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August 26, 2003

Script death

"Thousands of languages have come and gone, and we've studied that process for years," said Brigham Young University archaeologist Stephen D. Houston, the study's Maya specialist. "But throughout history, maybe 100 writing systems have ever existed. We should know more about why they disappear."

Three scholars conclude writing systems disappear when those who use them restrict their access.

For ancient languages, the margin for survival was always narrow: "We're so used to universal literacy that we forget that the whole Mayan [literate] population may have been a third of the number of people who go to a college football game today," said Pennsylvania State University anthropologist David Webster, a Maya expert. "I don't think most of us focus on just how limited literacy was in a lot of these societies."

Posted by Ghost of a flea at August 26, 2003 09:19 AM