Speech, Writing, and Text

in Parchment Paper Pixels

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226803067
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226803074 | DOI:
Speech, Writing, and Text

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This chapter first considers the nature of writing, the first and by far the most important technology for storing and communicating information. In particular, it examines the features of writing and how it differs from speech. The chapter shows that many of the features associated with writing make it a natural choice for communicating legal norms and engaging in legal transactions. At the same time, given that oral communication is more natural and generally more convenient than writing, the really interesting questions are why and under what circumstances the legal system prefers or requires writing. It is argued that writing is not an essential ingredient of lawmaking or other legal transactions. Although cultures that become literate tend to quickly apply writing to memorializing public law and private legal transactions, it is possible for a legal system to be entirely oral. Even today, it can sometimes be an advantage to rely on speech and memory. In fact, orality retains a great deal of vitality in the English and American legal systems.

Keywords: oral communications; written communications; information storage; legal norms; legal transactions; public law; lawmaking

Chapter.  15209 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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