About this Project

Since the University’s inception, UChicago faculty have been pioneers in the study of the ancient world’s literary heritage, including the founding of modern scientific study of writing systems. Signs of Writing is a three-year research project designed to investigate, from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective, the cultural and social contexts and structural properties of the world’s oldest writing systems – the world’s first information revolution. Particular emphasis is placed on the four primary, or pristine, writing systems from Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, and Mesoamerica, looking at the similarities and differences in the archaeological and paleographic records across regions and the psycho-linguistic processes by which humans first made language visible. Annual conferences and short- and long-term visiting scholars will integrate research from a wide range of disciplines. Organized broadly around the linguistic, social, and cultural contexts of early writing, the project will concern itself with a broad range of topics, including the origins and structure of writing systems, the relationship between speech and writing, reading and cognition, the adaptation of writing systems and bilingualism, scribal transmission and education, literacy, the materiality and archaeological contexts of writing, and the rise of literature.

News

Neubauer Collegium Selects Inaugural Research Projects

March 4, 2013

In a major milestone, the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago has selected an inaugural cohort of 18 ambitious faculty research projects that tackle these and other complex questions through cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

Project Updates

Signs of Writing Paris Conference

THE CULTURAL, SOCIAL, AND LINGUISTIC CONTEXTS OF THE WORLD’S FIRST WRITING SYSTEMS III
Monday, July 25 - Wednesday, July 27

The third and final international conference of the Neubauer Collegium project, Signs of Writing: The Cultural, Social, and Linguistic Contexts of the World’s First Writing Systems will be held at the University of Chicago’s Center in Paris, July 25th-27th 2016. Click here for more details >>

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