An overview of the implications of orality and literacy

Ong does not waste ink in praise of reading and writing. Speech is the first communication; literacy might follow. And literacy is not neutral — it has negative consequences as well as those positives we are accustomed to hearing about from grade school. Orality makes community, because speech always involves more than one person.

An overview of the implications of orality and literacy

Origins of philosophy and definition[ edit ] Impact of literacy on culture[ edit ] In Orality and Literacy 2nd ed. OngOng sums up his own work over the previous three decades as well as the work of numerous other scholars. With regard to oral tradition and primary orality he draws on pioneering work by Milman ParryAlbert B.

Lordand Eric A. If a hunter kills a lion he can see it, touch it, feel it and smell it. But if he hears a lion he must act, fast, because the sound of the lion signals its presence and its power.

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Speech is a form of sound that shares this common power. Like other sounds, it comes from within a living organism. A text can be ignored; it is just writing on paper. But to ignore speech can be unwise; our basic instincts compel us to pay attention.

The absence of this technology in oral societies limits the development of complex ideas and the institutions that depend on them. Instead, sustained thought in oral settings depends on interpersonal communication, and storing complex ideas over a long period of time requires packaging them in highly memorable ways, generally by using mnemonic tools.

These insights first opened the door to a wider appreciation of the sophistication of oral traditionsand their various methods of managing information. But the availability of a technology of literacy to a society is not enough to ensure its widespread diffusion and use. For example, Eric Havelock observed in A Preface to Plato that after the ancient Greeks invented writing they adopted a scribal culture that lasted for generations.

An overview of the implications of orality and literacy

Few people, other than the scribes, considered it necessary to learn to read or write. Many cultures have experienced an equilibrium state in which writing and mass illiteracy have co-existed for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Speech is inherently an oral event, based on human relationships, unlike texts. Writing, Socrates argues, is inhuman.

It attempts to turn living thoughts dwelling in the human mind into mere objects in the physical world. By causing people to rely on what is written rather than what they are able to think, it weakens the powers of the mind and of memory.

True knowledge can only emerge from a relationship between active human minds. Plato conveyed his ideas by writing down the conversations of Socrates thus "preserving the power of the spoken word on the written page. For example, in medieval Europe silent reading was largely unknown.

Educated modern adults may also occasionally long for something like "the capacious medieval memory, which, untrammeled by the associations of print, could learn a strange language with ease and by the methods of a child, and could retain in memory and reproduce lengthy epic and elaborate lyric poems.

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Unlike primary oral modes of communication, these technologies depend on print for their existence. Mass internet collaborations like Wikipedia rely primarily on writing, but re-introduce relationships and responsiveness into the text.

Importance of the concept[ edit ] For more details on the social, economic and other effects of literacy or illiteracy see Literacy It has been a habit of literate cultures to view oral cultures simply in terms of their lack of the technologies of writing.

This habit, argues Ong, is dangerously misled. Oral cultures are living cultures in their own right. A study found that of 3, extant languages, only 78 had a written literature.Orality is a form of literacy if we understand literacy to be something that produces different social and mental effects in various contexts (Gee ), or that literacy is knowledge acquisition, creation, and distribution (Botha ).

Defining “orality” and “literacy” is no easy task. Generally, “literacy” is understood as the ability to read and write, while “orality” describes the primary verbal medium employed by cultures with little or no exposure to writing.

A “great divide” is sometimes posited between. The orality/literacy pair interacts in a number of ways in the transitional world that created the myths, and only continued investigation of these different meetings across time and space and their implications can bring us to a position more fruitful and desirable than that of Tantalos.

Orality and Literacy is a book about orality/aurality as a way of life and about literacy as an overarching technological transformation of that way of life.

Literacy is an /5. ORALITY, LITERACY, AND MODERN MEDIA Walter Oug Walter Ong was, until his recent retirement, professorofhumanities atSaint LJuis University.

An overview of the implications of orality and literacy

He has written extensively on the oralitylliteracy question, as well as the communications dimension ofthe 9 • Orality,Literacy, andModernMedia Overview 'Professor Ong has managed to synthesize an incredible amount of thought and at the same time has carried some of his earlier ideas still further.

Orality and Literacy should become a classic.

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