Re: Text is bad: Was Ideas in Motion

Subject: Re: Text is bad: Was Ideas in Motion
From: Chris Kowalchuk <chris -at- bdk -dot- net>
To: Tim Altom <taltom -at- simplywritten -dot- com>, Techwr-l <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000 03:59:54 -0500

> The urge to understand and speak a language is so strong that children who
> are left to fend for themselves and are never around human speakers will
> actually create their own spoken languages. The same children will not
> spontaneously create written languages.
Just who are these noble savages, left to develop language on their own
in a state of nature? And why did nobody call children's services? Could
you cite your source for this experiment?

I'm not really arguing with your general thesis to any great extent, if
I understand it--that most people would rather learn one-on-one or by
almost any means other than reading-- but I don't think you need these
linguistic arguments to back up the point, and furthermore I really have
to question the factuality of your assertions in that regard. I do not
accept the argument from first principles. Would it not be equally
plausible that your proto-human first communicated, not by assigning a
series of sounds as signifiers, but perhaps by drawing a picture in the
sand, or scratching something on some tree-bark, or maybe on a stone or
something? My 2-month old son can tell me that he wants to be picked up
by throwing his arms wide open and looking at me, but he can't say a
word (though he can scream like the devil). What does that prove? Not a
damn thing--it was entirely anecdotal. Of course we could develop our
own language; we have the physical ability built in; we also have the
physical ability to read built in--it's all a question of learning one
convention or another so that we can communicate with other users of
that convention, usually determined for us by accident of birth. People
may not wish to wade through long documents, but I don't think arguments
based on the "naturalness" of speech versus text can validly be used to
explain that phenomenon.

Chris Kowalchuk

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