Freie Universität Berlin


Why some scripts fail and others succeed

30.06.2016 | 16:00 - 19:00

World Philologies Seminar mit Piers Kelly (Australian National University / Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte Jena) und Chair: Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität Berlin)

Die Veranstaltung ist Teil des World Philologies Seminar des Forschungsprogramms "Zukunftsphilologie: "Revisiting the Canons of Textual Scholarship" (Forum Transregionale Studien in Kooperation mit der FU Berlin) und findet in englischer Sprache statt.

In the history of humanity, few technologies have been as transformative as writing. The apparently straightforward idea of representing language by means of graphic symbols is responsible for accelerating the global spread of ideas, for regulating and extending complex societies and for permitting the storage (and transmission) of precise information over millennia. But surprisingly enough, writing was invented only recently and in only two locations: first in the Middle East in ca. 3600 BCE and later in Central America in ca. 1250 BCE. Almost all the writing systems that we use today are historical adaptations of these early scripts. Some, however, are products of ‘stimulus diffusion’ whereby the idea of writing was appropriated from a literate to a non-literate community but without knowledge of the underlying mechanism to reproduce it. In his presentation, Piers Kelly presents a number of such cases of invention-by-inspiration that emerged during the colonial expansions of the 19th and 20th centuries: a period in which ethnolinguistic minorities were entering into sustained contact with literate empires. By evaluating the relative success or failure of these unique postcolonial scripts, and the contexts of their creation, he will adress the question of why writing has always proved so difficult to invent, transmit and sustain.

Zeit & Ort

30.06.2016 | 16:00 - 19:00

Freie Universität Berlin, Holzlaube
Raum 2.2051, Fabeckstr. 23-25
14195 Berlin

Weitere Informationen

Prof. Dr. Islam Dayeh, E-mail:, Internetadresse:, Forum Transregionale Studien: