The predictable evolution of letter shapes

Our paper on the evolution of the Vai script and its implications for the evolution of writing is finally published in Current Anthropology here. If you can’t get behind the paywall, the preprint is here, but if you want the nice clean published version please drop me a line.

One of the best things about Current Anthropology is their policy of eliciting responses and we have commentaries from Henry Ibekwe, Andrij Rovenchak and Monica Tamariz as well as our collective reply to those responses. Here is an earlier twitter thread about the paper, and there is also a new piece about it by Colin Barras in New Scientist here (paywalled). In the meantime, enjoy Julia Bespamyatnykh’s excellent animation of three Vai letters evolving before your eyes.

Just published

Multiplied by languages

An article on my intellectual hero Dr José Rizal is out now in History and Philosophy of the Language Sciences. A shorter version of it has been published in Rappler.

jose_rizal_4_1It is something of a cliché to assert that Dr José Rizal’s thought is as relevant as ever to the Philippine nation, but it can hardly be denied. His brilliant essay ‘On the indolence of the Filipino’, can be read as a devastatingly witty rebuke to every foreign tourist who complains about poor service or a lack of initiative amongst locals, unaware of the long shadow of colonialism they are projecting. But it was his unflinching critique of the friar orders and their oppressive governance of the Philippines that continues to resonate with such force, despite the freedoms won by the Rizal-inspired independence movement.