By Henri-Jean Martin
Cultural background on a grand scale, this immensely readable book—the summation of many years of analysis via one of many world's nice students of the book—is the tale of writing from its very beginnings to its contemporary alterations via technology.Traversing 4 millennia, Martin bargains a chronicle of writing as a cultural procedure, a method of conversation, and a heritage of applied sciences. He indicates how the written notice originated, the way it unfold, and the way it figured within the evolution of civilization. utilizing as his middle the function of printing in making the written state of mind dominant, Martin examines the interactions of people and cultures to supply new different types of "writing" within the many senses of authorship, language rendition, and script.Martin appears at how a lot the improvement of writing owed to sensible necessity, and what kind of to non secular and social platforms of symbols. He describes the precursors to writing and divulges their position in early civilization as mnemonic units in provider of the spoken observe. The tenacity of the oral culture performs a shockingly very important half during this tale, Martin notes, or even as overdue because the eighteenth century informed contributors have been expert in classical rhetoric and most well-liked to depend on the humanities of reminiscence. ultimately, Martin discusses the adjustments to writing wrought by way of the digital revolution, delivering important insights into the effect those new applied sciences have had on youngsters born into the pc age.
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Extra resources for The History and Power of Writing
Hernan Cortes's troops, the Catholic clergy, and the Inquisition all did their best to annihilate everything that they considered superstition. For good measure they burned their victims' entire archives, so that all that has come down to us is three Maya manuscripts and some fifteen Aztec texts. We know these peoples only by what remains of their monuments, by texts written by some of their number after the conquest, by historical accounts from Spanish authors, often well informed, or by reports addressed to the sovereigns in Madrid.
11 Thus the first goal of Chinese writing was to furnish not an instrument of communication, strictly speaking, but a tool for symbolization. Symbolization was originally conceived of as similar to an algorithm—"giving this word a very broad sense, as with an instrument (made up of a system of graphic symbols) serving to support an effort to structure the representations" (Vandermeersch). The shamans' efforts were not guided by the idea of noting down a linguistic utterance, even when they used procedures for phonetic notation.
2 All this points to several conclusions concerning the "defense and illustration" of this sort of writing. First, a European child normally learns to read alphabetic writing, with all its implied abstraction and apprenticeship in phonetism, around the age of five; the Chinese child is capable of recognizing the sense of certain characters by the age of two, but he has to memorize thousands of signs and grasp their combined meanings before he can read an ordinary text. Second, writing is available to the Chinese to complete speech and ren- WRITING SYSTEMS 23 der it more explicit.
The History and Power of Writing by Henri-Jean Martin