Keynote Speakers

Florian Coulmas

The Best Writing System of the World

This talk is about two questions, a factual question and a meta-question. “Which is the best writing system of the world?” is the factual question, and “Is this a legitimate and meaningful question?” is the meta-question. It starts with deliberating the meta-question, and, if it arrives at a positive answer to it, will then go on to examine some of the criteria that might be relevant to the factual question. If that exercise proves fruitful, it will round things off returning to the meta-question. Examples to be discussed include μονοτονικὸ σύστημα γραφῆς, Linear B, ẞ, biáng and .


Florian Coulmas is senior professor at the IN-EAST Institute for Eastern Asian Studies of the Duisburg-Essen University. He worked for 25 years at several Japanese Universities and Research Institutes and led the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo between 2004 and 2014. He contributes regularly to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and other newspapers. He is co-editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Besides approx. 50 research articles in scientific journals he wrote 25 monographs, among which: An Introduction to Multilingualism. Language in a Changing World OUP (2017); Guardians of Language. Twenty voices through history OUP (2016); Writing and Society. An Introduction CUP (2013); Writing Systems. An introduction to their linguistic analysis CUP (2003), Japanese translation: 文字の言語学: 現代文字論入門 (translated by 斎藤 伸治) 大修館書店 (2014); Die Deutschen schreien. Beobachtungen von einem, der aus dem Land des Lächelns kam Rowohlt (2001), Japanese translation: まだまだまともな日本 (translated by 山下 公子) 文藝春秋 (2002).


Christa Dürscheid

Image, Writing, Unicode

“The Unicode Standard provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language.” This statement from the Unicode website already gives an idea about the challenges the members of the Unicode consortium are mastering. They have to evaluate proposals for the inclusion of new characters and scripts in the Unicode Standard. But while this is part of their core business, the 2007 decision to include emojis in the Unicode standard (see TR 51) has entailed another challenge: Now, the consortium also has to decide about emoji proposals—which makes its gatekeeper function even more crucial. In my presentation, I will discuss this situation from a linguistic point of view: On the one hand, I will ask what it means for the use of writing systems that nowadays images are included in the Unicode. On the other hand, I would also like to rise the fundamental question of what role the Unicode Consortium plays for the future of writing.


Christa Dürscheid is professor for German Linguistics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Her main research interests include grammar, variational linguistics, grapholinguistics, and computer mediated communication. From 2006 to 2011 she was the leader of the research project “Writing competences and new media” (funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, SNSF). Since 2011 she has been the head of a tri-national project “Handbook of Grammatical Variation in Standard German.” Besides, she is one of the leading members in the SNSF project “What’s up, Switzerland? Language, Individuals, and Ideologies in mobile messaging” which started in 2016. Within this project she investigates changes in graphic strategies enabled by new correction software, virtual keyboards, and the use of emojis and published several articles on this topic (e.g., “Jenseits des Alphabets—Kommunikation mit Emojis”, 2017). Furthermore, she is the author of two textbooks (Einführung in die Schriftlinguistik, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (5th edition, 2016), and Syntax. Grundlagen und Theorien, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (6th edition, 2012), the co-author of the essay Schreiben digital. Wie das Internet unsere Alltagskommunikation verändert, Alfred Kröner (2016) and the co-author of the monograph Wie Jugendliche schreiben. Schreibkompetenz und neue Medien, de Gruyter (2010).