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Martin M. Jacobsen

Subject Communication and Media Studies
Sociology » Sociology of Culture and Media

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Orality describes cultures or populations whose worldviews, rhetorical principles, and mental constructs develop in the absence of widespread, systematic, and habitual literacy and also refers to the coexistent or residual presence of orality in habitually literate cultures. Thus, it is necessary to distinguish between primary orality and secondary orality. Primary orality (and thus primary oral cultures) describes cultures that privilege the spoken word as the only means of social and interpersonal communication, often lacking even a basic orthography. Secondary orality describes the presence of oral and/or pseudo-oral elements in habitually literate cultures. Each of these will be discussed in more detail. Much early work on orality is grounded in the literary concept of the “oral tradition,” a literary term used to postulate the state of important western narratives prior to their being written down. Most of the discussion focused on elements in the written versions that reflected the rhetorical aspects of spoken discourse, for instance, the use of stock phrases. Later work by psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, and other social scientists drew on data and observation drawn from actual populations participating in an oral lifeworld in the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, Australia, Africa, and other places. These studies confirmed much of the speculative ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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