_The Right Mind_ by Robert Ornstein, is about the current state of
research on the old Right Brain/Left Brain dichotomy.

One of the things it tells us is that the old "left brain = logic &
language, right brain = creative & spatial" division is a dreadful,
dreadful oversimplification.

In fact, the biggest difference between the two is a bit more subtle
and difficult to state.

The left brain is good at well-learned, well-defined, low-level
rules, applied in precise, local situations.  Imagine building a
sculpture with Tinkertoys: the left brain would be good at fitting
individual pieces together in precise ways according to precise rules.
 Or imagine being a monkey swinging through the trees: the left brain
is good at choosing and using the right well-learned swings for
different kinds of branches.

The right brain is good at perceiving and responding to large-scale
situations, which are not pre-learned but have to be understood and
dealt with on a case by case basis.  Imagine, when you're building
that Tinkertoy sculpture, having in mind a vision of what the whole
thing is supposed to look like when you're done, regardless of the
details.  Or imagine, if you're a monkey, having a picture of where
you want to end up and what route you want to take to get there,
regardless of which precise swinging motions you use to get there.

For competent language use you need *both*.  But the left brain is
much better at the things we customarily study under the heading
"linguistics" -- the low-level rules for combinations of elements.
However, engaging in low-level linguistic logic without the view of
the big picture is dysfunctional: you end up taking random
Brownian-motion walks, using perfectly respectable grammar but having
no comprehension of the larger meaning of the utterance.  People with
severe left-brain damage cannot produce grammatical sentences, but
people with severe right-brain damage can not get jokes, or innuendo,
or even mild indirection ("Could you close the window?" "Yes, I

The two kinds of processing are different in emphasis, not different
in kind.  I suspect that they are doing the same thing, but one is
doing it on the very small scale, in very restricted contexts, and
very fast, whereas the other is doing it on the large scale, with a
global context, and relatively slowly.

Anyway, here's where we get hard-core linguistic:

The vast vast majority of vowelless scripts write right-to-left.

The vast vast majority of scripts with vowels write left-to-right.

After adding vowels to their script, the Greeks wrote both ways for a
while and then after a couple hundred years settled on right-to-left.

What's the significance?  Well, when you're reading right-to-left
your right brain (which sees the left visual field) gets to see
oncoming letters first.  Whereas when you're reading left-to-right,
your left brain (right visual field) gets to see oncoming letters

Vowelless scripts require much more disambiguation than scripts with
vowels.  "Hd n blk" could mean "head on block" if you're talking about
execution, or "hid in black" if you're talking about, well, somebody
hiding in darkness.

Disambiguation requires context.  The right brain is good at
supplying context to allow disambiguation.  The left brain is not --
it prefers tiny units of behavior and understanding linked in ways
that do not require a larger context to disambiguate.

So it's absolutely natural that the one kind of writing should tend
in one direction, and the other in the other!

Ornstein also mentions ideographic writing, which tends to go top to
bottom and right-to-left, and says it also tends towards a greater use
of right-brain contextual disambiguation.  But he does not mention
syllabaries, which seems odd, because there are so very many
syllabaries.  Ah well.

Something to think about when designing conlang writing systems.  I
used it when I designed the Chanan runes -- they are vowelless, and
run right to left.

+ Ed Heil ---------------------- [log in to unmask] +
|    "What matter that you understood no word!       |
|    Doubtless I spoke or sang what I had heard      |
|           In broken sentences."  --Yeats           |