THE ALPHABET AS A STEP BACKWARD…

23 MARCH 2004: THE ALPHABET AS A STEP BACKWARD…

From the Feb 15 New
York Times Sunday Book Review

 

 
regarding

LANGUAGE VISIBLE 
Unraveling the Mystery of the Alphabet From A to Z. 
By David Sacks. 

Illustrated. 395 pp. New York: 
Broadway Books. $24.95. 

….”Like the wheel or the telephone,” Sacks writes, ”the alphabet was an invention
to change the world.” While it’s true that billions of people use
writing based on phonetics every day, not everyone believes the invention
was an advance in literacy. Darnell, who discovered the earliest known
alphabetic writing, told me in an e-mail message that combining ideographic
and phonetic symbols, as in ancient Egyptian writing, ”provides much
more information than an alphabetic system, and allows for additional
levels of poetic expression” compared with phonetic letters alone. Indeed,
as most e-mailers know, when pictographs known as ”smileys” — horizontal
images that hint at facial expression — are added to text, the nuance
of a sentence can change. A wink-smiley — ; ) — added after ”you are
bad” changes its meaning entirely.