Sounds and words

Speech is natural. Writing is not. The alphabet was invented only once, but the vowels were missing at first. Oral memory supplied them for a while. Then someone had the brilliant idea of inventing the vowel letters. The first successful voice recorder was the Greek alphabet. It was also a trans-lator, an instrument for carrying things across, as any language could be represented using the consonant-vowel alphabet. International written communication expanded.

Orality retreated behind more and more writing, which made more and more things possible. Then everything worth saying was written down. Writing counted more than speaking. Knowledge left the ground level and took lodgings on the upper shelves.

The bubble grew bigger and writing more sophisticated. Styles developed and put speech to shame. Speech came to be seen as volatile and deceptive, while writing was the abode of truth – verba volant, scripta manent. Enduring truth, winged deceit.

The development of writing has its critical points, where it exhausts itself and brings about new forms. Social media is one such form. Orthographic normativity weakens and phonetic (mis)spelling develops. Speech washes over script, while image disconnects itself from sound and creates the evocative emoji. Gifs take us back to the firelit cave, where an image is worth a thousand (uninvented, unwritten) words.

1 thought on “Sounds and words

  1. landzek

    At times I’ve thought about this:

    what if it wasn’t so much that we just weren’t recording vowels in the written language at first, but that the way we spoke in the way we conceived or perceived the way we spoke was represented in the consonants?

    And what I mean by this is that we tend to look at history, at humans in history and conceive the human creature as having been fully developed at that point, whatever point it is when we look back to our ancestors. Such that we figure that human beings were speaking whatever kind of utterances, if we could call them words or whatever, and that these words “actually“ had vowels and consonants. But that the first time we went to write them down and symbols so far as with an alphabet type of symbol making written language, Our ancestors only felt it pertinent to record the continents, as if the vowels were assumed within the particular human group or whatever, right…

    I wonder philosophically if this kind of perception of human ancestry and the way history has progressed from as far back as we can remember of our ancestry to include such people as “human beings”, is incorrect.

    I wonder if indeed human beings were making sounds and communicating in such a way that by the time the alphabet was written it was actually recording accurately the sounds that were made as well as perceived and thus conceived. And that the coincidence of the development of the human mind is reflected in the actual record by which it perceives it’s history, rather than the actual history that was occurring through that period Of being human.

    Such that the human mind, say, reached such a level of development and complexity, say, at the same time that we began to make symbols of vowels. That before such a time there was no such utterances that had any correlation with what a Vowel could be as opposed to a Consonant. That the human mind works in such a way to develop knowledge or concepts, not so much as though those concepts or developments we’re already there and then our knowledge found a way to do something with them or put them down and symbols, but rather more that there was no pre-existing condition that knowledge was “reflecting“ in the new development. That the idea that something was pre-existing and that our minds are a sort of static computing machine that figures out ways to manifest or record things that were already occurring, is an incorrect understanding of how humanity actually occurred in the historical universe.

    That the development of the idea and symbolic expression of vowels actually coincided with the sound that we know as vowels.

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