The Representation of Language in the Earliest Writing Systems by Jerrold Cooper, Professor Emeritus, The Johns Hopkins University, Department of Near Eastern Studies. Why and how did early civilizations develop graphic representations of language? Answers will be sought by examining so-called “pristine” writing systems that arose in the Middle East, China, and Mesoamerica. Although these systems are very different formally and structurally, there are important similarities in the devices they employ, their development from their earliest forms to systems capable of representing very broad ranges of linguistic expression, and in the motivation for their initial invention. The talk will close with some brief remarks on the relationship between language, writing, and speech.
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