Meredith’s questions on Sebba (Nov. 11)

1. One of the main features distinguishing written texts from spoken language is their permanence, more specifically their ability to have a potentially very large number of readers across a number of cultural and historical contexts, or at least a wider audience than the author originally imagined. Does Sebba’s insistence on the importance of historical context confine the interpretation of these texts to single-purpose linguistic interactions between an author and a fixed number of interlocutors at a fixed point in time?
2. Should linguists only concern themselves with a historically specific analysis of multilingual written texts, just as we do with spoken language? If so, does this reflect the tendency to study writing as a derivation of spoken language rather than a separate variation of language in its own right?
3. Certain memes (“you’ll read this first”) have developed a sort of metadiscourse around language-spatial relationships that plays on the idea that there is a very fixed and predictable language-spatial hierarchy. Do you agree with Scollon & Scollon’s claim that certain locations in/on a text are necessarily privileged (top/center/etc.)? Does this vary too much according to other variables (font size, etc.) to be predicted? How culturally specific is this hierarchy?

Questions for Lillis & McKinney (2013)
1. Lillis & McKinney critiques the speech/writing binary, among other binaries such as formal/informal, official/unofficial, etc. In what contexts do we see a gray area between speech and writing, and what impact does this have on how we study it?
2. How does conceptualizing writing as a finished product limit the ways in which we study it and “skew conceptualisations of the nature of what the object is–as something rigid rather than dynamic”?

Meredith Hilliard