38 minutes | Jan 21, 2021

52: Writing is a technology

There’s no known human society without language, whether spoken or signed or both, but writing is a different story. Writing is a technology that has only been invented from scratch a handful of times: in ancient Sumeria (where it may have spread to ancient Egypt or been invented separately there), in ancient China, and in ancient Mesoamerica. Far more often, the idea of writing spreads through contact between one culture and its neighbours, even though the shape of the written characters and what they stand for can vary a lot as it spreads. In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about writing systems, and how the structure and history of a language contribute to the massively multigenerational project of devising a writing system (a project which is still ongoing). We also talk about some of our favourite origin-of-writing system stories, including the invention of the Cherokee syllabary and Korean hangul. Announcements We’re just about to hit 100 Lingthusiasm episodes! If you’re wondering why this is only episode 52, that’s because the other half of them exist as bonus episodes on Patreon. It’s also been one year since we launched the Lingthusiasm Discord server, which has grown into a place where casual conversations about food and pets always have the potential to veer off into linguistics. There are always new people trickling into the Discord, so come by if you’re looking for a place to nerd out with fellow linguistics enthusiasts! https://lingthusiasm.com/discord This month’s bonus episode is outtake stories from Lingthusiasm interviews! We've interviewed lots of great linguists on Lingthusiasm, and sometimes there's a story or two that we just don't have space for in the main episode, so here's a bonus episode with our favourite outtakes! Think of it as a special bonus edition DVD of the past few years of Lingthusiasm with director's commentary and deleted scenes. Join us on Patreon to get access to this and 46 other bonus episodes! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm For links to everything mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/640950463320260608/lingthusiasm-episode-52-writing-is-a-technology
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