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Written vs Spoken

m.steinfeld's picture

Lemke said that spoken language falls before we have a chance to analyze it, but written language is forever.  I find it interesting the distinct difference made between spoken and written language. With spoken language more “mistakes” can be made because they are likely to be missed and forgotten about, only the main ideas will remain. On the other hand, written language has the ability to be analyzed again and again word for word. This seems to connect to the idea of how stories in Africa were once told compared to how they are told now. Before stories were all oral, they involved motions and emotions and were passed down through memory, but once the European colonizers arrived stories began to be written down. While now there is a “formal” way to write down the stories, what is lost from the oral traditions of the past? Telling a story from memory is a certain kind of literacy, it just seems to be less respected by the European world because it can not be analyzed or monitored in the same way as written stories can be. While written language is incredibly important what is really gained if the written and the spoken are completely different?


HannahB's picture


I love that you raised the idea of emotion; it seems to me that while writing has exceeding value, to express emotion through words on a page is entirely more challenging than the expression that can be used in a voice and a face. On the one hand certainly written word is hugely valuable but on the other it raises heightened opportunity for misinterpretation, I believe. Authorial intent, while complex in both oral and written contexts, seems to me to be far more challenging to grasp in written word. So while a talented author is one who can put emotion on the page, a talented story teller has far greater opportunity for expression. There is a reason written word is not used everyday, a reason speech and daily interaction are so valuable and irreplaceable. Thus, I appreciate your questioning of moves to devalue the oral tradition and story telling that has faded in our culture but luckily not in all.

alesnick's picture

"forming" written storytelling?

Interesting!  What are the formal ways in place now to write down oral stories?  Does this process represent a kind of cultural hybridity?  Re: analysis and correcting, I wonder about ways in which oral transmission included these, as well.  What are today's oral forms?  Can we think of oral and written as other than dichotomized?