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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: 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)

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