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By Jack Goody

When the elemental value of the spoken language for human interplay is greatly stated, that of writing is much less renowned, and during this wide-ranging sequence of essays Jack Goody examines intensive the advanced and infrequently pressured dating among oral and literate modes of conversation. He considers the interface among the written and the oral in 3 cultures or societies with and with out writing, and that in the linguistic lifetime of somebody. particular analyses of the series of old swap inside of writing structures, the old influence of writing upon Eurasian cultures, and the interplay among designated oral and literate cultures in West Africa, precede an intensive concluding exam of up to date concerns within the research, no matter if sociological or mental, of literacy. a considerable corpus of anthropological, historic and linguistic facts is produced in help of Goody's findings, which shape a typical supplement to his personal lately released examine of The good judgment of Writing and the association of Society.

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More recently a study by Narveh makes a much more radical claim, dating the Greek borrowing as early as 1100 BC because of the palaeographic similarity between the direction of the Greek script and the Proto-Canaanite letters of the Late Bronze Age, at a time when the direction of the script was not fixed. The major difficulty in this thesis has been the absence of a long-legged kaf in Proto-Canaanite which could serve as the archetype for the Greek form (1973:7), for a suitable kaf had made its appearance only in the second half of the ninth century.

This potential was there with logo-syllabic systems; indeed, in China great advances in the accum ulation, transmission and furthering of knowledge were made using this system, although with the advantage of brush and paper. It is a gross ethnocentric error of E urope to attribute too much to the alphabet and too much to the West. N evertheless, a potentially dem ocratic form of writing, one that could, if allowed, m ake the easy transcription of language and direct access to learning a possibility for the vast m ajority of the com m unity, followed the developm ent of the alphabet and syllabary, though it was not until the em ergence of mechanical means of reproducing these texts by movable type that the alphabet came fully into its own.

Such syllabic signs might then be used in other words, as in the case of ‘mandrake’. In this way the various systems that combined the use of word and syllabic signs gave birth to syllabaries working on the phonetic principle and employing a much reduced set of signs. In general this development took place on the fringes of the major civilizations; the Japanese worked out a syllabary using Chinese signs, which included some phonetic ones; the Elamites and Hurrians did the same with Sumerian; various minor syllabic scripts of Cyprus and the surrounding Aegean area were derived from neighbouring forms; and the Egyptian can possibly be seen as the parent (with Akkadian, see Powell 1981:434) of the West Semitic ‘syllabaries’ which are the progenitors of the alphabet.

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