Books : reviews

Marc Zender.
Writing and Civilization: from ancient worlds to modernity.
Great Courses. 2013

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 26 December 2021

This is the course guidebook that accompanies the 24 lecture “Great Course” of the same name. It is essentially an abbreviated transcript of each lecture, a few pictures, and some related reading. (I watched the lectures, which is what I am reviewing here, and am using the book simply as an aide-memoire.)

This covers different writing schemes in the modern world (I learned that Chinese has a substantial Mandarin phonetic component); the difference between alphabets, abjads (like alphabets, but without vowels), syllabaries, the difference between logograms and semantic signs; the most likely reason writing was invented (for recording names originally); the decipherment of various scripts including Linear B and Mayan; the origin of our alphabet 4000 years ago; the effect of the writing medium on the script; invented scripts; and more. It is all fascinating.