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Lexical Agraphia in the Writing of George Fox by Raymond Ayoub and David Roeltgen* Introduction and purpose George Fox (1 624-1 691) was an extraordinary person in many ways, yet there is an aspect of his life and works which, we feel, requires some clarification and explanation. That aspect deals with his writing and written expression, in contrast to his reported verbal skills. Virtually all of the writings attributed to him are the result of dictations to scribes or are transcriptions from various sources. While these works are very extensive, there is but a negligible amount (about 30 samples) in his own handwriting and these typically are lacking in syntactic, linguistic and grammatical structure. These deficiencies have been recognized by writers, but no compelling explanation has been proposed. To account for these shortcomings, we suggest, in this essay, that Fox was afflicted with congenital or acquired agraphia of the type called lexical. Agraphia is a neurological condition which can severely inhibit the victim's ability to transfer thoughts into written form. Several forms of agraphia have been identified and these are rooted in distinct cerebral pathology. It is only recently, however, that some insight into the neurological basis of the various forms has been proposed and studied. One of the authors (Roeltgen) has studied this phenomenon for a number of years and has developed objective criteria as a diagnostic tool. While the semantic and syntactic deficiencies in Fox's writing are striking and substantial, there are at present no objective criteria for measuring these; we must therefore base ourcase onhis spelling. Roeltgen's objective procedure for identifying lexical agraphia is through spelling errors. In practice, the subject is evaluated with the help of 'non-words' and the subject's phonological abilities are systematically tested. In the case of Fox, however, we must necessarily rely on the limited amount of material that is available, but we are confident that this material is sufficient to support our conclusion. It is well-known that the spelling of words has varied over the centuries and that there was no uniformity of spelling in the 16th and 17th centuries. ?Raymond Ayoub, Ph.D. is emeritus professor of mathematics at Penn State University. His interest in Fox's writing arises from a project to construct a mathematical model of writing that characterizes authorship. David Roeltgen, M.D., practices neurology in Williamsport, PA. His research in Agraphia has been supported by the National Institutes ofHealth. He has collateral interest in neurological pathology of historical figures. Lexical Agraphia39 Certain spellings, different from contemporary ones, were common and the strictures were much more permissive than they are today. In Fox's case, we are not alarmed when he writes the target word "augmentation" as "ogmentashon" or "disciples" as "disípeles," for these spellings arephonologically sound. When, however, he writes "condemnation" as two words "cond menshon" or "minds" as "imdes" or "persecute" as "perut" or Ephes. (abbreviation of Ephesians) as "fies", our suspicions are aroused, for these errors are characteristic of the type of aberration found in current investigations into agraphia. Roeltgen's technique is to characterize errors as proximate or distant, the distinction being based on the phonemic structure of the word.1 The Setting For the most part, Fox's autographs can be characterized as lacking in organization, in some cases to the point of incoherence.2 Several manuscripts are pure narratives and are readable but all manuscripts exhibit distant spelling errors. On the other hand, some publications are attributed to Fox but are in the hand of a scrivener. The syntax is greatly improved but some features remain which we call Foxian. We have verified in several cases that the same scriveners, writing independently, do so with organization and clarity. Although one can cite examples oferratic writing from thatenvironment, the deficiencies exhibited by Fox are far from being characteristic of the period. Indeed, the examination of about 50 documents, from the "Swarthmore Manuscripts" (see note 25), written by Quaker contemporaries of Fox, failed to reveal a single example of this lack of structure. More significantly, the spelling "errors" are never of the type we have called distant. Nor does Fox's problem stem from an inability...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 38-55
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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