ERIC Number: ED346472
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1992-Mar
Orality and Literacy--the Real Difference: A Historical Perspective.
Cox, Gary N.
Just as a contemporary professional person maintains copies of wills, real estate records, and court decrees, so did 15th-century B.C. residents of the ancient city of Nuzi. Such documents, then and now, are generally written by legal scribes. The Hittites of the 14th century B.C. maintained detailed manuals concerning the care and feeding of their horses. A Hittite birth ritual text refers to other texts in its descriptions of how women were to be prepared for giving birth. Considered by modern Egyptologists as among the greatest literary works of all time is Egypt's "The Report about the Dispute of a Man with His Ba," from 2000 B.C. It concerns a man's discussion with his own soul or spirit. The dispute is about the existence of life after death; it is metaphoric, self-referential, and searches for meaning in both life and death. The script is hieratic and phonetic. Recent reinterpretations have cast doubt on the common perception that the scientific inquiry that occurred in Greece was significantly more profound than that ongoing in China at the same time. In addition, analysts now doubt that alphabetic writing produces more logical thinking than does syllabic script, or that writing gives rise to "mentalities" that do not exist in non-literate cultures. It has even been asserted that conceptions of oral/literate dichotomies in thinking arose to distance European culture from Black or Semitic historical influences. Archaeological evidence disputes the belief that cultures outside of or previous to Athenian culture were primarily oral and hence incapable of the same kinds of cultural achievement of societies that used alphabetic phonetic scripts instead of syllabic phonetic scripts. (A photostat of a portion of the "Report about the dispute of a Man with His Ba" is attached.) (SB)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Historical Materials; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A