Speech and Writing (was Re: In Defence of Stephen Jay Gould)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Thu Dec 23 00:15:13 MST 1999

>And also seriously -- it should be accepted as at least
>a tenable hypothesis that *writing* (as opposed to
>speaking) is like perfect pitch or the ability to wiggle
>one's ears, an aberration. After all, humans have not
>changed biologically in around 150,000 years -- but
>writing (in the sense we are speaking of it here, as
>a mass skill) only goes back a couple centuries.

We might also entertain the thought that speech and writing are not two
aspects of the same grammar.  Speech and writing might be more usefully
thought of as two different games, possessing different grammars.  The idea
that writing should be as close to speech as possible didn't appear in
Japan until the nineteenth century.  The key text is _Ukigumo [Drifting
Clouds]_ by Futabatei Shimei (1864-1909).  Before the invention of _Kogo_
-- written Japanese that seeks to approximate the structure of spoken
Japanese -- by Futabatei, it was taken for granted that writing was not the
same as speech.  The dream of the unification of speech and writing --
_genbun itchi_ in Japanese, _gen_ = speech, _bun_ = writing, _itchi_ =
identity -- is a modern phenomenon, just as the idea of nationalism is.


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