study of Writing
(Same as Asian M20, Indo-European Studies M20, Slavic M20, and Southeast Asian M20.) Lecture, three hours; discussion, one hour. Consideration of concrete means of language representation in writing systems. Earliest representations of language known are those of Near East dating to end of 4th millennium BC. While literate civilizations of Egypt, Indus Valley, China, and Mesoamerica left little evidence of corresponding earliest developments, their antiquity and, in case of China and Mesoamerica, their evident isolation mark these centers as loci of independent developments in writing. Basic characteristics of early scripts, assessment of modern alphabetic writing systems, and presentation of conceptual basis of semiotic language representation. Origins and development of early non-Western writing systems. How Greco-Roman alphabet arose in 1st millennium BC and how it compares to other modern writing systems. P/NP or letter grading.