Walter Ong’s “Orality and Literacy” is an insight into the idea of literacy and the concept that orality is in fact the underlying cause and founder of literacy. When we think of literacy our minds quickly come to the conclusion that literacy is the ability to read and write. We tend to forget that it order to be understood as literate we must be able to reiterate the very words we read and write in spoken form.
When reading the first chapters of Ong’s booked I quickly made the connection between his writing and that of Jack Goody and Ian Watt. In their essay, “The Consequence of Literacy” they too utter Ong’s idea that writing is not an alternative to orality but an extension or additive in a sense. On page 8 of Ong’s is where I found my argument that orality is in fact what makes literacy possible. That it may exist alone but cannot be replaced by writing. “But, in all the wonderful worlds that writing opens, the spoken word still resides and lives. Written texts all have to be related somehow, directly, or indirectly, to the world of sound the natural habitat of language, to yield their meaning…Writing can never dispense with orality”. In this quote I believe Ong is trying to persuade us to see that although words themselves create an opening to new understanding their meaning in fact only arises when spoken and that connection is made between the conscious minds of two individuals. The meaning is given to them by our orality and as a result based on our understanding arises the concept of literacy.
Take for example, Ong’s book itself is an example of how orality is the foundation for literacy. In his book lives Plato, Goody, and Watt’s ideas. We see Plato in Ong’s example of the horse and other examples of other writers with all his other citations. Ong’s ability to read their ideas and convert them in his mind into sound in his mind then transcribing them proves the very point of how orality is the basis of any literate person. As I write too I am doing the same, and so too is everyone who read and writes. The words we write or read cannot and I repeat cannot exist without us saying them whether in mind or aloud. Our orality creates language and language in term creates a universal soul. A soul that changes over era’s and generations but remains true to its dogma, that it can exist by itself but needs to be extended into the written word. It is the soul that connects us all. It is the apparatus that allows us to connect and be understood. Without orality our soul could not speak because words could not have meaning without it.