Even though modern linguistics is sometimes thought of as having a fairly short history, it surely has a long past. And that past still matters. It is alive in everyday life and in traditional education. I have argued that it is largely a story about how written language has been established and honoured, understood and misunderstood. There are many points where a written language bias can be observed, and many themes with a long history, a story of many variations and transformations but also with many assumptions that have proved resistant to change.