Emig: Writing as a Mode of Learning


Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” College Composition and Communication. 28.2(May 1977): 122-28. Available through JSTOR.

Writing as a Unique Language Function

Four languaging processes

  • listening
  • talking
  • reading
  • writing

Linguists distinguish these as first and second order processes

  • First order are  acquired without formal training (talking and listening)
  • Second order learned initially only with formal training (reading and writing)

Another means of distinguishing these processes is through origination and graphic recording

  • Writing is originating and creating a unique verbal construct that is graphically recorded
  • Reading is creating or re-creating but not originating a verbal construct that is graphically recorded
  • Listening is creating or re-creating but not originating a verbal construct that is not graphically recorded
  • Talking is creating and originating a verbal construct that is not graphically recorded

Unique Correspondences Between Learning and Writing

Successful learning

  • connective and selective
  • it makes use of propositions, hypotheses, and other elegant summarizers
  • active, engaged, personal and self-rhythmed
    • writing can sponsor learning because it can match its pace
    • slower pace of writing (as opposed to talking) allows for the learner to shuffle between past, present, and future and allows for the connection between these to further facilitate learning

Three major ways we represent and deal with actuality

  • enactive–learning through doing
  • iconic–learning through depiction in an image
  • symbolic–restatement in words

“the symbolic transformation of experience through the specific symbol system of verbal language is shaped into an icon (the graphic product) by the enactive hand”

Writing involves both left and right hemispheres of the brain. It is generally perceived as only a left-brain activity because of the linear written product. Right hemisphere, however has several important functions

  • possibly the sphere of emotion
  • our sense of emotional appropriateness in discourse may reside in the right sphere
  • possibly the source of intuition, gestalts, flashes of images, abstractions, and the initiating metaphors in the creative process
  • provides a unique form of feedback because the process immediately becomes the product in writing
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About smartykatt

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Modern Languages at Lamar University where I specialize in rhetoric, composition, digital literacy, and information literacy. My research focuses on the intersections of student engagement with digital and information literacy and their relation to student research and writing. I am an ACES Fellow at Lamar and, with Janice Walker (Georgia Southern), I am a Principal Investigator on the LILAC Project.

Posted on January 10, 2009, in Applied Rhetoric, Exams, Research and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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