04 June 2010

Language, Technology, and Society

Most people think that writing and speaking a language are more or less the same thing - that writing is speech transcribed onto paper. The fact is that they are two different (though closely related) systems, and writing is an abstract system of symbols for representing the spoken language. There are some languages which are spoken but which have no written equivalents, and there are some languages (computer code for instance) which are never likely to be spoken. Richard Sproat, in this wide-ranging study, emphasises from the start that the most important connection between speech and the written language is the technological invention of writing. He takes the radical line that most written languages have built into them a strong element of encoding the sound of the language - including even Chinese, which many people imagine to be entirely ideographic... more >>

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