Dates of written Rgveda

Birgit Kellner birgit.kellner at UNIVIE.AC.AT
Wed Mar 15 09:42:19 UTC 2000

Klaus Karttunen wrote:

> While I am not suspecting the oral character of Veda, which I have myself
> asserted (see my article in the Estonian journal Folklore 8, 1998, 114ff.,
> also in, I think that
> this argument is not so good. Living in a wholly literate culture the Greek
> and Latin authors, when quoting written books, normally did it from memory,
> without actually checking the text and thus committed many kinds of
> mistakes. Therefore it is important that the mistakes somehow show the oral
> character of the text. Fortunately Witzel goes on to this:

Forgive me for barging in on a thread that I haven't been able to follow from
its beginning, with a very general question that has always intrigued me (and
is, I think, also discussed by Ong): How is a "mistake" determined in a
transmission that is wholly oral? Evidently, the transmitted "text" could only
be checked against the memory of other "transmitters", so one would presume the
stability of an orally transmitted text to increase with the number of people
who memorize it, but this still leaves open the question of how such stability
(or instability) is ascertained - aren't all such ascertainments, in a manner of
speaking, post mortem declarations about oral cultures, pronounced already on
the basis of available written records? Just wondering ...

Birgit Kellner

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