Walter J. Ong on Orality

Laura Maxwell (English 111, 1994)

Walter J. Ong created the term "orality" in Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, to describe oral "literacy" in terms that are not typographically and chirographically biassed -- that is, biassed towards the written or printed word as the sole iteration of linguistic and narrative sophistication. "Oral expression can exist and mostly has existed without any writing at all, writing never without orality."

Ong describes how experience and understanding of experience depends upon one's medium for expression and communication. In literate cultures, the units of understanding are different, but not necessarily richer than in pre-literate cultures. In literate cultures, for example, words may not carry the same power of action that they do in oral cultures -- they are a supplement to action.