Writing creates conditions in which in which knowledge can be recorded and transmitted, and hence systematically extended as new experience accrues; it provided the soil in which new ways of meaning could germinate and flourish. But there is another feature of writing which gives it its special power. Whereas speech is transitory and in flux, writing is permanent and stable; and this serves both as metaphor and as model for the grammar of written language: its own mode of being is the model for the meanings it construes. In the commonsense world of doing and happening, which is created, and ongoingly maintained, by the spoken language, the unit of organisation is the clause, which construes experience in terms of movement and change. But in the written language the organising unit becomes the noun, or rather the nominal group, which construes experience in terms of taxonomies of things. And things are better to think with; they stay where they are. So the written language makes the world look like writing itself: something that is stable, observable, and made up of clearly defined parts.
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Halliday (2008: 153):