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Re: [xmca] Visual Thinking?
Many restaurants in Seoul have special rooms where children can play while their parents are ordering and eating and talking. Across the street from this university there is a particularly expensive one which features English books and phonics instruction. So after lunch we were watching the latest Phonics programs being beamed onto the wall.
Here's what we saw:
Bess is best
She lives in the West!
Never mind the sinister propagandistic overtones. What really struck me was that the WHOLE method depends on trying to make English spelling more like...CHINESE.
First of all, there is an attempt to break each word into a purely phonological specific and much less phonological genera. Secondly, there is an emphasis on reading the whole unit rather than the phoneme-grapheme mappings that the Phonics folks like to go on and on about. Of course, what BOTH of these things have in common is a kind of visual thinking (as OPPOSED to straight, linear, aural thinking).
Mike is probably familiar with the work of Katharine Nelson. In Language in Cognitive Development, she makes the argument that alphabets, unlike "ideographic" writing systems (sic!) allow the creation of an external memory field.
In fact, it's THIS, rather than paradigmatic thinking, which is held to be at the root of modern science (as well as novels, economic forecasts, narratives in general and the rise of the all-conscious, ever-narrativizing bourgeois individual in particular).
Not at all clear how this follows from alphabetization. Is it the linearity of it? Or is the "visual thinking" of Chinese writing somehow inherently inferior to aural thinking?
It's a bit reminiscent of Boswell's exchange with Samuel Johnson:
Boswell: But isn't it true that the Chinese are an ancient race of no feeble accomplishments and that they have built Palaces and Walls that might put our own to shame?
Johnson: Sir, they have not an alphabet.
I guess (Alpha-)Bess is just best because she lives in the West.
Seoul National University of Education
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