Ancient Writing and the History of the Alphabet By John McWhorter, The Great Courses

  • Narrated by: John McWhorter
  • Length: 6 hrs and 18 mins
  • Release date: 05-19-23

Ancient Writing and the History of the Alphabet By John McWhorter, The Great Courses AudioBook summary

The ubiquity of the written word in our everyday lives can make it easy to forget how recent the development of writing and literacy are in the span of human history. But writing is, in fact, a very recent phenomenon if we take a step back and look at the big picture of human development. Even if we simply limit our view to the existence of language, writing still occupies a small segment of time. Writing in its earliest forms, particularly, is very different than what we are familiar with today.

So, when—and where—did writing first emerge? Why did early humans find it necessary to record their thoughts in a visual medium? How did cultures that had relied solely on spoken language for thousands of years create symbols that could carry meaning? And how did all the many scripts and systems that developed over the centuries lead us to the 26-letter alphabet of the English language?

Embark on a journey to the very beginning of writing as a tool of language and see how the many threads of history and linguistics came together to create the alphabet that forms the foundation of English writing. Your guide is Professor John McWhorter of Columbia University and in the 16 lectures of Ancient Writing and the History of the Alphabet, he will help you navigate the complex linguistic and cultural history behind one of our most crucial tools of communication. With his trademark humor and conversational style, Professor McWhorter makes this larger-than-life history as entertaining as it is enlightening.


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