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THEORY: Idle question about variations

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 14, 2006, 23:11
Exploring a couple of fuzzy boundries between linguistics and non-linguistics.

Whether I print a piece of text in the Courier font or the Times New Roman font
should not be the concern of linguistics. Minor stylistic variations in the
shape of the letters as I write a word might be important to the artist or
typographer, but are (or should be) utterly insignificant to the linguist. Yet
such stylistic variations carried to extremes can give rise, over time and
space, to novel letter forms and alphabets. Two variations on a single glyph
can "speciate" and become two distinguished letter forms, and whole new letters
and alphabets can be invented. When things like that happen then it's no longer
merely meaningless and inconsequential variation in a single uniform system of
writing, but genuine linguistics. There is a meaningful difference of genuine
interest to linguistics between the similar, but clearly distinguishable Greek,
Roman, and Cyrillic alphabets.

I can't help but wonder about another situation.  Minor variations in the shape
of the letters as I write a word are analogous to minor variations in the shape
of the mouth as I speak a word. If the written or spoken variations are
significant enough then they are clearly within the domain of linguistics, but
it seems to me that very minor variations in mouth shape are given great
importance by linguists while very major variations in glyph shape are shrugged
off as inconsequential. I wonder why that is? Why is it that the sounds of the
vowels in "potato" are of utmost importance while the shapes of the glyphs in
"potato" are of no consequence at all?

Inquiring minds want to know.



Mohan Sud <skydyr@...>