LINGUIST List 14.214

Tue Jan 21 2003

Books: Ling & Literature: Harris

Editor for this issue: Marisa Ferrara <>

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  1. rwilson, Rethinking Writing: Harris

Message 1: Rethinking Writing: Harris

Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2003 05:29:33 +0000
From: rwilson <>
Subject: Rethinking Writing: Harris

Title: Rethinking Writing
Publication Year: 2002
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd		 
Author: Roy Harris, University of Oxford 

Paperback: ISBN: 0826457983, Pages: 272, Price: GBP15.99

'This is an excellent book, rich, clear and innovative ...'
Jean Khalfa, Cambridge University

'...absorbing and typically combatative. '
John Sturrock, Times Literary Supplement

The traditional Western view of writing, from Aristotle down to the
present day, has treated the written word as a visual substitute for
the spoken word. The eminent Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure
(1857-1913) was the first to provide this traditional assumption with
a reasoned basis by incorporating it into a more general theory of
signs. In the wake of Saussure's work, modern linguistics has ignored
or marginalized writing in favour of the study of speech.

In all literate societies, however, speech in turn is interpreted by
reference to the culturally dominant writing system. This puts in
place a system of educational values which ensures that the more
literate members of society maintain superiority over the less
literate, and at the same time establishes a hierarchy among literate
societies which favours the local product (alphabetic scripts in the
Western Case).

Roy Harris shows that the theory of writing adopted in modern
linguistics is deeply flawed. Reversing the orthodox priorities, the
author argues that writing is a far more powerful mode of linguistic
communication than speech could ever be. His book is a major
contribution to current debates about human communication written and

Lingfield(s): Ling & Literature
Written In: English (Language Code: ENG)

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