Scripts

Allen Thrasher athr at loc.gov
Wed Sep 11 09:52:08 EDT 1996


On Wed, 11 Sep 1996, Dominique Thillaud wrote:

>         Bonjour,
> >Considering the all important mono-syllable "Om",  I find
> >that the Tamil writing of this syllable has a much more
> >"magical", numinous, and visually arresting quality than
> >its Devanagari counterpart.
>         Je suis desole de devoir intervenir ici malgre mon respect de la
> religion et de la mystique indienne, mais il faut rappeler encore une fois
> que les langues preexistent a leur ecriture (et en Inde plus encore qu'en
> Occident).
> 
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> Dominique Thillaud - Universite de Nice - Sophia Antipolis
> email : thillaud at unice.fr

Is it really true that languages preexist (chronologicall) their scripts? 
 The Latin alphabet preexisted English, French, Spanish, etc.  This seems
to be taking a Boas-Levi-Straussian orthodoxy a bit far.  Then there is
the evidence that writing influences not just written but spoken language
(even if in accord with the aforementioned orthodoxy it at least
shouldn't).  Who was that Czech linguist who showed how in both English
and Czech the written representations of conventional sounds that aren't
precisely words and don't fit into the phonemics of the language, such as
"tsk, tsk" to represent a tongue-clicking of reproach and "ahem" to
represent a discreet cough, in turn become actually pronounced as spelled
and are themselves used as interjections in addition to the original ones.

Allen Thrasher





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