Writing and Speaking

Authored by: Douglas Biber , Camilla Vásquez

Handbook of Research on Writing

Print publication date:  July  2007
Online publication date:  March  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805848694
eBook ISBN: 9781410616470
Adobe ISBN: 9781135251116


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The past several decades have seen many shifts in perspective in the study of writing and speaking. In the early 20th century, a number of structural linguists (e.g., Sapir, Bloomfield) stressed the primacy of speech over writing, positing that writing was essentially an artifact of spoken language. Later scholars, working from a broader social perspective (e.g., Goody, 1968; Goody & Watt, 1968), documented the historical development and diffusion of different types of writing systems in various Western and non-Western cultures, and explored the social and cultural implications of the introduction of the technology of literacy, by analyzing some of the earliest functions of written texts. Other researchers in this tradition, most notably Olson and Ong, have argued that the introduction of literacy has had consequences for cognition, society, and language use. The work of Olson and Ong has come to be associated with an autonomous view of writing and with characterizations of writing as “detached, and self-contained” (Ong, 1982, p. 132) and “able to stand in as an unambiguous and autonomous representation of meaning” (Olson, 1977, p. 258).

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