BSA Friends’ Event (online only via Zoom)
Dr Philippa Steele (Oxford) on “The vitality of writing traditions in the Bronze Age Aegean and Iron Age Cyprus – and their unexpected relevance for the modern day”
Abstract: The syllabic writing systems of Bronze Age Greece and Iron Age Cyprus (with particular focus on Linear A, Linear B and the Cypriot Syllabic script) did not survive to the modern day. This lecture poses the question of why these writing traditions were lost, using the notion of “vitality” (borrowed from the field of language endangerment studies) to try to understand their path from widespread usage to decline. Each system thrived for a while, in its own particular circumstances of use, which were markedly different in each case: literacy in Linear B appears to have been more restricted and less socially visible than literacy in Linear A or the Cypriot Syllabary, for example. Why did each one lose vitality, and fail to adapt to new social and political situations that arose over time? And might they have survived in different circumstances?
We will finish by considering whether the histories of usage of these writing systems could help us to understand why many modern writing traditions are under threat, particularly ones associated with minority, indigenous and endangered languages.
Thursday 15 June, 5pm (UK) / 7pm (Greece)