Skip to main content

The Writing Revolution: Cuneiform to the Internet

The Writing Revolution: Cuneiform to the Internet

Amalia E. Gnanadesikan

ISBN: 978-1-444-35985-5

Sep 2011

328 pages

$38.99

Description

In a world of rapid technological advancements, it can be easy to forget that writing is the original Information Technology, created to transcend the limitations of human memory and to defy time and space. The Writing Revolution picks apart the development of this communication tool to show how it has conquered the world.
  • Explores how writing has liberated the world, making possible everything from complex bureaucracy, literature, and science, to instruction manuals and love letters
  • Draws on an engaging range of examples, from the first cuneiform clay tablet, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Japanese syllabaries, to the printing press and the text messaging
  • Weaves together ideas from a number of fields, including history, cultural studies and archaeology, as well as linguistics and literature, to create an interdisciplinary volume
  • Traces the origins of each of the world’s major written traditions, along with their applications, adaptations, and cultural influences
List of Illustrations vii

Preface xi

1 The First IT Revolution 1

2 Cuneiform: Forgotten Legacy of a Forgotten People 13

3 Egyptian Hieroglyphs and the Quest for Eternity 33

4 Chinese: A Love of Paperwork 56

5 Maya Glyphs: Calendars of Kings 79

6 Linear B: The Clerks of Agamemnon 95

7 Japanese: Three Scripts are Better than One 113

8 Cherokee: Sequoyah Reverse-Engineers 133

9 The Semitic Alphabet: Egypt to Manchuria in 3,400 Years 143

10 The Empire of Sanskrit 169

11 King Sejong's One-Man Renaissance 191

12 Greek Serendipity 208

13 The Age of Latin 229

14 The Alphabet Meets the Machine 249

Appendix: Figures A.1–A.7 273

Further Reading 281

Index 297

""Anyone interested in the development of writing, even without a background in linguistics, will find the book accessible, while linguists will appreciate the well chosen technical information that is included in the description of each individual system."" (Language Documentation & Conservation, 2 December 2009)

""This informative, yet accessible and entertaining, book will be of interest to readers with an interest in the history and evolution of world languages, as well as to students and instructors looking for a comprehensive and enjoyable overview of the subject.."" (Language in Society, 14 December 2009)“Gnanadesikan writes about language’s evolution into modernity with the rise of technology and the World Wide Web and how writing has made possible everything from complex bureaucracy to love letters.” (Princeton Alumni Weekly Online, February 2009)


  • A fascinating insight into the history of the original Information Technology, a communication tool created to transcend the limitations of human memory and to defy time and space
  • Explores how writing has conquered the world, making possible everything from complex bureaucracy, literature, and science, to instruction manuals and love letters
  • Draws on an engaging range of examples, from the first cuneiform clay tablet, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Japanese syllabaries, to the printing press and text messaging
  • Weaves together ideas from a number of fields, including history, cultural studies and archaeology, as well as linguistics and literature, to create an interdisciplinary volume
  • Traces the origins of each of the world’s major written traditions, along with their applications, adaptations, and cultural impact