A Contrast Of Oral And Literate Cultures.

923 words - 4 pages

The development of the written word can be marked as one of the most significant advances in the history of mankind. The switch from an entirely oral to literate civilization has allowed us to flourish and achieve the astounding innovations we enjoy today. With that in mind, I feel that we have lost much of our appreciation for the spoken word and the significance that it entails. "Language is not merely a transparent means of delivering information" (Berger 17), it is a multifaceted and meaningful experience. Through examining the aspects of these two types of societies and the benefits they both endow I hope to impart a greater reverence for a strong oral foundation.There is no concrete evidence for the exact origin of the first examples of written language, although there are several prevailing theories. Robinson states that the long held idea of divine inspiration as the origin of writing gave way to more scientifically based theories during the 18th century. Among these is the suggestion that pictographs were the precursor to modern writing (38). "The pictures began as representing what they were, pictographs, and eventually, certain pictures represented an idea or concept, ideographs, and finally to represent sounds" (Kilmon). The use of pictographs today has become a precise science and designers have established how to convey exact messages with minimal visual cues. It is highly improbable that any one civilization, much less individual, will ever be credited with the creation of written language.The primary advantage of a literate culture in my opinion is the ability to convey vast amounts of knowledge to large and widespread populations, facilitating growth and effective communication. This is evidenced by some of the mightiest civilizations of the ancient world. The Greeks, Egyptians, and Mayans all had successful forms of writing that "made the growth of states larger than the old city states possible" (Robinson 37).When faced with the task of governing and providing support for a complex society such as these, the development of writing was inevitable. Robinson states that "Most scholars now accept that writing began with accountancy" (38), and that "writing developed as a direct consequence of the compelling demands of an expanding economy" (38). Written language seems to be essential when faced with the tasks of controlling military functions, supplying food for the citizens, and regulating multifaceted systems of government.We live in a society where literacy rates are higher than have ever been seen before. This is a very positive aspect of the 21st century. Written knowledge is accessible through a wide variety of mediums which in turn has led to many advantageous discoveries which benefit humanity. Our ability to record data and distribute it to the worldwide community is truly amazing.While the invention of written language is marked...

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