Author/educator Tim Brookes to present ‘Endangered Alphabet’

Tim Brookes with Bali Alphabet

JOHNSON CITY (Oct. 25, 2013) – Author and educator Tim Brookes will be at East Tennessee State University next week to present “Endangered Alphabet,” an exhibit and lecture based on his research into alphabets nearing extinction. 

His visit is co-sponsored by the ETSU Department of Literature and Language, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and Department of Art and Design. 

Brookes will present a lecture on his work on Monday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m. in the Ball Hall auditorium following a 5 p.m. reception in Slocumb Galleries, also in Ball Hall, where his “Endangered Alphabet” exhibit will be on display from Oct. 28-Nov. 1. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, with extended hours for the reception and scheduled tours.

What started as an exercise in carving curly maple wood to create gifts in 2008 has evolved into extensive research on endangered alphabets across cultures.

“The world has between 6,000 and 7,000 languages, but as many as half of them will be extinct by the end of this century,” Brookes says.  “Moreover, writing has become so dominated by a small number of global cultures that those languages are written in fewer than 100 alphabets.”

He discovered that more than one-third of these alphabets are “endangered” because they are no longer taught in schools, nor are they used in commerce or government in communities that have “discontinued their indigenous writing system in favor of more mainstream alphabets.”

The “Endangered Alphabets Project” came about when Brookes began documenting these alphabets by carving them into pieces of wood.

He describes his works as “not only a unique and vivid way of demonstrating the issue of disappearing languages and the global loss of cultural diversity, (but) also remarkable and thought-provoking pieces of art.” 

Through the pieces, Brookes addresses questions about writing itself, such as “how it developed, how it spread across the globe, how the same alphabet took on radically different forms … and how developments in technology affected writing, and vice versa.”

Brookes, a native of London, earned his master’s degree at the University of Oxford and has lived in Vermont for 29 years.  He is an assistant professor in the Division of Communication and Creative Media at Champlain College, Burlington, Vt.  He publishes a blog at

In addition to Monday’s lecture, Brookes’ visit to ETSU from Oct. 28-30 will include class visits at ETSU, as well as another talk on his work at the Johnson City Public Library, 100 W. Millard St., on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 5-7:30 p.m. in the Jones Meeting Room.

The exhibit and lectures are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Heidi Ehle, associate director of the Martin School of the Arts at ETSU, at (423) 439-8587 or .  To learn more about Brookes’ work, visit  For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346.

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