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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

174                 The Loom of Language
SPEECH AND WRIIING
A difficulty which besets many people when they try to express
themselves effectively in writing would be less formidable., if early
education did more to encourage the habit of careful and thoughtful
speech Within the domestic circle we can rely on the chanty or intel-
ligence of the listener to interpret a half finished sentence or to shaipen
the outline of a loose definition Since we can usually do so with im-
punity, many of us never cultivate precise habits of self-expression m
everyday life rlo write, especially for icadeis with whom we are not
personally acquainted, is another matter We cannot exploit a common
backgiound of domestic associations We cannot take advantage of
associations piompted by surrounding objects or cunent events For
all we can convey by tone or gesture, conventions of punctuation and
of typography (e g italics) arc the only means at our disposal If con-
versation is habitually trivial and confined to a narrow social circle.,
learning to write is leatnmg a new language.
Maybe, libraries of sound films or phonograph lecords will even-
tually supersede the bookshelf as the collective memory of mankind
Meantime., the an of speech, even pubhc speech, cannot be quite the
same as the ait of writing Theic must be a region where die written
and the spoken woid do not overlap, but we tun make it, and should
make it, as small as need be Whethei it is j datively lar^e, as in Ger-
many, or small, as m Norway, lellects the extent to which intellectuals
are a caste apart from the aspirations and needs of their fellow citizens.
Homely writing closely akin to thoughtful speech is a signpost of the
democratic way of life. For writing cannot fail to be effective, if vibrant
with sympathy for the dudiculues of the reader.
Where the democratic way of life prevails, pubhc demand for popular
science and social statistics discourages literary aflectations. Drama and
fiction deal more and more with the lives of ordinary people and reflect
their speech habits. Since rhctontal prose based on classical models is
not adapted to the needs of a public habituated to rapid reading m
buses and trains, the vastly increased output of printed matter smce the
introduction of the linotype machine has also helped to bring the
written closer to die spoken word, Tn our own generation broadcasting
has reinforced the trend. Publication of radio talks popularizes a style
akin to daily speech, arid, as one of our leading phoneticians has said;
There are signs that the tynmny of print under which we have
lived since the days of the Renaissance may give way to a more