A Contrast of Oral and Literate Cultures.

Essay by stinknuggetsUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2009

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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...