Orality and Literacy: An Appreciation of Importance and Purpose

“Does time really measure the power of a concept?

         After reading Ong’s perspective towards orality and literacy, this question seems to pinpoint the problem of the statement implying that “orality is inferior to literacy”. But, is it even true? Or is it just another misconception?

         Before diving into the pond, let us first take an initial dip into the subject and define the two most important terms here: Orality and Literacy. Orality, as most of us understand, simply means the use of speech rather than writing as means of communication. On the other hand, literacy, with our basic understanding, means the ability of a person to read and write in a way that lets us communicate effectively.

     However, in today’s society, there’s still a division between orality and literacy wherein some people think that orality is inferior to literacy or the other way around. It is still not clear on why and how they can be inferior, or superior, from one another because of the unique advantages and disadvantages they possess. For example, orality demands the need to repeat the message again and again to be remembered while literacy has a copy that serves as a solid evidence of the message. On the other hand, in orality, communication is made on a personal level so it is much more direct thus no misunderstandings. Unlike in literacy, where there could be more than one interpretation of the written message.

     So, contrary to the belief, there is actually no solid premise that could say that orality is inferior to literacy just because literacy came after orality. In fact, according to Ong (2002), they are co-dependent with each other in the sense that when you read a written text, your mind speaks it out. So, it shouldn’t be a battle of superiority, rather, it should be the appreciation of its importance and purpose in communication.


Ong, Walter (2002). Orality and Literacy. The Technologizing of the Word. Routledge, New York.


Chiara Mari Ricablanca and Karl Sorenio

Orality And Literacy : The Technologizing Of The Word — Channel Rewards

Walter J. Ong’s classic work provides a fascinating insight into the social effects of oral, written, printed and electronic technologies, and their impact on philosophical, theological, scientific and literary thought. This thirtieth anniversary edition – coinciding with Ong’s centenary year – reproduces his best-known and most influential book in full and brings it up to […]

via Orality And Literacy : The Technologizing Of The Word — Channel Rewards

Media Ecological Perspective on Free Speech — L.M. Sacasas

Rhetoric in oral cultures tends to be, in Walter Ong’s phrasing, “agonistically toned.” Ong noted that speech in oral societies was more like an event or action than it was a label or sign. Words did things (curses, blessings, incantations, etc.), and irrevocably so. This was so, in part, because speech in oral societies was uttered […]

via Media Ecological Perspective on Free Speech — L.M. Sacasas