“Writing — the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye — is the great invention of the world. Great in the astonishing range of analysis and combination which necessarily underlies the most crude and general conception of it — great, very great in enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and of space; and great, not only in its direct benefits, but greatest help, to all other inventions. ” — Abraham Lincoln
It is difficult to imagine a world without written language. Although modern technologies do allow for communication across “all distances of time and of space” without written language (for example, cell phones), it surely would have been impossible for humans to develop such capabilities without written language. And despite, or perhaps because of, the ubiquitous nature of digital technology, written language is everywhere around us. And yet, anyone who can read this website probably takes their ability to do so for granted– once we learn how to read, it seems to come almost as natural as breathing.
But many of us may have found learning to read and write difficult as children; we certainly all know someone who had or continues to face such difficulties, and as teachers or parents are reminded of how this skill requires extensive practice. When someone says “I know how to read”, what is it she actually knows? How are we able to transform ink markings on a page (or black pixels on a screen!) into meaningful language? How can we best teach this skill? How is written language being changed by modern technologies? How do written languages differ around the world?
Welcome to “The Writing Brain”! These are the types of topics that will be covered on this website, through a mix of original blog posts and summaries of new research conducted across the range of fields that constitute Cognitive Science (including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and philosophy), with a focus on communicating the research to educators, in particular, and interested audiences in general.