Critical Brain Processes Involved in Deciphering the Greek Alphabet

  • Derrick de Kerckhove

Abstract

The object of this chapter is to present a hypothesis concerning the underpinnings of Western culture. Did the fully phonetic alphabet developed by the Greeks and still used today in Greece (and in the rest of the West in its Latin and Cyrillic variations), have a conditioning impact on the biases of specialized brain processes? The hypothesis is that when the Greeks introduced vowels to adapt the Phoenician alphabet to suit the needs of their own Indo-European language, they changed the nature of the reading process from a context-based to a sequence-based decipherment. This change in turn may have been responsible for the reorganization of brain strategies, and this may explain why the direction of writing changed from the leftward orientation of Phoenician to rightward. The implications of such a change may have had far-reaching consequences on the biases of Western cognition.

Keywords

Recombination Clarification Aphasia Derrick Alexia 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bentin, S., Carmon, A. (1983). The relative involvement of the left and right cerebral hemispheres in sequential vs. holistic reading: electrophysiological evidence. Paper presented at the annual BABBLE meeting, Niagara Falls, Canada, March.Google Scholar
  2. Bentin, S., Bargai, N., Katz, L. (1984). Orthographic and phonemic coding for lexical access: evidence from Hebrew. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning, Memory and Cognition, 10, 353–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bersted, C. T. (1983). Memory scanning of described images and undescribed images: hemispheric differences. Memory and Cognition, 11, 127–136.Google Scholar
  4. Bever, T. G. (1975). Cerebral asymmetries in humans are due to the differentiation of two incompatible processes: holistic and analytic. In, Aaronson, D., Rieber, R. (Eds.), Developmental psycholinguistics and communication. New York: Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  5. Bever, T. G. (1980). Broca and Lashley were right: cerebral dominance is an accident of growth. In, Caplan, D. (Ed.) Biological Studies of Mental Processes, pp. 186–230. Boston: MIT.Google Scholar
  6. Bogen, J. E. (1969). The other side of the brain. Bulletin of the Los Angeles Neurological Society, 34, 191–220.Google Scholar
  7. Bogen, J. (1975). Educational aspects of hemispheric specialization. UCLA Education, 17, 24–33.Google Scholar
  8. Bradshaw, G. J., Hicks, R. E., Rose, B. (1979). Lexical discrimination and letter-string identification in the two visual fields. Brain and Language, 8, 10–18.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bryden, M. P. (1978). Strategy effects in the assessment of hemispheric asymmetry. Strategies of Information Processing, pp. 117–149. London: Academic.Google Scholar
  10. Cameron, R. F., Currier, R. D., Haerer, A. F. (1971). Aphasia and literacy. British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 6, 161–163.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carmon, A., Nachshon, I. (1971). Effects of unilateral brain damage on perception of temporal order. Cortex, 7, 410–18Google Scholar
  12. Changeux, J. P. (1983). L’Homme neuronal. Paris: Fayard.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, M. (1958). La grande invention de l’écriture et son évolution. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale.Google Scholar
  14. Corballis, M. (1980). Laterality and myth. American Psychologist, 35, 284–295.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Corballis, M. (1983). On human laterality. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  16. Cornell, J. M. (1985). Spontaneous mirror-writing in children. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 39, 174–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. de Kerckhove, D. (1981). A theory of Greek tragedy. Sub-Stance, 29, 23–36.Google Scholar
  18. de Kerckhove, D. (1982). Ecriture, théâtre et neurologie. Etudes françaises, 18, 109–128.Google Scholar
  19. de Kerckhove, D. ( 1984 a). Introduction à la recherche neuroculturelle. In, de Kerckhove, D., Iannucci, A. (Eds.), McLuhan e la metamorfosi dell’uomo, pp. 147–189. Roma: Bulzoni.Google Scholar
  20. de Kerckhove, D. (1984b). Effects cognitifs de l’alphabet. In, de Kerckhove, D., Jutras, D. (Eds.), Pour comprendre 1984, pp. 112–129. Ottawa: UNESCO. (Occasional paper N 49 ).Google Scholar
  21. Efron, R. (1963). Temporal perception, aphasia and déjà vu. Brain, 86, 285–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Galin, D. (1974). Implications for psychiatry of left and right cerebral specialization. Archives of General Psychiatry, 31, 572–583.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Geshwind, N. (1972). Language and the brain. Scientific American, 226, 76–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gould, J. D. (1967). Pattern recognition and eye movement parameters. Perception and Psychophysics, 2, 399–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guarducci, M. (1967). Epigrafia greca, VI, Caratteri e storia della disciplina, la scrittura greca dalle origini all’età imperiale. Roma: Libreria dello Stato.Google Scholar
