The Initial Teaching Alphabet
I’m very interested in the relationship between oral understanding and visual understanding. In The Gutenberg Galaxy, section “The alphabet is an aggressive and militant absorber and transformer of cultures, as Harold Innis was the first to show,” I saw a reference to a strange alphabet which was constructed to aid British children in learning to read. McLuhan neglects to tell us what this “43-unit” alphabet is, but through a little sleuthing I found out that it was the Initial Teaching Alphabet. My library also owned a children’s book in this alphabet, Couboi Smaull.
Reading this text reminded me of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake where additional meanings begin to manifest themselves if you read the work aloud. The couboi’s story made little sense until you tried to speak what was in the text. I was unable to read this book without sounding out words, which was an interesting experience that I thought I had left in childhood.
Another view of the same page: