epics and oral traditions

Birgit Kellner kellner at ipc.hiroshima-u.ac.jp
Sat Jun 7 11:17:00 UTC 1997

Dominique.Thillaud wrote:

>         We don't talk about the same *pragmatic*. For me, pragmatic is the
> others than linguistical effects produced by the talking. When I say: 'I
> swear I ...', that's not just a phrase, but an oath. A prayer, too, is not
> just a text!

	Yes, but my whole question was about what to do with certain types of
written texts, and how it can or cannot be established that they existed
as oral texts already for a long time before they were written down. If
you want to discuss pragmatics of spoken prayers, fine, but that's
another thread, cetainly most interesting in itself. (Also, I would not
restrict pragmatics to *spoken* language, but that's also another

>         I think that's a professional deformation of many scholars: they
> believe they must say absolutely everything about a subject, even
> irrelevant. They hope to become THE reference, but they become just
> unreadable ...

I don't know what exactly you refer to. I simply asked whether one
scholar, making certain claims, was aware of the work of another one who
worked in a related area. If that's a professional deformation, then I
gladly admit to being deformed. 

> By the way, how slow did he
> >have to speak so that they could follow him? Or were their writing
>                                                             ^^^^^^^
> >skills as fascinating as the pundit's memory? Just wondering)
>         It seems to me that Dan Lusthaus said *verifying*
He did, I got that wrong. 

>         You underestimate gravely human memory capacities, because they are
> actually lost today in all the world (from more than a century, ALL the
> bards have received the visit of a scholar with paper or tapes and they are
> not stupid).

Nobody doubts that some people or groups of people have been shown to
memorize a lot. But if somebody argues that an extremely long text was,
VERBATIM, memorized for generations, on the grounds that, well,
somewhere in human history some people have been known to have amazing
memory, that's a little weak. And I don't think that taking a closer
look at under what conditions people develop such great memories is
irrelevant to the task. 

>         But I suppose if no scholar had make a thesis about that, with an
> exemplar in each university library, you'll say me that's not proved ...

It's a little bit tough when all one's professional (or unprofessional)
deformations are unveiled at once. I think I'll just have to wander off,
listen to a few of my friends' amazing feats of memories, usually
released in states of intoxication, and then draw conclusions about the
oral origins of Hiroshima's phone-book. 


Birgit Kellner
Department for Indian Philosophy
Hiroshima University

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