Anthropology 2246F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Grapheme, Brail, Nazca Lines

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Published on 16 Sep 2013
Department
Sept, 16, 2013
Anthropology of Reading and Writing Week 2
-A grapheme is a unit of writing and all writing systems are representations of speech, which is
a mix of semantic and phonetic signs and they are better adapted to their own language (when
native to it) and most divergence is in foreign words (some sounds don’t exist in certain
languages, this is why we see certain languages with added symbols to make up for the sounds
not represented in the Latin alphabet, etc)
-There really is no natural link between any languages graphemes to the sounds they are trying
to represent and this shows how arbitrary it is
-Reading needs both vision and sound because you need to see the sign and also hear it
because sometimes those two things don’t necessary match (homophones are an example, and
homographs) but there are exceptions like blind people reading with brail
-We have to ask whether we think in terms of writing or in images and sounds (writing seems to
be dominant)
-There are various theories of reading depending on script and language and there are various
methods for teaching reading and writing depending on these factors because they are too
diverse to be universally the same
-However when using an alphabet there are similarities as well as with glyphs, etc
-Writing needs to be taught (when Spanish taught in chunks of syllables rather than words at a
time) and site words are words that can be recognized without sounding them out (ex: cat, dog,
the)
-The way English works we can read sentences with the words jumbles so long as the first and
last letters are in place but this would not work in languages that rely on syllables
-Writing needs formal teaching and it will not develop on its own and no matter how much you
are exposed to a language (parents reading to babies, etc) you will not be able to write it so it is
not a normal development of language (Spanish saying long ago said “letters learned with
blood” refers to the way the education system was a brutal institution to teach reading to
children) and it takes a lot of perseverance to learn to write
-There are very few cases of people who learned to write without specific teaching (people can
teach themselves to read though) and some people just have functional literacy where they can
read and write to a certain extent but they don’t understand all the functions and rules of
writing and reading
-All sorts of material culture and practices are associated with particular scripts and particular
kinds of writing (our culture places heavy emphasis on reading to children but in places like
Latin America children do not have routines like being read bedtime stories)
Proto-Writing:
-Limited form of “written” communication like tallies, quipus, bones, and tally sticks and it does
not always lead to the development of writing and it is not compulsory for writing’s
development but in a broader historical context it is seen as the precursor to writing in that it
kept track of things (see the potential for what writing could do)
-Pictography like petroglyphs, pictograms, and geoglyphs
-Quipus were used for accounting in the Inca Empire and their spoken language was Quechua
(was never imposed over their subjects but they did take leaders from subordinate
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