The Solid Form of Language: An ssay on Writing and Meaning


78 pages
ISBN 1-894031-88-1
DDC 411'.09





Reviewed by Danial Duda

Danial Duda is an information services librarian in the Queen Elizabeth
II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland.


Poet, linguist, and typographer Robert Bringhurst is well qualified to
write a book about writing and language. One of the main points he makes
in The Solid Form of Language is that while language has always been
with us, literature and the symbols of language that we use in writing
are relatively new, the oldest symbol being roughly 5000 years old.
Writing was created to help the state keep things organized (taxes,
boundaries, land ownership, etc.). Literature came later and is
considered one of the cornerstones of civilization.

Bringhurst gives a concise but detailed history of the diverse symbols
used in creating the varied alphabets that became a basis for
literature. He discusses how politics and religion are driving forces in
both the creation and destruction of literatures, and how the
literatures that represent the different languages are always changing
and evolving. In his conclusion, Bringhurst argues that if language is
lost, then humanity is lost; on the other hand, if writing is lost, some
civilization may be lost but many other parts of civilization will

Included in this short work are a brief bibliography, notes, and 20
pages of illustrations

with explanations of many types of symbols of different literatures. The
Solid Form of Language is a must-have for all public and academic


Bringhurst, Robert., “The Solid Form of Language: An ssay on Writing and Meaning,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,