From Art Bingham's Review of Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word.

In chapter three Ong provides a list of the characteristics of the way people of a primary oral culture think and express themselves through narrative and discusses them in light of memory. The characteristics of thought and expression are as follows

(Ed. note: The examples--the non-numbered bullets--for each of the items below are mine, not Bingham's)

  1. Expression is additive rather than subordinative.
    • Additive in that information adds to previously known information
    • Subordination is connecting ideas in an arrangement that influences both, often rescaling or reassessing not only the subordinate item but the ordinal one as well.
  2. It is aggregative rather than analytic.
    • aggregative, like sticking a lum of clay to another one, then adding another, then another--all of them are distinct but connected.
    • Analytic would tear apart one lump of clay and try to determine its roots and base substance.
  3. It tends to be redundant or "copious."
    • Copious meaning more than enough of something. Orality tends to say the same phrases and concepts in repetition.
  4. There is a tendency for it to be conservative.
    • Conservative means to maintain traditions, mores, and norms. Oral literature did not seek to shake up the status quo like modern literature does.
  5. Out of necessity, thought is conceptualized and then expressed with relatively close reference to the human lifeworld.
    • Ideas are grounded in stories through the action of characters or through readily available symbols.
  6. Expression is agonistically toned.
    • Agonistic is to be combative: oral stories are to be aggressive and at the same time, what we would call, defensive. The aim of the stories is to put the ideas into the listener's head, and not merely tell a nice tale.
  7. It is empathetic and participatory rather than objectively distanced.
    • An objectively distanced story would try to maintain the "facts" as pure as possible; however, in oral literature "facts" are fluid. For example, a storyteller might change the location/setting of a story to one that is closer to a current audience (and then might change the setting again for another audience).
  8. It is Homeostatic.
    • Homeostasis is self-regulating; that is, the way in which a story are told reaffirm to an audience the way in which they too should tell stories.
  9. It is situational rather than abstract.
    • The situation between "characters" and the plot unfolding reveals the ideas rather than having them imbedded in the story. Often, characters discuss the central idea outwardly.

All of the above characteristics contribute to the saliency and, consequently, enhance the memorability of an utterance. Ong explains that this would be especially important to those trying to memorize a poem or a tale because, whereas people from a literate society can always refer back to a written text, those from an oral society must be able to process and memorize bits of spoken, otherwise irretrievable information quickly. Utterances which fit the above description would tend to leave a strong impression on the hearer and facilitate recollection.



Be able to take any part of the following and connect with the above traits of orality.

I am Sam
I am Sam
Sam I am

That Sam-I-am!
Than Sam-I-am!
I do not like
that Sam-I-am!
Do you like
green eggs and ham?

I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.

Would you like them
here or there?

I would not like them
here or there.
I would not like them
anywhere.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.

Would you like them
in a house?
Would you like them
with a mouse?

I do not like them
in a house.
I do not like them
with a mouse.
I do not like them
here or there.
I do not like them
anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Would you eat them
in a box?
Would you eat them
with a fox?

Not in a box.
Not with a fox.
Not in a house.
Not with a mouse.
I would not eat them here or there.
I would not eat them anywhere.
I would not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Would you? Could you?
In a car?
Eat them! Eat them!
Here they are.

I would not,
could not,
in a car.

You may like them.
You will see.
You may like them
in a tree!

I would not, could not in a tree.
Not in a car! You let me be.

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

A train! A train!
A train! A train!
Could you, would you,
on a train?

Not on a train! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! Sam! Let me be!

I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox.
I will not eat them with a mouse.
I will not eat them in a house.
I will not eat them here or there.
I will not eat them anywhere.
I do not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Say!
In the dark?
Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?

I would not, could not,
in the dark.

Would you, could you, in the rain?
I would not, could not,
in the rain.
Not in the dark. Not on a train.
Not in a car. Not in a tree.
I do not like them, Sam, you see.
Not in a house. Not in a box.
Not with a mouse. Not with a fox.
I will not eat them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere!

You do not like
green eggs and ham?

I do not
like them,
Sam-I-am.

Could you, would you,
with a goat?

I would not,
could not,
with a goat!

Would you, could you,
on a boat?

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I will not eat them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them ANYWHERE!

I do not like
green eggs
and ham!
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.

You do not like them.
So you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.

Sam!
If you will let me be,
I will try them.
You will see.

Say!
I like green eggs and ham!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat…

And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!

So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am!

Copyright © Warren Jones . 2006-2018