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Olson on literacy1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

John Halverson
Adlai Stevenson College, University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz, CA 95064


Continuing a line of thought begun by Havelock and Goody, often called the “literacy thesis,” Olson has proposed in a series of articles several new ideas about how literacy may have altered human cognition to make modern scientific thinking possible. He attributes to literacy the development of explicit, autonomous prose, the ability to distinguish data from interpretation, and the growth of metalanguage, all of which are held to be essential to systematic thought. An examination of these proposals indicates that they lack sufficient evidence, coherence, and substance to support a case for any significant “cognitive consequences“ of literacy. (Literacy and cognition, orality and literacy)

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

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