This is a list of some of the sources of information for this site. In cases where information came from the web, links to the source websites should appear on the relevant pages.
You can buy most of these books from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com in the Omniglot book store. By doing so you will be helping to support this site.
Adkins, Lesley and Roy, The Keys of Egypt - The race to read the hieroglyphs (London, HarperCollins, 2000) - the fascinating story of Jean-François Champollion and his struggle to decipher ancient Egyptian writing
Bodmer, Frederick, The Loom of Language (London, Merlin Press, 1996) - a wide-ranging study of all aspects of language
Burgess, Anthony, A Mouthful of Air (London, Harpercollins, 1994) - an accessible and interesting introduction to phonetics
Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca, Genes, Peoples and Languages (London, Penguin, 2001) - Uses genetic, linguistic and archaeological evidence to study to links between peoples and languages, and the spread of cultural innovations.
Choy, Rita Mei-Wah, Read And Write Chinese (San Francisco, 1981) - a guide to traditional Chinese characters with Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciations
Christin, Anne-Marie, A History of Writing - From hieroglyph to multimedia (Paris, Falmmarion, 2002) - an interesting, beautifully illustrated exploration of the history of writing. Focuses on the origins, usage and visual appearance of scripts.
Coe, Micheal D., Breaking the Maya Code (London, Penguin, 2000) - the exciting story of the decipherment of the Maya script
Coulmas, Florian, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems (Oxford, Blackwell, 1999) - an excellent reference for all major writing systems, and many minor ones, and one of the main sources of information for this site
Coulmas, Florian, The Writing Systems of the World (Oxford, Blackwell, 1991) - a linguistic study of writing and writing systems
Crystal, David, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997) - covers all aspects of language, including spoken, written and signed language, language acquisition, linguistics and language disorders. A very interesting and thorough reference work.
Crystal, David, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995) - covers the history of English, English vocabulary, English grammar, spoken and written English, usage of English and the acquistion of English. Fascinating, informative and richly illustrated
Crystal, David, Language Death (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004) - discusses why language death is a matter for concern, the reasons behind it and what can be done about it. Also examines a number of endangered languages in more detail.
Dalby, Andrew, Dictionary of Languages (London, Bloomsbury, 1998) - provides detailed information about over 400 languages, including all those with official status and an additional 175 'minor' languages of special anthropological or historical interest. Also includes basic script charts for most alphabets and other writing systems. This tome provided the main source of inspiration for this site and is a major source of information.
Dalby, Andrew, Language in Danger - How language loss threatens our furture (London, Penguin, 2003) - language extinction has been a feature of the 20th century - it is expected that a language will become extinct every two weeks of the 21st century. This book explores the "life cycle" of languages: their birth, their interaction and - especially - what happens when they die.
Daniels, Peter T. & Bright, William, The world's writing systems (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996) - provides detailed coverage of just about all writing systems, with illustrations and text samples of most of them. More detailed than the Blackwell Encyclopedia.
DeFrancis, John, The Chinese Language - Fact and Fantasy (Honolulu, Hawai'i, 1986) - a fascinating account of written and spoken Chinese.
Drucker, Johanna, The Alphabetic Labyrinth (London, Thames and Hudson, 1999) - an account of the origins and development of the Latin alphabet
Dunbar, Robin, Grooming Gossip and the Evolution of Language (London, Faber and Faber, 1996) - argues confincingly that language is the human equivalent of grooming in other apes and monkeys, and that it evolved to enable us to cope with larger group sizes. Very interesting.
Fazzioli, Edoardo, Understanding Chinese Characters (Collins, 1998)
Fischer, Steven Rodger, The History of Writing (London, Reaktion, 2001) - an fascinating overview of the history of writing
Hannas, Wm. C,, Asia's Orthographic Dilemma (Honolulu, University of Hawai'i Press, 1997) - provides an overview of how Chinese character-based scripts are or were used to write Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese; the problems involved in learning and using these scripts, and attempts to simplify them. Hannas argues that these scripts are too complex, and that schemes to simplify them, such as limiting the number of characters in use, end up making them more complex. He concludes that ultimately they will most likely be replaced by phonetic scripts.
Kwan Choi Wah, The Right Word in Cantonese (Hong Kong, The Commercial Press, 1991) - a quick reference for Cantonese vocabulary, with specialised glossaries related to Hong Kong.
Mafundikwa, Saki, Afrikan Alphabets - The story of writing in Afrika (New York, Mark Batty, 2004) - provides details of the pictographs, mnemonic devices and writing systems invented and used in Africa and by the African Diaspora.
Manguel, Alberto, A History of Reading (London, Flamingo, 1997) - an interesting exploration of reading and readers through the ages from ancient Sumeria to the present day.
Moore, Christopher J., In Other Words (London, Oxford University Press, 2005) - a languguage lovers guide to the most intriguing words around the world
O'Neill, P.G., Essential Kanji (New York, Weatherhill, 1992) - a guide to 2,000 basic kanji, the minimum you need to read newspapers, magazines, etc.
Ostler Nicholas, Empires of the Word - A Language History of the World (New York, HarperCollins, 2005) - a fascinating exploration of the history of the world's major languages: i.e. those that have spread beyond their original homelands. Covers the history of language since the invention of writing in Sumeria about 5,000 years ago to the present day. Seeks to explain why some languages, such as English, Spanish and Arabic, have spread to many countries and continients, while others, such as Dutch, German and Phoenician, haven't.
Sampson, Geoffry, Writing Systems (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1985) - a linguistic introduction to writing systems
Saunders, Irene, The Right Word in Chinese (Hong Kong, The Commercial Press, 1990) - a quick reference for everyday and specialised Mandarin vocabulary - includes traditional and simplified characters
Renfrew, Colin, Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins (London, Pimlico, 1998)
Robinson, Andrew, The Story of Writing (London, Thames and Hudson, 1995) - a general introduction to writing with limited coverage of individual writing systems
Rudgley, Ricard, Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age (London, Arrow, 1999) - argues that many technological and cultural innovations, possibly including writing, developed during the stone age
Wayland Barber, Elizabeth, The Mummies of Ürümchi (London, Pan, 1999) - the story of the discovery of well preserved, 3,500 year old mummies with Caucasian features in the Tarim basin of north-west China. Includes information on the Tokharian people, language and script.
Weatherhill, Craig, Cornish Place Names & Language (Wilmslow, Sigma Leisure, 2002) - explains the meaning of Cornish place names, a basic introduction to the Cornish language (Modern Cornish) and information about the history of Cornish and Cornwall.
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