Crash Course Linguistics 16 (Writing Systems)

How does writing represent language?

The final Crash Course Linguistics video focuses on written representations of language.

Topics include different types of writing systems and how writing systems can change over time. This week's Thought Bubble tours several independent times in history when writing was invented. Closed captions are available in English.

For a deeper dive into the historical angle, check out Thoth’s Pill: An Animated History of Writing, a series of 12 videos ranging from 2 to 6 minutes that playfully summarize major developments in writing systems. The full series is also available as a single 47-minute compilation video. Closed captions are available in English; some videos, including the compilation, feature closed captions in additional languages.

Listen to the 38-minute Lingthusiasm episode Writing is a technology for a conversational take on topics similar to this week’s Crash Course Linguistics video, with additional fun details. This episode is available wherever you prefer to find podcasts, and a transcript is available here.

Many problems from past International Linguistics Olympiad national contests center on contemporary writing systems that are generally unfamiliar to English speakers, including Chinese (answers at end), Inuktitut (answers at end), Nepali (answers at end), and Tenji (answers here, pp. 1-2).

Finally, see our past newsletters about writing systems and the linguistics of emoji for additional video and audio resources and blog posts about written communication.

Liz, Gretchen, and Lauren

About Mutual Intelligibility

Mutual Intelligibility is a project to connect linguistics instructors with online resources, especially as so much teaching is shifting quickly online due to current events. It's produced by Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch, with the support of our patrons on Lingthusiasm. Our editor is Liz McCullough.

Mutual Intelligibility posts will always remain free, but if you have a stable income and find that they’re reducing your stress and saving you time, we're able to fund these because of the Lingthusiasm Patreon and your contributions there.

For the 16 weeks of Crash Course Linguistics, Mutual Intelligibility will be sharing the video weekly, along with supporting resources. We will resume our regular link request and recommendations after the Crash Course Linguistics series. For more on how we usually operate, check out our about page.

If you have other comments, suggestions, or ideas of ways to help, please email mutual.intellig@gmail.com.