The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing

By A. C. Moorhouse | Go to book overview

IX
writing and the spread of literacy

1

It is fitting that this history should conclude with a brief examination of the present extent of the knowledge of the first two of the three R's, reading and writing, throughout the world. It is safe to say that more people now possess that knowledge than at any time before, although we can produce no definite figures for antiquity, nor even for more recent times until the early nineteenth century. On a very rough estimate, perhaps something like three-fifths of the world's population are still illiterate; that is, perhaps as many as 1,300,000,000. Clearly very much still remains to be done in bringing the vital first steps in education to the world's illiterate majority.


ILLITERACY IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES

Table I shows percentages of illiteracy for a number of countries. Figures of this kind are valuable as a general indication of the extent of illiteracy, but they must be treated with caution. In the first place, each is the product of its own country, and no doubt they vary in the degree of their reliability. Then, comparisons may be misleading, because the figures relate to quite different criteria of what constitutes illiteracy. Thus Eng

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The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Part I - The Form of Writing 1
  • I - The Development of Writing 3
  • II - The Work of Decipherment 28
  • III - Pre-Alphabetic Scripts: Part I 46
  • IV - Pre-Alphabetic Scripts: Part II 70
  • V - The Semitic Alphabet and Its Orgin 94
  • VI - The Extension of the Alphabet 126
  • Part II - The Use of Writing 157
  • VII - The Functioning of Writing 159
  • VIII - The Historical Influence of Writing 178
  • IX - Writing and the Spread of Literacy 199
  • Bibliography - A Selected List of Works in English 216
  • Index 221
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