Writing Systems of the World (06-090-199)                  Spring 2003

Th 8:10-11:10/Food Science Bldg. 109


The course provides an overview of different types of writing system, emphasizing their linguistic properties, history, and mental processing.


Instructor: Prof. Young-mee Yu Cho (yucho@rci.rutgers.edu)

Office Hours: Wed. 10:20-11:20 & by appointment

Office: Scott Hall 339 (932-5603)

Textbook: Sampson, Geoffrey (1985) Writing Systems. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Thurs.  1/23


Fromkin and Rodman: ch. 12

Sampson: 1 Introduction


Theoretical background

Fromkin and Rodman: ch. 6

Sampson: chapters 2

2/6    The earliest writing

        A syllabic system: Linear B

Sampson: chapters 3, 4

2/13   Consonantal Writing

          The Graeco-Roman alphabet

Sampson: chapters  5, 6

2/20        A featural system

               A logographic system

Sampson: chapters  7, 8


2/27        A mixed system

               English spelling

Sampson: chapters  9, 10






Practical problems

Coulmas: chapters 11, 12, 13


Typology of writing systems



Neurological and psychological issues



Neurological and psychological issues



Creation and reform of writing systems



Paper presentations



Paper presentations




Quizzes: 20 %        Midterm: 30 %      Oral presentation and Final Paper (7 -10 pages): 30 %

Homework: 10 %   Attendance and Class Participation: 10%

* Final paper due by noon on May 8 (Thursday).

Class Policy:

1.No make-up (or late homework) will be permitted.   2. With 3 or more absences, no grade will be given.



Reading List


Chomsky, Carol (1970) ¡°Reading, Writing, and Phonology,¡± Harvard Educational

Review 40. 287-310.

Coulmas, Florian (1989) The Writing Systems of the World. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Crook, Rena, Hinton, Leanne and Nancy Stenson (1976) ¡°Literacy and Linguistics:

The Havasupai Writing Sustem,¡± in James E. Redden (ed.) Proceedings of the

 1976 Hokan-Yuman Languages Workshop. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois

 University at Carbondale. University Museum Studies no. 11.

Fromkin, Victoria and Robert Rodman (1998) An Introduction to Language.

New York: Holt.

International Phonetic Association (1949) Principle of the International Phonetic

Association. London: Department of Phonetics, University College.  1-19.

Klima, Edward (1972) ¡°How Alphabets Might Reflect Language,¡± in James F.

Kavanagh & Ignatius G. Mattingly (eds.) Language by Ear and by Eye.

Cambridge: MIT Press. pp. 57-80.

Makita, Kiyoshi (1968) ¡°The Rarity of Reading Disability in Japanese Children,¡±

 American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 38.4. 599-614.

Park, Soja and Arbuckle, Tannis (1977) ¡°Ideograms versus Alphabets: Effects of

 Scripts on Memory in ¡®Biscriptual¡¯ Korean Subjects.¡± Journal of

Experimental Psychology: Human Lernaing and Memory. 3. 631-42.

Poser, William (1992) ¡°The Structural Typology of Phonological Writing.¡±

Paper presented at the Berkeley Linguistics Society Meeting.

Rozin, Paul, Susan Poritsky, & Raina Sotsky (1971) ¡°American Children with

Reading Problems Can Easily Learn to Read English Represented by

Chinese Characters.¡± Science 171. 1264-1267.

Sasanuma, Sumiko & Osamu Fujimura (1971) ¡°Selective Impairment of Phonetic

 and Nonphonetic Transcription of Words in Japanese Aphasic Patients:

 Kana vs. Kanji Recognition and Writing.¡± Cortex 7. 1-18.

Schmandt-Besserat, Denise (1986) ¡°Tokens: Facts and Interpretation,¡± Visible

 Language 20.3. 250-273.

Steinberg, Danny and Jun Yamada (1978-79) ¡°Are Whole Word Kanji Easier to

 Learn than Syllable Kana?¡± Reading Research Quarterly 14. 88-99.

Stokoe, William, Casaterline, D. and Croneberg, C. (1965) A Dictionary of

American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles. Silver Spring, MD:

 Linstok Press. pp. vii-xxi

Tzeng, Ovid, Hung, Daisy, and Wang, William S.-Y. (1977) ¡°Speech Recoding in

 Reading Chinese Characters.¡± Journal of Experimental Psycholog:

Human Learning and Memory 3. 621-630.

Walker, Willard (1974) ¡°The Winnebago Syllabary and the Generative Model,¡±

 Anthropological Linguistics 16.393-414.





Coulmas, Florian (1999) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems.

Oxford: Blackwell.

DeFrancis, John (1989) Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems.

 Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Daniels, Peter and William Bright (1996) The World¡¯s Writing Systems.

New York: Oxford University Press.

Deuel, Leo (1965) Testaments of Time: The Search for Lost Manuscripts and

Records. Baltimore: Penguin.

Gelb, Ignace J. (1963) A Study of Writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jensen, Hans (1969) Sign, Symbol and Script. New York: G.P. Putnam¡¯s Sons.

Kim-Renaud, Young-Key (1997) The Korean Alphabet: Its History and Structure.

 Honolulu: of Hawaii Press.

Ledyard, Gari (1998) The Korean Language Reform of 1446. Seoul: Singu

 Munhwasa. [Dissertation, UC, Berkeley, 1966]

Literary and Writing Systems in Asia (2000) Studies in the Linguistic Sciences.

 30.1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.