Orality and Literacy: Written, Not Spoken

My article will look at the relationship between orality and literacy.

It is common in the modern age to view reading and writing as the standard for measuring intellectual capacity.

The rate of literacy is used to define the educational attainment of a nation and thus how far advanced on the barometer of civilisation it sits.

Such conclusions are problematic in themselves, but the idea that the ability to recognise and record information in written form represents a giant leap for human intellect is little challenged among mainstream thought.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of the sceptical age we live in that the spoken word is no longer taken as bond. Furthermore no real link is made to correlate orality with intelligence.

This has much to do with an imperial mind-set that seeks to impose its own postulates on the various traditions and societies it engages with. Alongside this is an inherent bias in our reliance on text-based disciplines, which blinds or even mutes us somewhat in giving significance to what is seen and not heard. What is written and not spoken.

Yet if one was to take a step back and assess the true implication of comparing orality to literacy, the conclusion would be striking.


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