Walter J. Ong
The Parable of the Tribes,
The Brothers Karamazov,
Ezra Pound (Tr.)
The Real Work,
the word from the body. Thatís death.'
is an old Navajo woman. She is speaking to her grandson. He has
recently completed a doctoral degree at an Eastern University and now
would like to record his grandmother's stories on magnetic tape. She
does not want to let him separate her words from her body. She will
not let him take her words away from their relationship as grandmother
and grandson to store them for others to hear.
use sounds in a certain complex set of patterns in relating to each
other we call that process language. That is how it was for unknown
ages before writing. That is how it is now. But for those who write,
for those who read, it is forgotten that language is sounds we make
and sounds we hear. For
us language has become letters, words, sentences, grammar. For us
language has become writing.
is so such so that we say easily and without thinking that we speak
'words'. And yet people who speak but do not write rarely talk of
'words'. They talk about meanings and intentions and relationships
among people and relationships between people and the world. We are so
committed to writing that we talk and write about such people by
reference to literacy. We call them non-literates, pre-literates, or
worse, illiterates. Writing has come to be a central feature of
humanity in our imagination.