Similarities Between Oral Literature and Written Literature

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What is Oral Literature?

Oral literature is the first form of literature that appeared in human society since the ancient times. Before any type of written language was formed there was no way to preserve folk stories or sons other than to keep them memorized and transfer that knowledge from one generation to the next. And that’s exactly what oral literature is – any form of knowledge, and that usually means folk stories or songs, that isn’t written down anywhere, and the only way to preserve it is through a living community. The term oral literature itself is an oxymoron, since, by definition, literature has to be something that’s written down. Therefore, Pio Zirimu, a Ugandan scholar, introduced the term “orature” in order to avoid that oxymoron. This term is still not completely accepted everywhere, and most people will still use the term oral literature rather than orature, but it has been gaining in popularity in the past few years, and it can be expected that the term orature will be brought into dictionaries sooner or later. No matter the term used, orature, or oral literature, remains the same – literature passed on only through speech. This means that it requires an active and living community in order to exist and not become forgotten. It’s a very unreliable source of information, as it will usually undergo minor changes with each generation, and these minor changes can amount very fast.

Similarities Between Oral Literature and Written Literature

What is Written Literature?

Written literature, on the other hand, is something most of us are familiar with. All the books, essays, scripts, Internet texts… it all falls under the category of written literature. The term itself is very ambiguous. Originally, there were no distinctions between oral and written literature – it was all considered to be literature in general. Nowadays, people are making distinctions between written and oral literature, as well as between written and electronic literature. The latter distinction, for example, would consider anything that wasn’t handwritten to be electronic literature, as it was either printed or typed on a keyboard. Due to all these ambiguities in the term written literature, I’ll focus on the most widely accepted meaning, one which does make a distinction between oral and written literature, but doesn’t between written and electronic. People who side with this opinion state that typing a text is in its essence the same as writing it by hand, and the written text remains the same no matter if it was handwritten or typed and printed or published online or saved on a hard drive. This guideline will be taken throughout the remainder of this article.

Similarities Between Oral and Written Literature

Since oral and written literature are fundamentally different, there are but two similarities between them. The first, and main similarity, is that both oral and written literature serve the same purpose – and that is to preserve certain information, or a piece of local culture. They do this by different means, where oral literature is used in order to transfer that knowledge to new generations and so on, while written literature simply remains archived and can be accessed anytime. Another similarity is something I briefly touched above, and that is that both represent a certain culture. Both written and oral literature contain in themselves a kind of “spirit” of some culture that is preserved over time.

  • Both have the same goal, and that is to preserve a piece of information
  • Both represent a certain culture in different ways

Summary : Oral Literature and Written Literature

Oral literature was practiced since ancient times, while written literature appeared when ink and paper were first invented. Both serve the same purpose – to preserve information. Oral literature is used for this purpose by transferring knowledge orally to new generations, which then transfer it to newer generations, and so on. On the other hand, written literature is usually archived and can be accessed anytime. While oral literature requires a living community, written literature does not. In addition, both represent a certain culture, since their writer usually expresses his/her opinion on different matter, or it contains pure information about some culture. Either way, it still carries a piece of that culture’s “spirit” in itself and preserves it.

Author: Dr. Howard Fields

Dr. Howard is a Clinical Psychologist and a Professional Writer and he has been partnering with patients to create positive change in their lives for over fifteen years. Dr. Howard integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each patient.

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