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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2003
'The Interface Between the Written and the Oral' is a comprehensive look at the development of writing in general and alphabets in particular, oral poetry in ancient Greece and Modern Africa, oral transmission of (written) Vedas, the impact of writing on recently oral cultures in West Africa, and the impact of writing on our own abilities of thought and organization. Perhaps the most disheartening, but nonetheless informative section, deals with the counterintuitive measures that social scientists have come up with to measure the impact of literacy. They seem to be lacking in common sense. Goody, however, is full of common sense, and this book is excellent reading!
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5 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2002
The author is pretty sharp when he talks about how oral traditions helped develop some Indo-European languages. For example, discussions about Veda (the ancient holy scripture of India) is quite smart. But he was lost when he discusses oriental languages, especially Chinese.
In China, evidences of writing 4,000 years BCE (i.e., nearly 1,000 years earlier than any signs of writing appeared in Egypt or Mesopotamia.) have been found, while he claimed the earliest evidences dated around 1,500 BCE. And he almost made himself fantastic when he sympathetically cited a claim that the Indo-Europeans, in a twisted way, helped inspire China's writing system. Indeed, nobody is sure whether or not Indo-Europeans existed when writing first appeared in China, or even in Egypt or Mesopotamia.
One more thing that reveals the author's ignorance is the claim that Chinese (only) uses some 8,000 characters, and that somehow proves that Chinese is the most conservative language. Though what he meant is not entirely clear, there is an obvious misunderstanding here. He must have thought that those "characters" are equivalent with "words" in English. Isn't that true?
Well, while some of them are, they are much more than that. Those 8,000 charaters, when they come into use, form at least ... 40,000 words, sometimes in single characters, more often in pairs, and occsionally in triplets and quadruples. It is such words which are more "equivalent" to Indo-European words. For example, Fang, one character, is similar to House; Tian, to Heaven; Shi-jie, two charaters, to World; Qi-che, to Automobile; so on and so forth.
A modestly educated Chinese knows (either reads or writes) about 13,000 characters and thus 65,000 words, which, in terms vocabulary, makes him more than an equivalent of William Shakespere , who used a little more than 35,000 words, in all his plays and sonnets and other poems.
The author should know that he is not a pastor of any Indo-European gods. When a scholar addresses a broad audience, he should know that making insane claims doesn't help to advance his cause, because many in the audience might know something he doesn't.
An old Confucius saying might sober him up: One shouldn't brag about things he doesn't know well enough.
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2000
It is a MUST for everyone who is trying to understand how tools change our lives! The author discribes what writting is and how people can be rational without it. The fascinated world of a coexistance between ritual and literary knowledge stocking will be revealed. I'm sure you will reach for the author's previous work "Domestication of the Savage Mind" to know more.
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