The Alphabet and the Brain

The Lateralization of Writing

  • Derrick de Kerckhove
  • Charles J. Lumsden

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XVI
  2. General Introduction

    1. Derrick de Kerckhove, Charles J. Lumsden
      Pages 1-14
  3. Biological Foundations

  4. The Evolution of Writing Systems

  5. Writing Right and Left

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 121-121
    2. William C. Watt
      Pages 122-152
    3. Insup Taylor
      Pages 202-233
  6. Neuropsychological Considerations

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 235-235
    2. André Roch Lecours, Jean-Luc Nespoulous
      Pages 236-245
    3. Patricia Ellen Grant
      Pages 246-272
    4. Ovid J. L. Tzeng, Daisy L. Hung
      Pages 273-290
    5. André Roch Lecours, Jacques Mehler, Maria-Alice Parente, Alain Vadeboncoeur
      Pages 291-300
    6. Edward A. Jones, Chisato Aoki
      Pages 301-320
  7. Brain, Lateralization, and Writing: Initial Models

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 321-321
    2. M. Martin Taylor
      Pages 322-361
    3. John Robert Skoyles
      Pages 362-380
    4. Baudouin Jurdant
      Pages 381-400
    5. Derrick de Kerckhove, Charles J. Lumsden
      Pages 442-443
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 445-455

About this book


This book is a consequence of the suggestion that a major key to­ ward understanding cognition in any advanced culture is to be found in the relationships between processing orthographies, lan­ guage, and thought. In this book, the contributors attempt to take only the first step, namely to ascertain that there are reliable con­ stancies among the interactions between a given type of writing and specific brain processes. And, among the possible brain processes that could be investigated, only one apparently simple issue is being explored: namely, whether the lateralization of reading and writing to the right in fully phonemic alphabets is the result of formalized but essentially random occurrences, or whether some physiological determinants are at play. The original project was much more complicated. It began with Derrick de Kerckhove's attempt to establish a connection between the rise of the alphabetic culture in Athens and the development of a theatrical tradition in that city from around the end of the 6th century B. c. to the Roman conquest. The underlying assumption, first proposed in a conversation with Marshall McLuhan, was that the Greek alphabet was responsible for a fundamental change in the psychology of the Athenians and that the creation of the great tragedies of Greek theatre was a kind of cultural response to a con­ dition of deep psychological crisis.


attention brain evolution learning linguistics memory nervous system neuroscience psychology

Editors and affiliations

  • Derrick de Kerckhove
    • 1
  • Charles J. Lumsden
    • 2
  1. 1.The McLuhan Program in Culture and TechnologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Sociobiology Research Group, Department of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988
  • Publisher Name Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Print ISBN 978-3-662-01095-2
  • Online ISBN 978-3-662-01093-8
  • Buy this book on publisher's site