edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright
The World's Writing Systems meets the need for a definitive volume on the major historical and modern writing systems of the world. Comprising more than eighty articles contributed by expert scholars in the field, the work is organized in twelve units, each dealing with a particular group of writing systems defined historically, geographically, or conceptually. Each unit begins with an introductory article providing the social and cultural context in which the group of writing systems was created and developed. Articles on individual scripts detail the historical origin of the writing system in question, its structure (with tables showing the forms of the written symbols), and its relationship to the phonology of the corresponding spoken language. Each writing system is illustrated by a passage of text, accompanied by a romanized version, a phonetic transcription, and a modern English translation. Each article concludes with a bibliography. Units are arranged according to the chronological development of writing systems and their historical relationship within geographical areas. First, there is a discussion of the earliest scripts of the ancient Near East.
Subsequent units focus on the scripts of East Asia, the writing systems of Europe, Asia, and Africa that have descended from ancient West Semitic ("Phoenician"), and the scripts of South and Southeast Asia. Other units deal with the recent and ongoing process of decipherment of ancient writing systems; the adaptation of traditional scripts to new languages; new scripts invented in modern times; and graphic systems for numerical, music, and movement notation. The result is a comprehensive resource of all of the major writing systems of the world.