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Kamran Scot Aghaie, Chair CAL 528 | 204 W 21st St F9400 | Austin, TX 78712-1029 • 512-471-3881

Fall 2009


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42372 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
PAR 201

Course Description

Cn u rd ths? Why? How is it possible for us to record our speech & shoughts in visible form, & to understand what others have recorded? It has been claimed that writing is the most important of all human inventions: without it, literature would of course be impossible, & history, but also mathematics & science. And yet, writing has been invented only a handful of times. In this course, we will investigate how human speech & thought are recorded in visual form, considering a wide array of the many facets of writing: its nature; its origins a mere five millennia ago; its spread & diversification; the various types of writing (logographic, syllabic, alphabetic, & others); the process of decipherment; how we learn to read & write; printing and spelling; & the cultural impact of writing and literacy. In the process, we will look at a number of the world's many scripts, both ancient & modern, such as Mesopotamian cuneiform, Egyptian hierglyphs, Linear B, Chinese, Mayan glyphs, Japanese systems, Korean writing, recently invented scripts, & Semitic cosonantal systems & the alphabets, including our own, that arose from those systems. We will also consider aspects of the phenomenon of text & instant messaging as a new writing system.

Grading Policy

Book review (5-7 pages) due 6th week of the semester: 15% Midterm exam: 25% Short research paper (10–12 pages) due the last day of class: 25% Final exam during exam period: 35%


Robinson, Andrew. 2007. The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs and Pictograms. Second edition. London/New York: Thames & Hudson. Rogers, Henry. 2005. Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach. Oxford: Blackwell.


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