Synopses & Reviews
The written word has taught a way of being. Since the written version of language is visible and permanent, many of our attitudes to and normative assumptions about language - and human communication in general - derive from our experiences of written language. In recent years, scholars from such disciplines as history, anthropology, education and linguistics have joined forces to readdress issues surrounding the problems of the relationship between oral and written language. The lessons to be learnt are fascinating and imply that many of the assumptions we hold concerning language and the human condition are neither "natural" nor universal; rather, they build on highly specific norms and attitudes introduced through a certain literate tradition. Furthermore, these norms have come to dominate many modern social institutions such as schools, the legal system and bureaucracies of various kinds that influence and determine our lives. The present volume analyzes in detail the impact of written language on a broad range of issues that relate to human development in both an ontogenetic and a phylogenetic perspective, together with the relationship of written language to oral and literate practices. The articles cover empirical studies as well as theoretical analyses of literate practices in diverse settings.
The chapters of this volume were originally contributions pre- sented at a seminar entitled "The Written Code and Conceptions of Reality" held on the island of Sydkoster in August, 1985. The seminar was financed by a grant to the editor from The Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The word-processing of manuscripts was carried out by Chri- stine Aranda, Maria Axelson, Marianne Axelson and Lotta Strand, who carried the major burden. Their help in this project, as well as in many other common concerns, is deeply appreciated. The preparation of a book that is a collective enterprise is, in some respects, greatly facilitated by modern word-processing. When it comes to putting together the final product, however, the limita- tions of technologies are easily recognized as a result of the compli- cations that arise from the variation in systems used by con- tributors. Lotta Strand was responsible for the coordination neces- sary for completing the final version of the manuscript. Without her patient efforts and skills in this new type of literacy, word- processing technology would have been an obstacle rather than an asset. Excellent bibliographic assistance was provided by Christina Brage, Lennart Eriksson and Inger Karlsson of the library at the Departments of Theme Studies of the University Library of Lin- koping. Linguistic advice on the chapters written by contributors who were not wise enough to be born with English as their mother tongue was given by Alex de Courcy.