Language: Written vs. Spoken

In Chapter 4 of his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr tells of the beginning of written language.  In the beginning was the word, the word was without form and void of easily decipherable meaning.  In its infancy, written language was a mere reflection of the spoken language; they both played by the same rules.  They were even executed in the same manner: written language was always read aloud, or spoken, and spoken language was, in fact, spoken as well.  As Carr says, in the early uses of written language, “The rules hadn’t been invented yet” (Carr 61).

The issue with having no rules is, of course, anarchy.  That’s exactly what early written language was.  Since writing was simply a transcription of speaking, there were no spaces between words.  Reading was an incredible chore as the reader worked to decipher the chain of sounds into an intelligible message.  The spaces correlated to the spaces in conversation.  Written English and spoken English were the same language.

Carr explains that after the collapse of Roman Empire, written language changed to make it easier for the reader.  With the creation of grammar rules (each with its own set of exceptions), written language became a whole different language than spoken language.  Think about how differently you write and speak.  People often write in ways they would never speak.  In this way, written English could almost be considered a different language, or different dialect than spoken English.  Just think how different this post would have been if I had spoken it.




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One Response to Language: Written vs. Spoken

  1. angiegrose says:

    I very much agree with you that written language is much different than spoken language some time. The way I speak language, I think, is completely different than the way I write language. I have a hard time thinking on the fly, so my words don’t cohesively flow when I speak, but when I write I can come across much more sophisticated. Now if I write on Facebook, it is different than when I write for school, texting is even more different because I abbreviate and shorten my sentences like I do for Twitter. I prefer to write versus talking for school, but dealing with family and friends I prefer to speak language.

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