David Olson (Inducted 2000)

University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Biographical Statement

I continue to study the relations between spoken and written language with an emphasis on modes of interpretation and expression.  My early article "Utterance to text" laid out the framework but in recent years I have elaborated and clarified the theory in terms of the pragmatics and semantics of language, claiming that spoken expressions forefront the pragmatics- as assertions, requests, promises etc. whereas written expressions are read as if in quotation marks, bringing the semantic properties of truth-falsity to the fore.  If this is true it would explain why writing was if not essential, at least radically facilitative of, the logical and philosophical discourse basic to modern societies and a primary concern of the school.

A recent representative article appeared as:

Olson, D. R. (2009).  A theory of reading-writing.  Writing systems research, 1, 51-64.

See also: The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy. D. Olson & N. Torrance (Eds.). CUP, 2009.

Major works:

Olson, D. R. (1994). The world on paper: The conceptual and cognitive implications of writing and reading. Cambridge University Press.

Olson, D. R. (forthcoming). The mind on paper: Reading, consciousness and rationality. Cambridge University Press.