Writing and literacy (winter 2015/2016)

Welcome to my class on Thursdays, 15.15-16.45, room 202 in Collegium Novum B.

A short course description is given below. For the full description click here.

Go to tasks and texts
New: The first test for those who want to (or have to) take it a second time.

The tasks for the second assignment are here. (list as of December 4)

Review questions that help you preparing for the test on December 3

Here is a link to the video about the linguistic landscape of Tokyo.


Course description
The course introduces students to research on writing and literacy, focusing on topics that have been most debated in linguistics and neighboring disciplines since the 1980s. These topics include the characteristics of written language and its place in linguistics, the role of writing in different cultures, the difference between “oral” and “literate” societies, the function of writing in public space, the acquisition of literacy, writing in second language learning, and the development of writing systems and literacy in endangered languages.
Teaching method: lecture (50%), reading and discussion (30%), students’ presentations (20%)
Assessment method: Grading for mid-term test (week 9) and final assessment (oral exam or presentation).

Course program (short syllabus)

Week 1: Introduction, basic concepts and definitions, organizational matters
Week 2: History of writing and development of writing systems
Week 3: Typology of writing systems
Week 4: Symbolic functions of writing and writing systems (no class on October 29)
Week 5: Written vs. spoken language
Week 6: Literacy: introduction; ecological approach
Week 7: Literacy vs. orality (Ong)
Week 8: Literacy vs. orality, continued (Scribner & Cole; Olson)
Week 9: Discussion and mid-term assessment
Week 10: Writing in society: public linguistic space, linguistic landscapes
Week 11: Writing and national identity; writing and religion
Week 12: Writing, literacy and endangered languages Acquisition of writing and literacy 1
Week 13: Acquisition of writing and literacy 2 (focus on second language literacy)
Week 14: Literacy in the 21st century: what is new?
Week 15: Discussion and final assessment

Selected literature
Barton,David. 2007. Literacy: an introduction to the ecology of written language. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Günther, H. & O. Ludwig, eds. Schrift und Schriftlichkeit / Writing and its use. (HSK 10) Berlin: de Gruyter. 2 Volumes.
Cushman, Ellen et al., eds. 2001. Literacy. A critical sourcebook. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s
Fischer, Steven Roger. 2008. A history of writing. London: Reaktion Books.
Ong, Walter. 2002 [1982]. Orality and Literacy. The technologizing of the word. London, New York: Routledge.
Scribner, Sylvia & Michael Cole. 1999. The psychology of literacy. Cambridge, Mass., London: Harvard University Press.