book price comparison
Search our site
Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner Read the opening extract of the brand new Susie Steiner book before its publication on 05/04/2018

Rethinking Writing by Roy Harris


Rethinking Writing by Roy Harris

The traditional Western view of writing, from Aristotle down to the present day, has treated the written word as a visual substitute for the spoken word. The eminent Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) was the first to provide this traditional assumption with a reasoned basis by incorporating it into a more general theory of signs. In the wake of Saussure's work, modern linguistics has ignored or marginalized writing in favour of the study of speech. In all literate societies, however, speech in turn is interpreted by reference to the culturally dominant writing system. This puts in place a system of educational values which ensures that the more literate members of society maintain superiority over the less literate, and at the same time establishes a hierarchy among literate societies which favours the local product (alphabetic scripts in the Western Case). Roy Harris shows that the theory of writing adopted in modern linguistics is deeply flawed. Reversing the orthodox priorities, the author argues that writing is a far more powerful mode of linguistic communication than speech could ever be. His book is a major contribution to current debates about human communication written and spoken.


'This is an excellent book, rich, clear and innovative...'
Jean Khalfa, Cambridge University

'.absorbing and typically combatative.'
John Sturrock, Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Roy Harris is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Oxford. His many publications include The Origin of Writing (1986) and Signs of Writing (1995).

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

4th April 2002


Roy Harris

More books by Roy Harris
Author 'Like for Like'


Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


254 pages


Philosophy of language



Lovereading tells me about new books before they hit the shelves, lets me find other authors I may like and has great prize draws!

Sheila Dale

The books for review are always great reads, brilliantly written, and introduces me to a huge variety of, established and new, authors.

Lesley Hart

They are bright, breezy and eager to offer a great book, then genuinely listen/respect the review one writes.

Maggie Crane

My horizons have been broadened by some of the books I have been lucky to review and I expect it to be no different in the future.

Daran Bellingham

You can trust Lovereading to show unbiased reviews by actual, ordinary readers that help likeminded booklovers choose their next great read.

Linda Hill

If you love reading, then you'll love Lovereading! Full of tips & info for every discerning reader.

Lynne Rapson

Lovereading are lovely people who send me lovely books. What's not to love?

Gavin Dimmock

Why I love @lovereadinguk? It's in the name - as dedicated lovers of reading, they are perfect matchmakers for helping me find my next read!

Catherine Jenkins