ATG Quirkies: The Space Between Words and the Origin of Silent Reading

space-between-wordsDid you know that the earliest readers couldn’t keep what they were reading to themselves?  According to an early post from Lingua Franca Magazine, silent reading was a novelty until Irish monks introduced regular word separation into medieval manuscripts. Prior to that written words were smushed together making it easier to read aloud. At least that’s according to Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading a book written by Paul Saenger published in 1997.  The key to his argument is his contention that “the practice of transcribing Greek and Latin manuscripts without spaces … made reading silently a mind-bogglingly difficult task.”   Evidently, this has a lot to do with how the human brain works according to Saenger.  Of course, not all scholars agree and if you’re interested learning more, checkout the post. Or better yet check out the book from your local library.

(Thanks to John Riley of Gabriel Books for providing ATG Quirkies)

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