Alphabet to Email: How Written English Evolved and Where It's Heading
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In Alphabet to Email Naomi Baron takes us on a fascinating and often entertaining journey through the history of the English language, showing how technology - especially email - is gradually stripping language of its formality.
Drawing together strands of thinking about writing, speech, pedagogy, technology, and globalization, Naomi Baron explores the ever-changing relationship between speech and writing and considers the implications of current language trends on the future of written English.
Alphabet to Email will appeal to anyone who is curious about how the English language has changed over the centuries and where it might be going.
rights must be protected.22 The Need for Novelty With all this talk of authority, respect for what’s old, commonplaces, imitation, and embellishment of the work of others, what happened to creativity? Weren’t authors supposed to have something new to say? Not really. The notion of writing being a creative act, originating with the author, didn’t clearly emerge until eighteenth-century Romanticism. Even in the seventeenth century, writers whose work we deem highly individual still employed the
is the material aspect—the content, which also passes (in part) to the buyer: “To the extent [the buyer] is able, through intellectual effort, to appropriate them, these ideas cease to be the exclusive property of the author, becoming instead the common property of both author and reader.”61 But finally there’s the formal aspect—the particular choice of words and phrases through which the ideas (content) are expressed. In Fichte’s words, each writer must give his thoughts a certain form… But
emerging social role of “author.” EVERYONE AN AUTHOR Who was the first modern author, in the sense of a writer who proclaimed financial independence from patronage and whose work could legitimately claim “creative genius”? Commonly the title is given to Samuel Johnson. Yet the words and deeds of Alexander Pope clearly make him a harbinger of modern authorship. 70 Alphabet to Email Pope’s Ploys As a literary figure, Alexander Pope straddled two worlds. He was at once “the courtly transmitter
manner of handling them, would unfold in a pervasive anonymity.”155 A few years later, Roland Barthes followed with his own challenge to traditional authorship. In “The Death of the Author,” Barthes reminded us that “The author is a modern figure, a product of our society insofar as, emerging from the Middle Ages with English empiricism, French rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation, it discovered the prestige of the individual.”156 But, said Barthes, the days of the author as
and Jaszi bemoan the fact that no matter how much we encourage students to prewrite or revise in groups, we continue to require them to compose alone, and we insist on grading them individually. Thus do we enforce our vision of writing as an essentially solitary individual exercise in self-expression.56 Is there anything positive left to be said for the individual voice in writing? If individual authorship and the notion of property rights are being abandoned by some, what about the concept of