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read and write them, and start to think in terms of words, sentences, propositions, letters, and contracts. I am always amazed when reflecting on how much indi- vidual and institutional effort it takes for us to become literate members of soci- ety and to equate language with writing at the expense of its oral origin. To me, conversation is our primary cultural artifact. The abstract system of language, presumably governed by phonetic and syntactic rules that Saussurean linguists have constructed, is an institutionalized imposition on oral communication. While

48 THE SCANDINAVIAN LANGUAGES AS CULTURAL ARTIFACTS In the Early Modern period following the Reformation, the Scandinavian countries were developing nations, and the creation of national languages was a significant part of their development. It appears to me that the history of these languages offers a valuable opportunity to study the elaboration (what Kloss calls the "Ausbau") of standard languages in a region of minimal language distance ("Abstand") (Kloss 1952). Scandinavia is a single dialect area with gradual rather than sharp transitions from

Flow and Complexity in Daily Experience

Cultural Memory, Cultural History and Cultural Canons in the Third Millennium 339 ZIVA BEN-PORAT Cultural Memory, Cultural History and Cultural Canons in the Third Millennium The debate about the validity of Western cultural canons, their vitality, import- ance and/or the need to deconstruct if not abolish them altogether because of their past (and present?) political functions, is certainly an issue where cultural (and/or literary) history and theory meet. So is the related discussion of litera- ture and other cultural artifacts as components of national