Edited by S. Borgwaldt and Terry Joyce
[Written Language & Literacy 14:1] 2011
► pp. 12–38
This paper seeks to outline comparative graphematics as a linguistic approach within writing systems research and typology. In addition to providing a general outline of the approach and its benefits, it is exemplified through a discussion of the relation between the gemination of consonant letters and the graphemic representation of long consonants. Two different approaches within comparative graphematics are applied, one that asks about the meaning or function of the units of writing systems and one that starts with linguistic (e.g. phonological or morphological) units or structures and looks at whether they are represented (and, if so, how) in various writing systems. Consequently, two different typological matrices are presented. Moreover, through a combination of historical and comparative perspectives, the paper investigates the diachronic transitions in the functions of a graphemic construction, as observed within the history of a single writing system or in its adoption within several systems. It is shown that an inherited construction, such as the germination of consonant letters, can be reanalysed; if it loses its former representational function during the course of language change, it may subsequently be utilized for different purposes. A construction may also remain as an ‘evolutionary vestige’ within a writing system, at least for some time. Similar forms of reanalysis can be found if a construction is applied to a new language. Keywords: graphematics; orthography; writing system; script; comparative linguistics; cross-linguistic studies; typology; germination
Cited by 7 other publications
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