  26. Hammond, G. (1982). Hemispheric differences in temporal resolution. Brain and Cognition, 1, 95–118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hatta, Takeshi (1981). Differential processing of Kanji and Kana stimuli in Japanese people: some implications from Stroop-test results. Neuropsychologia, 19, (1), 87–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Heilige, J. B., Webster, R. (1981). Case effects in letter-name matching: qualitative visual field difference. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 17, (4), 179–182.Google Scholar
  29. Humphreys, G.W., Evett, L. J. (1985). Are there independent lexical and non-lexical routes in word processing? An evaluation of the dual-route theory of reading. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8, 689–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Iwata, M. (1984). Kanji versus Kana: neuropsychological correlates of the Japanese writing system. Trends in Neurosciences, 54 (12), 290–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jakobson, R., Halle, M. (1956). Fundamentals of language. La Haye: Mouton.Google Scholar
  32. Jaynes, J. (1976). The origin of consciousness in the break-down of the bi-cameral mind. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  33. Jeffery, L. H. (1961). The local scripts of archaic Greece. Oxford. Clarendon.Google Scholar
  34. Jurdant, B. (1984). Ecriture, monnaie, et connaissance. University of Strasbourg: unpublished thesis.Google Scholar
  35. Kimura, D. (1966). Dual function asymmetry of the brain in visual perception. Neuropsychologia, 4, 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kimura, D. (1969). Spatial localization in left and right visual fields. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 23, 445–458.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kimura, D. (1973). The asymmetry of the human brain. Scientific American, 228, 70–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kinsbourne, M. (1977). The evolution of language in relation to lateral action. In, Kinsbourne M. (Eds.), The asymmetrical function of the brain, New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Kinsbourne, M. (1982). Hemisphere specialization and the growth of human understanding. American Psychologist, 37, 411–420.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kinsbourne, M., Lempert, H. (1979). Does left brain lateralization of speech arise from right-biased orienting to salient percepts? Human Development, 22, 270–275.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Krashen, S.D. (1972). Language and the left hemisphere. Working Papers in Phonetics, 24.Google Scholar
  42. Krashen, S.D. (1975). The major hemisphere. UCLA Educator, 17, 17–24.Google Scholar
  43. Lafont, R. (Ed.). (1984). Anthropologie de l’écriture. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou.Google Scholar
  44. Levy, J. (1974). Cerebral asymmetries as manifested in split-brain man. In, Kinsbourne, M. Smith, W. L. (Eds.), Hemispheric disconnection and cerebral function. Springfield: Thomas.Google Scholar
  45. Levy, J., Reid, M. (1978). Variations in cerebral organization as a function of handedness, hand posture in writing, and sex. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 107, 119–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Luria, A.R. (1970). The functional organization of the brain. Scientific American, 222, 66–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Marcel, T., Katz, L., Smith, M. (1974). Laterality and reading proficiency, Neuropsychologia, 12, 131–139.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McLuhan, H. M. (1978). The hemispheres and the media Unpublished paper.Google Scholar
  49. Milner, B. (1971). Interhemispheric differences in the localization of psychological processes in man. British Medical Bulletin, 27, 272–277.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Moscovitch, M. (1983). Stages of processing and hemispheric differences in language in the normal subject. In, Studdert-Kennedy, M. (Ed.), Psychobiology of language, pp. 88–104. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  51. Nachshon, I., Shefler, G.E., Samocha, D. (1977). Directional scanning as a function of stimulus characteristics, reading habits, and directional set. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 8, 83–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nebes, R.D. (1975). Man’s so-called `minor’ hemisphere. UCLA Educator, 17, (2), 13–17.Google Scholar
  53. Orbach, J. (1967). Differential recognition of Hebrew and English words in right and left visual fields as a function of cerebral dominance and reading habits. Neuropsychologia, 5, 127–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ornstein, R. (1976). The psychology of consciousness. New York: Grossman.Google Scholar
