Orality and Literacy DISTINCTION, not metamorphosis

By Jence Carlo Servano and Ardeth Sinamban

Linguistics has been sounding a faint alarm. The human tongue and hand have been in quite a combat as millenials and traditionalists flag out their linguistic methods to be more effective than the other. Other intellects have even argued that writing has “changed” or “taken over” orality, and that it should be already, with what of the modern human intellect. However, Ferdinand de Saussure commented that: writing has “usefulness, shortcomings and dangers”, but he saw writing as a complement to verbal speech, not a transformer of it.

To really think about it though, it already seems pretty obvious that orality and literacy are different. According to Ong’s Orality and Literacy, there are roughly 3000 languages spoken today to which only 78 have a literature. Writing also extends word resources: English has more than 1.5million words, and most oral dialects have only several thousand words. In short, writing implies some orality in a culture, orality does not imply writing.

Orality was and is mainly used by the tradional oral cultures, and they depend mostly in their memories. They must invest greatly in repeating and memorizing which they arduously learned in years. Indeed to remember things one should established a high set of conservative mind. At the time writing was invented, it gave humans access to limitless memory. It’s not aiming to annihilate oral cultures but because it’s a human need. To know more and learn more. What’s written down, that idea can now last without being forgotten. No need of vivid repeating and memorizing, but making people learn new things faster and share more information without forgetting. With this, intellects and experts of the modern world have commended writing to be used by schools, millenials, and society of the modern world since it is proven to be significantly more convenient, appropriate, and advantageous compared to the acquirements or erudition of orality. However, there still are oral cultures who stood firm in their cultural linguistic ways of learning despite the “evolution” of the modern society.

To sum things up, even with how quite evident it is to see that writing is easier when it comes to studying, and that millenials and majority of the people in the world today do use literacy or writing over orality, that does not imply that it has totally taken over or metamorphosized orality. There are oral cultures still existing that keep faith to their traidtion linguistic method.



Ong, W. J., & Hartley, J. (2013). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

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