Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ongoing · Less Like Oration:

Consider the 95% or so of the human time-span that predates writing, when language took one form: speech. Whatever is built-in to us about language and thought was built in by evolution, and that process was pretty well over by the time writing arrived.

Speech is remarkably plastic; at one extreme, the monosyllables of technical specialists or lovers; debate flowing around a meeting table somewhere in the middle; and at the long end, oration, notable examples of which extend in length from a handful of minutes to many hours.

There’s nothing much on the Net that’s without precedent in spoken language. What’s new is that written discourse is becoming less like oration and more like conversation. It’s not clear that this is bad.