Jack Goody and Ian Watt’s “The Consequence of Literacy” essay entails details about how how different thought processes categorizes people into different types of literate societies. One of the key concepts in their essay that proves this point is literacy there are however more. For example, Language, oral communication, social tradition, organizational reform, and types of writing also play a key part in how people think.
To begin with, Language is word that covers large ground. To Goody and Watt Language sets up the foundation that decides whether one is placed in a literate or non-literate. In the opening second paragraph it states, “language that enabled man to achieve a form of social organization whose range and complexity was different in kind from that of animals:” (305). I believe that this key concept of language adds substance to the essay in the way that it validates the point of literate and non-literate societies. By this I mean that from language most place people into these categories. Language varies in dialect and often times dialect can stereotype literacy level. Take for example a mountain dialect of English versus a Brooklyn dialect. One would easily believe that the man or woman from Brooklyn was more literate than the man or woman from the Appalachian mountains. For this reason I believe that this concept is relevant to Goody and Watt’s essay.
Secondly, I believe that social tradition also play a big part in Goody and Watt’s essay. I say this because throughout their essay they return to the concept of how big a part the traditions in society play in the development of literacy. Social tradition and language go hand in hand. As I remember reading on page 307 the authors wrote that with story telling what an individual remembers from hearing a story in the past is what he will tell and in that way the language of the tale is changed and a new social tradition is created. Throughout the essay social tradition also shows how as times have changed traditions still play a huge role in how different societies have revered certain aspects and done away with others. It could be said that the teaching and learning of the Alphabet is a social tradition and the phonetic system that was developed along with it creates a social tradition in which mothers teach their infants the way to pronounce the letters in order to learn to read and write. For this reason and more I believe that social tradition is relevant to Goody and Watt’s essay.
Lastly, oral communication is relevant to the two author’s essay because it shows how it links both language and social tradition. It also explains to us that oral communication should not be forgotten about. On page 344 it states, “The development of an easy system of writing (easy both in terms of the materials employed and the signs used) was more than a mere pre-condition of Greek achievement; it influenced its whole nature and development in fundamental ways. In oral societies the cultural tradition is transmitted most entirely by face to face communication; and changes in its content are accompanied by the homeostatic process of forgetting or transforming those parts of the tradition that cease to be either necessary or relevant.” This quote exemplifies the idea that with a higher standard of literacy, writing even in its simplest forms erase the connect of oral communication and make it unnecessary. This is why I believe that this is a relevant concept within the essay because it allows us to understand why over time and generations speaking has been turned into an art form. “Writing is an addition, not an alternative, to oral transmission”(345). Written or spoken language has the ability to construct literacy levels and what I believe Goody and Watt’s were trying to convey is that sophistication or simplicity in language does not necessarily apply a standard of literacy because literacy is in fact a form of intellect that cannot be measured by word usage or sentence structure because of the various changes that have been implemented to it over the years.