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By liberating the word from Havelock's Classical grip, we can acknowledge not so much different kinds of literacy, as a continuum of scribal practice that ranges along two axes.
The first axis is production ("writing"), which extends from the Fayum scribe's crude signature to the calligraphic masterworks of Chinese mandarins.
What makes these questions difficult to answer is the nature of the available evidence.
Unlike modern linguists, who have the benefit of living speakers to survey and interview, we cannot study ancient literacy by direct means.
The second axis charts the response to an encoded message ("reading"), ranging from the bare perception of meaning or sound to a facility with detailed exegesis.
Writing without Words challenges this orthodoxy, and with it widespread notions of literacy and dominant views of art and literature, history and geography.The contributors--who include art historians, anthropologists, and literary theorists--examine the ways in which ancient Mesoamerican and Andean peoples conveyed meaning through hieroglyphic, pictorial, and coded systems, systems inseparable from the ideologies they were developed to serve.We see, then, how these systems changed with the European invasion, and how uniquely colonial writing systems came to embody the post-conquest American ideologies. Pohl, Joanne Rappaport, Peter van der Loo CHAPTER 1Stephen Houston Literacy among the Pre-Columbian Maya: A Comparative Perspective Literacy, the ability to link language and script, forms one of the most important topics in twentieth-century linguistics (e.g., Ong 1982).The authors also explore the role of these early systems in religious discourse and their relation to later colonial writing. On a practical level literacy relates to matters of pedagogy and societal development (Cipolla 1969; Sanderson 1972; Street 1984), and on a theoretical level to the interaction of spoken and written language and the intensity of cognitive change (Chafe and Tannen 1987; Goody 1987: 263).Bringing the insights from Mesoamerica and the Andes to bear on a fundamental exchange among art history, literary theory, semiotics, and anthropology, the volume reveals the power contained in the medium of writing. Elizabeth Hill Boone, Tom Cummins, Stephen Houston, Mark B. Still undeveloped, however, is an understanding of literacy in the Pre-Columbian world, particularly among the Maya of Mesoamerica, where scribal arts reached an extraordinary degree of accomplishment and complexity.