LINGUIST List 11.1602

Sat Jul 22 2000

Disc: Writing and Speech

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Charles Jannuzi, Re: 11.1586, Sum: Postmodernism and Linguistics
  2. jose luis guijarro, RE:11.1596, Disc: New: Writing and Speech

Message 1: Re: 11.1586, Sum: Postmodernism and Linguistics

Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2000 11:16:55 +0900
From: Charles Jannuzi <jannuziedu00.f-edu.fukui-u.ac.jp>
Subject: Re: 11.1586, Sum: Postmodernism and Linguistics

On Thu, 20 Jul 2000, Frederick Newmeyer wrote:

> Discussing Christina Howells. 1999. Derrida. Polity:
 > This book, and two others, both picture-book idiot's guides, make
the following points about JD's linguistic contributions. Derrida
makes a great song and dance about writing. He argues that the
*entire* western intellectual tradition, from Socrates to the present,
including the entire linguistic tradition, 'privileges' speech at the
expense of writing. That is, he maintains that everybody before his
good self has regarded speech as primary and writing as merely
secondary, and therefore of subordinate status.

This is a typical post-structuralist "inversion"of intellectual
superstructure; however, the paradox is not so profound as many explicators
of post-structuralism would have us believe and rather somewhat simplistic
at that.

In ELT, much methodology has been criticized (and this tension between a
living vernacular and the artifact type inscribed in texts goes way back in
LT) for privileging written language--especially of the literary type--over
spoken language. Some argue that we didn't really become aware of language
as such until writing systems involved and we started glottographically
representing language. And not all writing systems were created or evolved
along "phonocentric" (a Derrida-ism) principles, if by that he means
conformance to phonemic or phonetic aspects of a spoken language.


The cultural innovation of writing systems could be argued to be the
beginning of world linguistic traditions, not just in the West, but also in
E. Asia, India, etc. Wasn't the movement in phonetics in the late 19th
century and early 20th century, in part, an attempt to inject spoken
language into language studies? In Japan, the opposite tension is still
there in ELT: university departments charged with providing "service"
courses in English to students end up assigning Shakespeare and Milton
specialists to teach courses like reading or listening (with some
fascinating results).

We could agree with Derrida in part and point out that linguistic analysis
in the rationalist tradition has too often excluded writing systems and the
dialects of a language they make possible (often written standard and
literary) . However, nothing I've read in Derrida's body of work is anything
I would characterize as this type of serious analysis.

Derrida has always been more concerned with undercutting any metaphysical
project in philosophy and with distancing himself from phenomenology,
structuralism, and existentialism. The problem with his "linguistics" in my
opinion is it's like his philosophy: it's so self-studied while at the same
time steeped in concepts of dubious ontological status that go back to the
abundant work of Husserl and Heidegger, which most American academics know
next to nothing about.
The know-nothings make discussion of what are supposed to be very serious
issues all but impossible (no, make that impossible). But the more
philosophy you know, all the less startling or original Derrida's thoughts
seem. I also believe Gadamer's work, though much less known in the US,
predates Derrida's significantly.

As for Derrida's radical epistemlogical and anti-metaphysical stances, the
analytic tradition has already anticipated or simultaneously developed
analogs: Peirce, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine, Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend, to
name the most famous few. The fact that so many of these names are of people
not originally from the US or the UK just goes to show how open, fluid and
syncretic at least one branch of western philosphy has been.

Charles Jannuzi
Fukui University, Japan
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Message 2: RE:11.1596, Disc: New: Writing and Speech

Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2000 12:12:23 +0200
From: jose luis guijarro <guijarrowanadoo.es>
Subject: RE:11.1596, Disc: New: Writing and Speech


> Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 18:42:13 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Dan Moonhawk Alford <dalfordhaywire.csuhayward.edu>
> Subject: Writing & Speech Re: 11.1586, Sum: Postmodernism and Lx
>
> On Thu, 20 Jul 2000, Frederick Newmeyer wrote>
>
> Discussing Christina Howells. 1999. Derrida. Polity:
>
> > This book, and two others, both picture-book idiot's guides, make the
> > following points about JD's linguistic contributions. Derrida makes a
> > great song and dance about writing. He argues that the *entire*
> > western intellectual tradition, from Socrates to the present,
> > including the entire linguistic tradition, 'privileges' speech at the
> > expense of writing. That is, he maintains that everybody before his
> > good self has regarded speech as primary and writing as merely
> > secondary, and therefore of subordinate status. Of course, he
> > includes Saussure in this blanket condemnation, though he admits that
> > Saussure was right to take the line he did "for his own purposes". JD
> > doesn't like this, and he wants writing to be regarded as just as
> > central as speech -- apparently for all purposes. In fact, he goes so
> > far as to assert that writing and speech are too dissimilar for
> > writing to "derive" from speech.
>
> Though there is little disagreement by linguists regarding the
> primary/secondary issue (all normal humans speak but not all normal humans
> write), that last sentence is quite provocative.
>
> As developer of a writing system for Northern Cheyenne decades ago, I know
> that the ideal I was shooting for was a delicate mix of mostly phonemic
> but some phonetic cues; the goal was one of "if you can say it, you can
> spell it".
>
> English, we know, got thrust into the media while it was still undergoing
> dramatic sound shifts; thus, what was a fairly "tight" system loosened
> very quickly; I don't know enough about French linguistic history to know
> what happened there.
>
> But there's a more important point beyond mere sound change, perpetually
> vexing though that is in English and French, and that's what gets recorded
> in the first place and how that usually gets edited when reduced to
> print. I say 'reduced' because we always *mean* more than we express, and
> the meanings expressed by the "paralinguistic" cues of emotional
> tunes/tones, body posture, gestures, facial expressions (one part of the
> brain is devoted to that) are always stripped away in writing -- and some
> of these, a sarcastic tune or an exaggerated wink, are meant to instruct
> the listener to understand the exact opposite of what was stated.
>
> Even more than that, writers transcribing normal speech, as when just
> normally hearing it, tend to repair forms heard ("ahmana", "wyoncha") into
> something more morphemically distinct ("I am going to", "why don't you")
> unless specifically instructed not to (and lots of times even then). There
> are lots of "exclamatory noises" which are meaningful, but can't be
> written. My students, like Derrida, find spoken and written to be quite
> dissimilar when they are forced to write the speech stream accurately,
> even before we hit phonetics.
>
> For me, therefore, spoken and written for English are more like nearly
> parallel (long ago intersecting) tracks, where the "derived" notion
> becomes less noticeable, something in the realm of specialists. Instead,
> we work by rules and memorized exceptions in English literacy, which has
> gained a virtual life of its own apart from sound, to the eternal vexation
> of ESL students.
>
> American Indian language studies and sociolinguistics (the development of
> which ushered more women into our discipline) are two major traditions
> that emphasize actual fieldwork and transcription; they are important
> counterweights to theoretic introspection and "see if you can say"
> research.
>
> Still, nothing seems "real" in linguistics unless we put it in writing. We
> privilege speaking in one way and writing in another. They're like
> separate, nearly parallel lives of language. Maybe Derrida took "derived"
> to mean "less important".
>
> warm regards, moonhawk

________________________________________________________________

Jos� Luis GUIJARRO here:

Well, hello there, Dan. You seem to be the one that makes me want to
participate in the list. And this time, I am not in total disagreement with
you --fancy that, eh!

For one thing, I believe that we have all sorts of media (postures,
gestures, vocal sounds, painting, pointing, writing letters, and whatnot) at
our disposal to make manifest to others (i.e., to make public) our
individual and private representations. In this context, it has no sense to
say that some are more important than others. It depends for what. If I talk
about my love kisses to my bride all the time and never kiss her, she will
forsake for another that kisses her really. Even if my description of a love
kiss is as magnificent as the one CORTAZAR expresses in his book -Rayuela-

However, humans have evolved a certain way of making noises that helps us
inmensely in making that sort of manifestation of inner states of mind. And
it is by trying to "immitate" this way of expliciting our inner
representations that humans have developed a writing system. Of course, if
it is "a copy" it had to appear AFTER human beings could speak. You seem to
imply that it is indeed such a copy, and you have worked on that assumption
in your work, trying to make oral languages "writable". But I am not sure
wether, if we really went investigating writing systems, we would not make
some discoveries that could perhaps question the "copying assumption". It is
of course only a hunch, but there you are!

con Dios, compa�ero!

Jose Luis Guijarro Morales
Facultad de Filosofia y Letras
Avda. Gomez Ulla, 1
11003 Cadiz (Espa�a)
Tel. +34 956 015526
Fax. +34 956 015501
joseluis.guijarrouca.es
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