Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:

$34513

Still Needed:

$40487

Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington


Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact
Question: In The History of Britain Revealed, M J Harper states ''There are good
reasons to believe that possession of a written language (and more
especially the development of artificial languages for purposes of
writing) is the key to understanding the whole of Ancient History.
Hebrew and Latin will in time be recognised alongside Old Norse,
Classical Greek, Sanskrit, Punic, Sumerian Cuneiform, Egyptian
hieroglyphs and other 'non-demotic' languages as being essentially
cultural artefacts adopted for a purpose, and not, as linguists insist,
merely the surviving record of what ordinary people spoke''.

To what extent would the panel members agree/disagree with this
statement?

Reply: In brief, this is a crazy and non-scientific book by someone with a real down on linguists (and on other scientists).

I bet Harper doesn't actually quote a linguist who thinks (let alone insists) that written languages are 'merely the surviving record of what ordinary people spoke'. The earliest writing seems to be been trading manifests, which is about as far from speech as it is possible to get, though people soon got the idea that they could also write in ways that were closer to speech.

And what is this strange idea that Old Norse and Sanskrit (etc.) are 'non-demotic' while Hebrew and Latin are not? Whatever would does 'non-demotic' mean here?

For a fuller review try reading Mark Liberman's, which I imagine all of the panellists would endorse:
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/005396.html

Anthea
Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
 
Date: 27-Apr-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (26-Apr-2013)
  2. Re: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (26-Apr-2013)
  3. Re: Written Language as a Cultural Artefact    James L Fidelholtz     (26-Apr-2013)

Back to Most Recent Questions