Edited by David R. Olson and Marcelo Dascal †
[Pragmatics & Cognition 21:3] 2013
► pp. 484–504
Theories of writing and mind have proposed that the uses of literacy give rise to a distinct repertoire of cognitive skills, attitudes, and concepts. This paper reconsiders the earliest lexical lists of the Ancient Near East as one type of evidence on writing and mind. Past and present conceptions of the lists are briefly reviewed. Early views cast the lists as reflecting a Sumerian mentality or a uniquely literate mode of thought, while recent accounts suggest they may simply be routine scribal exercises. A view from the philosophy of science, on which lists are considered a sub-type of ordering system, suggests a way of aligning a scribal practice account with aspects of earlier views by articulating the nature of list entries and the intentions of the list makers. On this account, the Ancient Near Eastern lists can be seen both as uniquely literate and as uniquely informative on the role of writing in mind.