oral traditions

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at internet.no
Tue Jun 24 09:45:50 UTC 1997

>"Can we
>believe that these dynasties with their legendary riches, and the remarkable
>intellectual and cultural life of India in the time of the Buddha and
>Mahâvîra, existed in a totally illiterate sphere? It is certainly true that
>intellectual activity in India has always strongly favored oral over written
>means of expression, and both von Hinüber and Falk have effectively put to
>rest the already discredited skepticism about the possibility of oral
>composition and preservation of the Veda, Pâ.nini's grammar, etc. (see e.g.
>Falk pp.321--7). But the fact that Pâ.nini did not use writing in composing
>the A.a.tâdhyâyî does not necessarily mean that he was illiterate (cf. Falk
>p.259); it may only mean that writing was not considered an appropriate
>vehicle for intellectual endeavors of his kind. ... Thus one is tempted to
think along the lines of William Bright
>(cited by Falk, p.290) of some type of writing that was "perhaps used for
>commercial purposes, but not for religious or legal texts."[15]

If I remember correctly, there is a parallell in West Africa to this
situation. Timbuktoo in the Middle Ages had a university famous in the
Islamic world, where the scholars wrote in Arabic, but at the same time
indigenous literature continued to be oral. Evidently, the presence of a
writing system does not mean that everything is written down. 

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr.art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: L.M.Fosse at internet.no
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