Edited by Merijn Beeksma and Martin Neef
[Written Language & Literacy 21:1] 2018
► pp. 52–88
What is natural in writing?
Prolegomena to a Natural Grapholinguistics
Naturalness Theory (NT) is founded on the notion of naturalness and claims that when a linguistic phenomenon can be processed by humans with little effort, both sensomotorically and cognitively, it is deemed more natural compared to other, more complex phenomena. Drawing on evidence such as language change, language acquisition, and language disorders, various parameters of naturalness (e.g., biuniqueness, constructional iconicity) have been postulated, which focus on the phonological and morphological subsystems of language. This paper offers an outline of how naturalness can be adapted to grapholinguistic phenomena. Comparative graphematics (cf. Weingarten 2011), extended to comparative grapholinguistics, is assessed as a method that can be used to reveal naturalness parameters which apply to both material (graphetic) and linguistic (graphematic) aspects of writing. The reduction of extrinsic symmetry across various scripts will be discussed as an example. By integrating these preliminary theoretical ideas into the framework of NT, it is demonstrated that so-called Natural Grapholinguistics could offer promising new insights as well as a tertium comparationis method for future comparative analyses of scripts and writing systems.
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