Re: Writing, language, & consciousness

Jesse S. Cook III (jcook@AWOD.COM)
Sat, 5 Oct 1996 10:39:23 -0400

On 4 October 1996, Ronald Kephart replied:

>In message <> Jesse S. Cook III writes:
>> Are you contradicting *The Cambridge Encylopedia of Language*? On what
>> basis?
>On the basis of personal experience learning a variety of languages, and also
>designing an orthography for one. If the Cambridege Encyclopedia of Language
>says that Spanish is at one extreme, then they are including at the "extreme"
>end languages that have quite a few irregularities. In contrast, both Aymara
>and Kreyol have completely regular spelling systems with a consistent one
>grapheme to one phoneme correspondence, as is the system I devised for the
>Creole English of Carriacou, Grenada. These statements are from my own
>personal knowledge of and experience with said languages.

Too bad Cambridge University Press didn't know about your "personal
experience learning a variety of languages, and also designing an
orthography" for the Creole English of Carriacou, Grenada. If they had,
they might have put Aymara and Kreyol in place of Spanish, but I doubt it,
for obvious reasons.

>> Illogical! If oral and sign languages [are representations of the human
>> language capacity], why not written?
>Because, oral language (and sign language as well), as realizations or
>manifestations of the human language bioprogram

Ah. They are not "representations" after all. But now we are back to the
"bioprogram" bit; I thought we laid that one to rest sometime ago.

>or universal grammar, or
>whatever, stand on their own. They do not need writing or any other type of
>representation to make them complete. Writing, on the other hand, needs
>language or else it's a bunch of scratches on paper. Writing is a way that
>humans found to represent, in a partial, halting way, speech.

Quite true--up to the time when the Greek alphabet began to take hold. How
many words, do you suppose, have been coined originally in their written
form as opposed to those that have been coined originally in their oral form
since, say, Galileo Galilei's time? Written language today stands on its
own to the same extent as speech. As you very well know, speech is very
conservative; most of the inovation and change going on in language today is
in written form.

>Speech (or sign) is always more than its written representation.


>> Illogical again! The transmition is the manifestation!
>Sorry, but no. Transmission is a way of moving something from one place to
>another; it is not the thing itself.

Neither is the manifestation!

>> Bullogna [to the idea that languages without a written tradition are just as
>much languages as those with such a tradition]!

Wrong! This is what I said "bullogna" to: "Languages, such as
Proto-Indoeuropean, [that] we can reconstruct from historical and
contemporary evidence and [that] existed prior to written representation,
were just like contemporary languages: they were not on a different level of

Jesse S. Cook III E-Mail:
Post Office Box 40984 or
Charleston, SC 29485 USA

" is not for our faults that we are disliked and even hated,
but for our qualities."--Bernard Berenson (1865-1959)