  55. Pollatsek, A., Bolozky, S., Well, A.D., Rayner, K. (1981). Asymmetries in the perceptual span for Israeli readers. Brain and Language, 14, 174–180.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pribram, K.H. (1980). The place of pragmatics in the syntactic and semantic organization of language. In, Linguarum, J. (Ed.), Temporal variables in speech: studies in honour of Frieda Goldman-Eisler, pp. 13–19. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  57. Rabinowicz, B., Moscovitch, M. (1984). Right hemisphere literacy: a critique of some recent approaches. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 1, (4), 343–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Read, C. (1985). Effects of phonology on beginning spelling: some cross-linguistic evidence. In, Olson, D. R., Torrance, N. Hildyard, A. (Eds.), Literacy, Language and Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Reynolds, D. M., Jeeves, M. A. (1978). A developmental study of hemisphere specialization for alphabetical stimuli. Cortex, 14, (2), 259–267.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Rizzolatti, G., Umilta, C., Berlucchi, G. (1971). Opposite superiorities of the right and left cerebral hemispheres in discriminative reaction time to physiognomical and alphabetical material. Brain, 94, 431–442.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Saenger, P. (1982). Silent reading: its impact on late medieval script and society. Viator, 13, 369–414.Google Scholar
  62. Sampson, G. (1985). Writing systems: a linguistic introduction. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Sasanuma, S. (1975). Kana and Kanji processing in Japanese aphasics. Brain and Language, 2, 369–383.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sasanuma, S., Itoh, M., Mori, K., Kobayashi, Y. (1977). Tachistoscopic recognition of Kana and Kanji words. Neuropsychologia, 15, 547–553.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schacter, D. (1985). Multiple forms of memory in humans and animals. In, Weiberger, N.M., McGaugh, J. L., Lynch, G. (Eds.), Memory systems of the brain: animal and human cognitive systems. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  66. Schacter, D. L., Hanbluk, T. A., McLachlan, D. R. (1984). Retrieval without recollection: an experimental analysis of source amnesia. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 23, 593–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Segalowitz, S. J,Bryden, M.P. (1983). Individual differences in hemispheric representation of language. In, Segalowitz, S. (Ed.), Language functions and brain organization,pp. 341–372. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  68. Seidenberg, M.S. (1985). The time course of phonological code activation in two writing systems. Cognition, 19, 1–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Shanon, B. (1978). Writing positions in Americans and Israelis. Neuropsychologia, 16, 587–591.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Silverberg, R., Gordon, N. W., Pollack, S., Bentin, S. (1980). Shift of visual field preference for English words in native Hebrew speakers. Brain and Language, 11, 99–105.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sinatra, R., Stahl-Gemake, J. (1983). Using the right brain in the language arts. Springfield: Thomas Google Scholar
  72. Taylor, I., Taylor, M. (Eds.) (1983). The psychology of reading. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  73. Taylor, M. (1983). The bilateral cooperative model of reading. In, Taylor, I., Taylor, M. (Eds.), The psychology of reading, pp. 233–267. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  74. Tzeng, O. J. L. (1982). Cognitive processing in various orthographies. In, Chu-Chang, M. (Ed.), Asian and Pacific-American perspectives in bilingual education: comparative research. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Tzeng, O. J. L., Hung, D. L. (1981). Linguistic determinism: a written language perspective. In, Tzeng, O., Singer, H. (Eds.), Perception of print: reading research in experimental psychology. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  76. Tzeng, O.J. L., Hung, D. L. (1984). Orthography, reading, and cerebral lateralization. In, Ging, C., Stephenson, H. (Eds.), Current issues in cognition, pp. 179–200. National Academy of Sciences and American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  77. Tzeng, O. J. L., Singer, H. (Eds.), (1981). Perception of print: reading research in experimental psychology. Hillsdalle: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  78. Tzeng, O.J. L., Wang, W. (1983). The first two R’s. American Scientist, 71, 238–243.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. Witkin, H.A. (1962). Psychological differentiation, New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  80. Woodhead, A. G. (1981). The study of Greek Inscriptions, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  81. Zaidel, E., Peters, A.M. (1981). Phonological encoding and ideographic reading by the disconnected right hemisphere: two case studies. Brain and Language, 14, (2), 205 — 234.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derrick de Kerckhove
    • 1
  1. 1.McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, and Department of FrenchUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations