Index of Topics - Notes: 1) This page is a work in
progress and does not yet comprehensively cover its topic or include all the
COTC and web resources its topic deserves. 2) Bold is used to emphasize our [COTC] sense
of importance and does not necessarily reflect gestures or tones of emphasis in
the original source. This color indicates COTC edits for
brevity or flow. See referenced original for exact quotes.
But now when we move to written language, you get another big jump
off because you can now do things with compositionality,
that you can't do with spoken language. You now start to create not just a more
elaborate animal society, you start now to create civilization. So once you have
written language, you can have long-term commitments, commitments that go over a
generation. You can have commandments, like the Ten Commandments that go on for
furthermore -- and this is where it really gets exciting -- is you can now
create the forms of civilization that are enduring. I'm thinking not just of
great art and literature, but of money, property, government, marriage,
universities, textbooks, all of the elaborate systems that language has that we
can encode in written language that enable us to create an elaborate
civilization that is based on our capacity to represent and to create enduring
the bottom line of this is that the big step between us and animals is in the
language. But the big step between civilization and more primitive forms of
human society is written language. Once you have written language, you have
the capacity not just for creating a civilization, but getting these accretions,
where the elements of civilization then build on earlier elements of
civilization, and those build on yet earlier elements of civilization, until you
get where we are today.
Searle, Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at University of
California-Berkeley. 2004 National Humanities Medal for shaping modern thought about the nature of
the human mind. Author of Mind: A Brief Introduction to the Fundamentals
of Philosophy. Source: COTC Interview - http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/searle.htm#WrittenLanguage
Dr. David Abram: Yeah, absolutely. I guess in a sense, my focus has been that
I've read so many wonderful studies on its influence upon how we think. And, I'm
curious; I've been particularly interested in
how does it affect
how we perceive the world when we're not reading? And, how does it affect our
experience of language, and linguistic meaning once we have become literate,
So, I'm coming as a cultural ecologist and philosopher, and noticing these
things that would be wonderful to unpack at more depth, because it's very
obvious to me, for instance, (and it's amazing that this has not been brought
out, or I haven't seen it in other people working on the alphabet), that only
when the alphabet comes into a culture, when a phonetic alphabet arrives, only
then does that culture get this odd notion that language is an exclusively human
property, or possession. And, the rest of the land falls mute. You don't
experience this in that way among Eastern cultures working with more
ideographic, or somewhat iconic scripts. Certainly not among the Mayan, and
obviously not among the Egyptians.
But, our writing system very, very powerfully not only impacts our experience of
our own subjectivity, it also profoundly impacts our experience of the sensuous
surroundings. So much so, that I would have to say that the alphabet has played
a very crucial role in the deepening environmental crisis—ecological crisis that
now besets us on every hand.
David Boulton: It's really clear that the writing system we
use today, or as I explained earlier, relative to the way children learn
this system anyway, sits on top of the sound system.
Dr. Guy Deutscher: Yes.
David Boulton: But, it's also clear, if we look back through
the history of writing systems, that writing systems are not only extensions
of the spoken language system, they've folded back to shape the spoken
language system in profound ways.
Dr. Guy Deutscher: Again, I agree entirely.
David Boulton: So, I wonder to what extent, because we're
talking about a spike in phoneme growth in the past two thousand years,
which is about coincident with the peaking of the Roman Empire and the
introduction of its spoken and written system throughout Europe, you know?
In other words, could writing itself be somehow responsible for the
co-existence of multiple systems, which is more than just borrowing?
Dr. Guy Deutscher: It's an interesting thought.
David Boulton: I don't have any attachment to it, other than
it seems coincident to me that there's this big spike that happens and it
happens with the dissemination and use of the alphabet, although it's not
affecting that many people in Northern Europe, it is affecting the people in
power, and to some extent, people of influence over language.
Dr. Guy Deutscher: Yes. Although, I wonder whether there is
really an obvious point where it spikes, or whether it's more gradual.
David Boulton: I didn't mean necessarily the spike. It
started with the fact that there was this big difference in number. And, you
referred to somebody's work, which talked about the last two thousand years,
where there seemed to be some growth that's speaking to this difference in
the number of phonemes in Northern European languages.
Dr. Guy Deutscher: Yes.
David Boulton: That just happens to coincide and that's why
I brought it up.
Dr. Guy Deutscher: Yes. It may well be connected.
Ultimately, it's very difficult to give answers. There are other things like
this where you see some obvious direction or changes. Some global changes
that do upset the balance of language, and you can see these changes over
the last couple of thousands of years.
David Boulton: Do share with us what you thought was the
most powerful example in that group.
Guy Deutscher, is
a professor with the Department of
Languages and Cultures of Ancient Mesopotamia at the University of Leiden in
Holland. Source COTC Interview:
interviews: Participation in a Children of the Code interview does
not constitute or imply an endorsement of the
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documentary by the interviewee. Conversely, including an interview does not
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products of the interviewee, other than
as explicitly stated, by the Children of the Code Project and documentary.
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Dr. Grover (Russ) WhitehurstDirector,Institute of Education Sciences, Assistant
Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education Dr. Jack
ShonkoffChair, The National Scientific Council on the
Developing Child; Co-Editor: From
Neurons to Neighborhoods
Edward Kame'enuiCommissioner for Special Education Research, U.S. Department of
Education; Director, IDEA, University of Oregon Dr. G. Reid LyonPast
Director,National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Dr. Keith Stanovich
Canadian Chair of Cognitive Science, University of Toronto Dr. Mel
LevineCo-Chair and Co-Founder,All
Kinds of Minds; Author:A
Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness &
Ready or Not Here Life Comes Dr. Alex
District Psychologist, Past President, Oregon
School Psychologists Association
J. HeckmanNobel Laureate, Economic Sciences 2000; Lead Author: The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children
Dr. Timothy Shanahan President
(2006) International Reading Association, Chair National Early Literacy Panel,
Member National Reading Panel Nancy
Hennessy President, 2003-2005, International Dyslexia Association Dr.
Marilyn Jager Adams Senior Scientist, Soliloquy
Learning, Author: Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print Dr.
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Academy of Sciences Dr. Maryanne
WolfDirector, Center for Reading & Language Research; Professor of
University Dr. Todd Risley Emeritus
Professor of Psychology, University of Alaska, Co-author: Meaningful Differences
Sally ShaywitzNeuroscientist, Department of Pediatrics, Yale
University, Author: Overcoming Dyslexia
Director, Professional Development and
Research Initiatives, Sopris West Educational Services Dr. Zvia BreznitzProfessor, Neuropsychology of Reading & Dyslexia, University of Haifa,
LavoieLearning Disabilities Specialist, Creator: How Difficult Can This Be?: The F.A.T. City
Last One Picked, First One Picked On Dr.Charles
Professor, Psychology & Linguistics; Senior Scientist and Associate Director,
R&D Center, U. of Pittsburgh, PA
Senior V.P. & Dir. of Research,
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Co- Author:
Economics of Early Childhood Development
Dr. Richard VenezkyProfessor, Educational Studies, Computer and
Information Sciences, and Linguistics, University of Delaware
Dr. Keith RaynerDistinguished Professor, University of Massachusetts, Author: Eye
Movements in Reading and Information Processing Dr.
Paula TallalProfessor of Neuroscience,
Co-Director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers
SearleMills Professor of the Philosophy
of Mind and Language, University of California-Berkeley, Author:
Mind, A Brief Introduction
ResearchCenter, Penn State Dept. of Human Development
& Family Studies;
CASEL Leadership Team Dr.
Terrence Deacon Professor of Biological
Anthropology and Linguistics at University of California- Berkeley Chris
Doherty Ex-Program Director, National Reading First
Program, U.S. Department of Education Dr. Erik Hanushek Senior Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Dr. Marketa Caravolas
Director, Bangor Dyslexia Unit, Bangor University, Author: International
Report on Literacy Research Dr. Christof
KochProfessor of Computation and
Neural Systems, Caltech - Author:The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
Professor of Languages and Cultures of Ancient
Mesopotamia, Holland; Author: Unfolding
Language Robert Wedgeworth President, ProLiteracy, World's Largest Literacy
Organization Dr. Peter Leone Director,
National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice Dr. Thomas CableProfessor of English, University of Texas at Austin, Co-author: A History of the
Ecologist and Philosopher; Author: The
Spell of the Sensuous Pat Lindamood and Nanci Bell
Principal Scientists, Founders, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes Dr. Anne Cunningham
Director, Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education, Graduate School of
Education at University of California-Berkeley Dr. Donald L.
NathansonClinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at
Jefferson Medical College, Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute Dr.Johanna
DruckerChair of Media Studies, University of Virginia, Author:
The Alphabetic Labyrinth
John H. Fisher Medievalist,
Leading authority on the development of the written English language, Author:
The Emergence of Standard English Dr. Malcolm RichardsonChair, Dept. of English,
Louisiana State University; Research: The Textual Awakening of the
English Middle Classes James
Executive Director, National Center
for Learning Disabilities
Physician; Best-Selling Author:
The Alphabet vs. The Goddess Robert SweetCo-Founder,
National Right to Read Foundation
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