Sally Thomason and Stephen Tyndall recently spent a day visiting the 8th grade "Language Arts" classes at the Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills. This is the third year in a row that Jessica Roesner has invited Michigan Linguists into her Language Arts classes (see a report about our first visit here). Ms. Roesner dedicates a potion of the fall semester of her Language Arts classes to "The Evolution of Language", covering all aspects of language, from grammar to writing systems, and from the earliest human societies to the present day.
Sally and Stephen's visit coincided with the discussion of writing systems. After introducing the students to the history of the some of the earliest writing systems, Sally and Stephen explained how the Hittite cuneiform script worked. And then the fun began! The students were each given a "clay tablet" and a "stylus" (a popsicle stick!) and had the opportunity to write their own names in cuneiform. The images associated with this story show Stephen guiding a student to find the correct cuneiform symbol to write his name, and then one of the students' completed masterpieces. Stephen informs us that this is upside Hittite for "Dewey" or possibly "Joey".
It is a privilege to be able to interact with the curious 8th graders, and to introduce them to some of the wonders of the uniquely human phenomenon that is language.